Western Rifle Shooters Association

Do not give in to Evil, but proceed ever more boldly against it

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hard Things: Part I - Counterforce Vs. Countervalue

In nuclear strategy, a counterforce target is one that has a military value, such as a launch silo for intercontinental ballistic missiles, an airbase at which nuclear-armed bombers are stationed, a homeport for ballistic missile submarines, or a command and control installation.The intent of a counterforce strategy (i.e., attacking counterforce targets with nuclear weapons) is to disarm an adversary by destroying its nuclear weapons before they can be launched, thereby minimizing the impact of a retaliatory second strike. A counterforce target is distinguished from a countervalue target, which includes an adversary’s population, economic, or political resources. In other words, a counterforce strike is against an adversary’s military while a countervalue strike is against an adversary’s cities. 

In nuclear warfare, enemy targets are divided into two types: counterforce and countervalue. A counterforce target is an element of the military infrastructure, usually either specific weapons or the bases which support them. A counterforce strike is an attack which targets these elements whilst leaving the civilian infrastructure – the countervalue targets – as undamaged as possible. Countervalue refers to the targeting of an opponent's cities and civilian populations.

An ideal counterforce attack would kill no civilians. Military attacks are prone to causing collateral damage however, and this is especially true when nuclear weapons are employed. In nuclear terms many military targets are located in proximity to civilian centres, and a major counterforce strike employing even relatively small nuclear warheads against a nation would possibly inflict numerous civilian casualties. Further, the requirement to use ground burst strikes to destroy hardened targets would produce enormously more fallout than the air bursts used to strike countervalue targets, introducing the possibility that a counterforce strike would cause more civilian casualties--over a medium-term view--than a countervalue strike.

-- Wikipedia; see also generally Strategic Nuclear Weapons And Deterrence

This "Hard Things" series is not about nuclear weapons and their use.

The series is designed to provoke thought about issues faced by both sides in the already-active conflict over America's future.

Tonight's topic is based on a single thesis:

The majority of freedom-oriented people in the current conflict are fixated on a pure counterforce perspective of that dispute, which in turn yields poor analysis and faulty conclusions.

Most freedom folks who are aware of the counterforce(CF)/countervalue (CV) distinction have consciously avoided any discussion of possible CV tactics and/or strategies based on a perception that inviolable moral codes will be inevitably broken when CV conflict commences.

I'll put aside that moral question -- at least until a subsequent essay in this series -- and focus tonight on the concept that I will call "CV-based active deterrence", which underpinned US strategic thinking from the beginning of the Cold War until the fall of the Soviet Union more than forty years later.

To recap the US nuclear strategy during that period very briefly, American forces gradually moved -- based on technology progress in both nuclear weapons design and delivery mechanisms -- from the largely CV-based approach required by manned bombers in the Forties to an approach featuring a blended CV/CF plan using the so-called "triad" of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), manned bombers now equipped with stand-off delivery systems, and, lurking deep beneath the seas, a significantly-resilient fleet of ballistic missile submarines capable of long-term submerged operations.

Each leg of the missile/bomber/sub triad had its strengths and weaknesses. Land-based ICBMs were fast (~ 30 minutes' flight from launch to impact), increasingly accurate (under 100 meters by the Eighties), and capable of multiple warhead payloads, yet once launched, they could not be recalled. Manned bombers had long flight times, but were capable of a vast array of missions and payloads, all under the command of their human crews from launch until return or destruction. Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) had generally less accuracy than their land-based counterparts, but their launch platforms were extremely hard to find and kill once they had reached their optimal operating depths and conditions.

In the last years of the Cold War, nuclear warfighting technology improved so that with both strategic and tactical (e.g., Pershing II IRBM, ALCM, SLCM) weapons, the United States and its allies could, with a reasonable degree of certainty, actually target and destroy pure CF targets of the Soviets and their allies, such as missile silos, airbases, naval facilities, and command/communication/control nodes.

But very, very few people -- even hard-core Cold Warriors, who knew the actual US battle plans -- will acknowledge that a major part of US military strategy for forty years consisted of post-first-strike CV attacks against millions of Soviet and Warsaw Pact civilians across the imperial footprint of the USSR.


It was all we would have left to hit in the most likely scenario.

What do I mean?

US Cold War policy was widely believed to prohibit any first use of nuclear weapons against American adversaries. The assumed posture of all post-WW2 Administrations up until Reagan was that the United States would absorb a first blow, then deal a devastating response to the aggressor using all elements of the strategic triad.

