In other words, given access to a means to exterminate our enemy, we'll take it.
Meanwhile, by virtue of having deployed nuclear weapons, the US forfeited its virginity. With the bloom thus off the rose, even American hawks seldom rattle the saber like nuclear newcomers. Besides, discretion, it seems, is the better part of proliferation.
For instance, when the Congressionally mandated Nuclear Posture Review was released in January 2002, it quietly omitted mention of continued compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Instead, in diplo speak, Assistant Defense Secretary J.D. Crouch said, "We are trying to. . . modify an existing weapon, to give it greater capability against hard. . . and deeply buried targets."
In other words, the administration thinks tactical nuclear weapons are small enough to fly under the radar. Their adaptability -- to "bunker busting," for example -- might make this sound sensible. But they still pack the most concentrated power on earth.
However, as William Arkin said in a Washington Post article titled "Not Just a Last Resort, "This blurring of the nuclear/conventional line could heighten the risk that the nuclear option will be used."
If it's a neat rationale for tactical nuclear weapons you want, it was provided by C. Paul Robinson of the Sandia National Laboratories (for security technology).
"Where the hell are we going to use missiles with four to eight warheads, or half-megaton yields?" he asked regarding cold war strategy. ". . . it's pretty incredible to think that the United States would [vaporize] 11 million people in a rogue state just because they were poorly led."
This may be the first time a player in the defense industry actually acknowledged the mercilessness of inflicting mass suffering on a citizenry for the sins of its leader. Guess tactical nukes bring out the warm and fuzzy side of a hawk.
Besides the administration's embrace of tactical nukes as a weapon of preemptive war, and India, Pakistan, and North Korea periodically sounding the battle cry, Israel froths at the mouth to bomb nascent Iranian nuclear reactors.
However, most proud owners of nuclear weapons -- and those that look on longingly -- conceive of it as a tool for deterrence or for bartering for economic incentives. Except, that is, bin Laden and his lieutenants.
The Lost Art of Planning Ahead
After 9/11, the US didn't just strike back at Afghanistan -- few Americans are aware that we subjected it to one of the most massive bombing attacks in history. Had bin Laden, to whatever degree he was responsible for 9/11, anticipated not only the retaliation, but its scope and intensity? In other words, did he think it through?