Later, the Rumsfeld Pentagon published and then ostensibly "rescinded" a non-classified version of its Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations. The Doctrine was revealing and profoundly disturbing. In the tradition of the Clinton administration's Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence, the Doctrine communicated that the United States could all too easily "become irrational and vindictive."
Most striking was the Doctrine's extended discussion of deterrence. Rather than define deterrence as the prevention of nuclear attacks by other nuclear powers, the Doctrine stated that "The focus of US deterrence efforts is... to influence potential adversaries to withhold actions intended to harm US' national interests...based on the adversary's perception of the...likelihood and magnitude of the costs or consequences corresponding to these courses of actions." Diplomatically, the Doctrine continued, "the central focus of deterrence is for one nation to exert such influence over a potential adversary's decision process that the potential adversary makes a deliberate choice to refrain from a COA [course of action.]" In addition to putting Chinese diplomatic efforts to marginalize U.S. power in Asia on notice or deterring unlikely Russian or French nuclear attacks, the central role of the U.S. nuclear arsenal was global dominance. China, Russia, France and Germany were reminded of their proper places, and Iran and Venezuela received ample warning not to adopt oil and energy policies that might constitute- courses of action that would "harm U.S. national interests."
Placing the world on further notice, the Doctrine threatened that "The US does not make positive statements defining the circumstances under which it would use nuclear weapons." Maintaining ambiguity about when the United States would use nuclear weapons helped to "create doubt in the minds of potential adversaries." The Doctrine also refused to rule out nuclear attacks against non-nuclear weapons states.
The Doctrine also baldly instructed the U.S. military that "no customary or conventional international law prohibits nations from employing nuclear weapons in armed conflict," thus subordinating international law to U.S. military strategy. It also argued that nuclear wars could be won. The Doctrine gave increased authority to field commanders to propose targets for nuclear attacks and described the circumstances when field commanders could request approval to launch first-strike nuclear attacks. "Training," it further stated, "can help prepare friendly forces to survive the effects of nuclear weapons and improve the effectiveness of surviving forces." The Doctrine went on to reconfirm the bankruptcy of the nuclear reduction negotiations between the United States and Russia. The Doctrine was clear that U.S. nuclear forces would not actually be reduced because "US strategic nuclear weapons remain in storage and serve as an augmentation capability should US strategic nuclear force requirements rise above the levels of the Moscow Treaty."