This scenario was understood by all, most especially the Kremlin war-planners.

So let's walk through the broad outline of an all-out Soviet attack against the US, a la the opening chapters of Alas, Babylon:

1) US command, communications, and control would be disrupted through an EMP attack against North America via multiple near-space hydrogen bomb detonations, along with an over-the-horizon no-warning SLBM attack on the White House and Pentagon;

2) Soviet missiles would be launched against as many US and NATO military targets as feasible, while allowing the Soviets an adequate mobile ICBM reserve against follow-on US attacks and the ever-present Chinese threat on their southern flank;

3) All Soviet aircraft and naval forces not already deployed would be launched, along with their supporting craft, to both devalue American CF attacks on their now-empty bases and to preserve those air and naval assets for subsequent rounds of the conflict.

So at what, exactly, would the CinC/acting POTUS fire the American triad's weapons in the ten minutes or so remaining prior to impact of the Soviet first strike?

Largely empty Soviet missile silos?

Vacant Soviet airbases and naval stations?

Moving rail-mounted ICBM launch platforms located throughout the USSR?

Come on, Ms. Acting President, we need your orders......

Do you understand now why the Sovs placed such an emphasis on shelters for their population?

They knew that in an all-out scrap, SAC and the Navy would have very little to hit except Soviet civilians.

I hear you mumbling out there.....

"Uh... so what, Poindexter?"

Remembering that this series is not about nuclear weapons and their use, here's what:

1) From the conventional carpet-bombing raids in Germany and Japan during WW2 to Hiroshima and Nagasaki throughout the entire Cold War, it has been expressed American national policy to deliberately target non-combatants with the most devastating explosives yet devised by man.

2) This countervalue strategy has been employed by the greatest nation on earth out of sheer necessity -- that is, despite the trillions spent by the American military-industrial complex since WW2, American strategic forces would have little else but cities and civilians on which to detonate their hydrogen bombs.   

3) Given the historical reliance over the past sixty years on CV targeting by our elected officials and their military appointees here in the Land of the Free, intelligent members of the FreeFor should, at the very least, noodle through what tactical and strategic applications of CV doctrine might be applicable in the current fracas.

4) Wouldn't it be ironic if the greatest military and economic power the world has ever known were to be humbled by a few score thousand dedicated fighters with the will to use any means necessary, including CV targeting, in order to achieve their objectives?

5) Wouldn't it be even more ironic if another group of dedicated fighters kicked Leviathan using the same plays as it gasped on its knees after its strategic defeat by the group in graf #4? 

Food for thought, further research, and reflection, I'd say.


Blogger sofa said...

What would trigger CF?
Based on recent events...

What would trigger CV?
When it kicks off, there is a small window of time for reactive CV, before the incoming CF removes the CV capability.

Miss the window, and the initial CF salvo may destroy the capability for CF. One may finally choose to fight when there is no longer any chance of winning.

January 4, 2011 at 4:40 AM  
Anonymous Mark Matis said...

Clinton rules. Waco rules. Ruby Ridge rules. THEY are already CV.

NEVER be stupid enough to let your enemy tie your hands. Make THEM regret the rules THEY chose to use.

January 4, 2011 at 4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I eagerly await future installments.

Nice work, here.

January 4, 2011 at 5:07 AM  
Anonymous Defender said...


"Broadsword," by Jethro Tull, coupled with a stirring Lord of the Rings montage. Ian Anderson says he wrote this about the Muslim invasion of Europe through Moorish Spain, hence "put our backs to the north wind."

Bless with a hard heart those who surround me.
Bless the women and children who firm our hands.

January 4, 2011 at 5:08 AM  
Anonymous Kerodin said...

The mind begins to spin in a dozen directions at once, but here is the big thought that I can't solution: For the sake of this discussion consider that FreeFor decides to send an entire city of OpFor aligned CV(who are judged guilty by virtue of supporting OpFor policies, efforts, agenda) such as San Francisco into the ether...

...poof, into the ether...

How does that action leverage OpFor to surrender? Is not the hard-wiring of such people so self-absorbed that such an act would only intensify their resolve to crush FreeFor?

Would not the average OpFor leader only yield when his own hide becomes personally vulnerable?

Or, is that the very message being sent as SF disappears into the ether...you're next.


