The title is “Hey kids, what time is it?!” The answer is “It’s time for another arms control treaty!”
Or as Christopher Walken might say, “Guess what? I’ve got a fevah. And the only prescription is more arms control.”
Yes, the administration is pondering introducing an “education” campaign deigned to culminate in the Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which was first not-ratified in 1999.
From Global Security Newswire:
[Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher] said the case for the test ban treaty would consist of three main arguments: that the United States no longer needs to conduct explosive tests to ensure the viability of its nuclear arsenal; that the agreement, once it has entered into force, would obligate all member states not to test; and that the international organization that supports the treaty has a greater ability to catch nations that cheat than it did when the Senate last considered the pact in 1999.
Tauscher’s “no longer needs to test” might make more sense if we had a highly modern nuclear weapons inventory. We don’t. The newest U.S. nuclear weapon was made in 1989, before the Soviet Union fell.
Since then, configuration changes to the weapons have occurred as components age out. At some point (are we there yet?), you end up with significantly different, not tested for effect, life-extended nuclear weapons that you think are going to work because the algorithms say so. Tauscher’s “no longer” means never. Never is too long, especially when there’s no purpose served in agreeing to such a self-limiting restriction.
“Would obligate all member states not to test,” eh? Some of the proliferation kings (North Korea, Syria, and Pakistan) have not signed the treaty to begin with and neither has India. Others (China, Iran, Israel, and the U.S.) have not yet ratified it. At least one signatory member state (Iran) is known to be a nuclear cheat. Is any of this important?
I suppose the next argument will be “The treaty has the full force of the law,” as did 1928’s Kellogg-Briand treaty, the one which outlawed war and is still in effect today. A snip from the Wikipedia entry on that treaty:
As a practical matter, the Kellogg–Briand Pact did not live up to its aim of ending war, and in this sense it made no immediate contribution to international peace and proved to be ineffective in the years to come. It did not prevent the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, and the German and Soviet Union invasions of Poland.
Start sarcasm font: So other than that, I guess Kellogg-Briand worked great! End sarcasm font.
Tauscher mentions “a greater ability to catch nations that cheat.” Yes, the ability to catch may be greater but it hasn’t been enough to stop Syria, North Korea, or Iran from cheating. Catching dedicated cheaters, especially in closed-societies, has shown to be a difficult task.
Besides that, catching is one thing. Getting the international community (other than Israel) to do something about it (or, gulp, having the U.S. go it alone) is another.
History shows that arms control is subject to the aforementioned cheating, lacks meaningful enforcement, and is contrary to human nature. The asymmetrical security benefits of being a nuclear state seem to be too great to resist. But as with Kellogg-Briand, other than that, arms control is working great!
If our elected leadership decides we’re not going to test nuclear weapons for effect that decision should be made unilaterally (as was the bin Laden raid) so as to preserve future testing options.