No Nukes Requires a New World Order (Updated With Added Links)

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The military has a tradition, observed more now than in the past, of putting the bottom line up front.  Here is the bottom line, which comes from the last paragraph of Fred Kaplan’s recent article on new START (and on nuclear weapons in general):

Like arms treaties of an earlier era, the accord’s main benefit is as a forum for cooperative diplomacy and, through its elaborate inspection procedures, a means for both sides to build — and verify — trust. Truly dramatic reductions in nuclear arsenals may have to be preceded by truly dramatic changes in world politics.

Yes, the idea behind a treaty is all about activities that are in one’s enduringly-best interest to begin with.  So does new START pass this test or not?  Does new START make America more or less secure and does it serve or disserve our enduring interests?

We don’t distrust the UK or France because they have nuclear weapons.  That’s because we understand their intent and their enduring interests.  But compared to the UK and France, we trust Russia less, China less still, and Iran and North Korea almost none.

Either or both the U.S. and Russia could move towards the requirements proposed in new START right now without any sort of treaty.  But if each could proceed unilaterally, why don’t they?  Such inaction would suggest–all other things being equal—nuclear weapons and associated deliver systems actually make each feel more secure.

Kaplan also writes:

It takes two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty, which is why in this political climate — despite endorsements from dozens of generals and national-security officials — passage is no sure thing.

The call to submit to new START because of the authorities mentioned (as well as here), is torturous.  Are the new START endorsements being made because the general officers and security officials somehow understand Russia’s intent better than others?  Any endorsements from general officers should be taken with a grain of salt.  Those still in the uniform are under political pressure to support and those who are retired may carry a nuclear chip on their shoulders, that is, back in the Cold War days nuclear systems may have taken money from their own preferred service, branch, specialty, or preferred program.  What about the motives of the “national-security officials”?  You could write a book on that.  A first motive might be an individual’s legacy and consider, for example, the actions of Sandy Berger.

Why do we have the number of nuclear weapons and delivery system we now have? U.S. STRATCOM uses a ratio, which Kaplan critiques,

Stratcom reasons that this ratio is necessary to ensure that each weapon meets its required “probability of arrival.” But what is this probability? Who came up with this requirement? Are this ratio and this requirement really necessary to deter nuclear war? Or, if nuclear war were to break out, would this ratio improve our chances of “winning,” whatever that means?

Starting with the “winning” idea, no one in the nuclear business talks of winning a nuclear war.  Still, in a post-nuclear world, most of us can agree there are some conditions that would be preferred for the U.S. to be in and there are others which would be much less desirable.  But no one ever talks of winning.

Regarding the weapons count and the requirements and probability numbers, this is much more about human nature than it is about warfighting.  How much money does LeBron James, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffet need to make to feel secure?

I’m generally appreciative of the tone and content of Kaplan’s article and speaking for myself, I’m new START agnostic.  However, it’s the sense of a new START cram-down that bothers me, the artificial time lines and sense of unnecessary urgency.  I feel the Senate should take the time it needs to come to closure on the issues therein and then using their best judgment, either accept or reject it.


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