January 4, 2011 at 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding item #3 - John Robb has been noodling the possibilities on his website. One starting point: "On Superempowerment and 5th Generation Warfare"


And another: "Basic Systems Disruption"


Don't forget the cyber-domain, e.g. "Stuxnet virus set back Iran’s nuclear program by 2 years"


January 4, 2011 at 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Appropriate to be thinking along these lines now. Kind of like good for the goose is good for the gander. They won't think twice about doing it to us.


January 4, 2011 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Alan W. Mullenax said...

"One may finally choose to fight when there is no longer any chance of winning." sofa

Without question, my greatest fear.

January 4, 2011 at 3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

90% of German adults voted to make Hitler dictator. Without the military support of the German voters, Hitler would have been nobody. Now this CF/CV distinction is trying to claim that all the evil was in the scapegoat Hitler, while the 90% of German adults who voted for him are blameless, innocent lambs. That's nonsense. We don't accept excuses about not having a safe backstop from shooters, and we shouldn't accept them from voters, either. I think the CF/CV distinction is a myth. In the real world, the bulk of civilians are always in control, and never innocent victims.

A similar guilt falls on taxpayers who aren't out organizing the tax protests that would shut this mess down peacefully.

January 4, 2011 at 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it not entirely possible and likely that the US government will continue its policy to move against CV targets in the event of a national uprising?

Let them. Their heavy-handedness will only add proponents to our side.

FreeFor using CV strategy sounds an awful lot like Timothy McVeigh blowing up children and alienating EVERYONE against his supposed cause (to reign in an out of control government). Our following suit seems to be about the stupidest ploy one could undertake....according to your point number 4 ("to use any means necessary").

Sorry, either I completely misunderstood this essay's point....or I whole-heartedly disagree.


January 4, 2011 at 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They seem to like dishing it out, but they sure can't take it.

January 4, 2011 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger Concerned American said...


Do you honestly believe that a CF-based approach will work for the FreeFor?


January 5, 2011 at 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ponder this.
We are already being labeled as terrorists so you need to divorce yourself from the stigma of the label.
That being said we cannot fall down the hole of justifying outright action against innocent civilians. We cannot erase the boundry of civility by simply stating "their all guilty of something". We become the evil we oppose.
History may call us terrorists but our actions will determine what we truely are. War is a messy business and no doubt innocents will be lost but there is a clear distinction between intentional and unintentional loss.
Direct action against those that cause the most destruction will not only assure that innocents are not lost it will more clearly send the message that is being conveyed.
We do not punish an entire family because a member is a criminal. There is no collective guilt. We directly target and punish the criminal.
In an insurgency there is no collective guilt we punish those that have directly caused through their actions the loss of freedom.


January 5, 2011 at 3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerned American:
It depends on what you classify as CF. If CF includes political leaders, media, judges, etc....then yes; I honestly believe that. Remove the cancer with a scalpel. Standing toe to toe with the US Military will not end well for FreeFor and IMO is a poor strategy at best.

Indiscriminate targeting of civilians to pressure a government that cares not about those citizens will not win anyone over to our cause and is a poorer strategy still.

Remember, the 3% that fought the Revolutionary War were supported either actively or passively by up to 30% of the populace. We NEED that support if we are to win and government actions that crush CV targets to punish FreeFor will strengthen the sheeple's resolve and show Leviathan for what it is.

Again, perhaps I'm misunderstanding what the author meant by targeting CV as FreeFor members....at least I hope that's the case.


January 5, 2011 at 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I flash on a scene from "The Bourne Identity."
CIA assassin Jason Bourne is on the yacht of African dictator Wambosi, has his suppressed pistol to the back of Wambosi's head and Wambosi knows he's toast. Eyes wide with terror. Poor me. Then one of Wambosi's cute little sons pops up over the back of the couch and looks at Bourne all wide-eyed with innocence.
Bourne falters. He can't kill the man in front of his children. He runs.
And Wambosi shoots him three times in the back and leaves him for dead floating in the Mediterranean.
Thousands of Africans suffer greatly under Wambosi until a second assassin takes him out clean.
I know it's just a movie, but it's a very old theme.

January 6, 2011 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About those Waco rules... Browse the photos.
And think. Did anyone responsible even get docked a day's pay? Get a letter of reprimand?


January 6, 2011 at 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Mark Matis said...

For Anonymous at 6:21 AM:

Just remember that Waco rules are three generations. By THEIR OWN HAND.

January 6, 2011 at 10:57 PM  

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