The Global Zeros want the world to go to zero nuclear weapons. Their goal has zero chance of being achieved due to the innate characteristics of information and human nature, to say nothing of the issues of practicality, verifiability, execution, and especially, the usefulness of their goal and associated efforts. Some Global Zeros are completely capable of recognizing the disconnect between the goal of their vision and the reality required to achieve that vision; other Global Zeros, not so much (they’re the ones who think rock and roll can really change the world).
The nuclear atheists differ from the Global Zeros. Nuclear atheists want the United States (and the West) to go to zero nuclear weapons. Nuclear atheists are those who don’t believe that nuclear weapons improve national (or Western) security in any way; in fact, they think nuclear weapons reduce national (and Western) security. The nuclear atheists have a much greater chance of reaching their goals than do the Global Zeros.
Nuclear atheists, largely because of the First Amendment and the tradition of free Western expression, are able to make their cases without any consequential pushback or repression from their own governments, and their effort shows all the multigenerational characteristics of the long war: antinuclear campaign after antinuclear campaign and think tank after think tank. (Note: while there is indeed a Federation of American Scientists (FAS), there is no Federation of North Korean Scientists (FeNKS). But if there were FeNKS, they would probably advocate for the same things the FAS does. Go figure).
To-date, the nuclear atheists’ results have been limited to the theatre-of-the-absurd-oxymoron: a faith-based, anti-U.S./anti-West, nuclear atheism. Faith in the inherent goodness of humanity (we can all get along if we only have wise enough leaders and submit to them) and in their cause (Western civilization has not been good for the aforementioned–and otherwise very good–humanity).
The nuclear atheist had his cause advanced in part by the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report, which has the goal of focusing “on five key objectives of our nuclear weapons policies and posture,” one of which is to reduce “the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security strategy.” The other four NPR objectives (preventing nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism; maintaining strategic deterrence and stability at reduced nuclear force levels; strengthening regional deterrence and reassuring U.S. allies and partners; and sustaining a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal) are tellingly left unaddressed by the nuclear atheist as they fail to advance his cause. After all, events on the ground show that the world (that is, the non-West) is becoming more nuclear proliferated regardless of U.S. policies and goals.
The nuclear atheist can therefore return his attention to the United States (and the West) by making helpful suggestions for the Administration on the ‘reducing the role of nuclear weapons’ policy slice. How so? By writing articles and advocating methods for the U.S. to diminish its nuclear deterrent force. Among these suggestions are:
Reduce the numer (sic) of target categories that are held at risk with nuclear weapons.
Reduce the damage expectancy to be a (sic) achieved against individual targets.
Reduce the number of adversaries in the plan.
Reduce the number and types of strike options against each adversary.
Remove the requirement to plan for prompt launch of nuclear forces.
Remove any requirement to plan for damage limitation strikes.
End counterforce nuclear planning.
End the requirement to maintain standing fully operational strike plans.
Of course these suggestions, if implemented, would hugely diminish the availability of our nuclear deterrent force and its ability to respond in times of urgent need (removing promptness), its efficacy (with no standing strike plans), and its flexibility (almost all the other “suggestions”). For the nuclear atheist, these are all evolutionary steps to rid the United States of its nuclear deterrent force, because their goal is to continually de-value nuclear weapons as steps on the path to (perhaps unilateral) disarmament. At some point, were the above suggestions to be implemented, the nuclear atheist would hope political leadership would step in and say “With all the restrictions we’ve put on ourselves, we don’t get much security value from these nuclear weapons anymore. Maybe we should just go ahead and get rid of all of them.”
One of the above suggestions bears special consideration, and that is the idea of ending “counterforce nuclear planning.” Ending counterforce planning would mean that U.S. nuclear weapons would only be available for use against 1) population centers, 2) industrial and economic centers, or 3) political and leadership centers. That’s because ‘counterforce’ is applied against targets of military value; those that can apply force.
By preventing planning against military targets, the goal of the nuclear atheist would be to (again) totally diminish the value of U.S. nuclear weapons by circumscribing their use to only human beings and the adversary’s means of economic production. Such self-limiting targeting would greatly diminish the usefulness of our nuclear deterrent forces. After all, not even fictional President Merkin Muffley wants to be accused of being the greatest mass murderer of all time.
History shows that only two nuclear weapons have been used for warfighting effect: it wasn’t called the Cold War for nothing. Did nuclear weapons prevent World War III, IV, and V? It can’t be said with certainty, but it’s a distinct possibility. And therein is the weakness of both the nuclear atheists and the Global Zeros: it may not be a great idea to make the world a safe place for full-on conventional war, Stalin/Hitler/Mao-like totalitarian regimes, or from those who kept a few dozen (or more) unaccounted nukes squirreled away.