Posts Tagged ‘Arms Control’

When you look at the popular culture, the duck and cover era of civil defense (CD) in the 1950s and early 1960s is often mercilessly mocked. The reason is likely because it seemed insane to take shelter under a desk when nuclear weapons are landing nearby.

However, in those days, the miss distances of the weapons were quite significant, far greater than they are today. As such, they were inclined to be used against soft targets like cities and industrial areas, and less so against hardened military targets. Duck and cover was actually a reasonable bit of preventive guidance for these inaccurate city killers.

However, modern nuclear weapon delivery systems have far greater accuracy. For example, the Claremont Institute’s says a Trident D-5 has 90 meter accuracy. Duck and cover might make a real difference when a weapon misses its target by two miles; not so much when that miss distance is down to 300 feet.

But here we are, fifty years later after the duck and cover era and it would appear much of the world (the parts of the world that make good targets for those who would disrupt our security) is stuck with… duck and cover. What’s up with that?!

First, there is the general weakening and unilateral disarmament of the U.S. nuclear umbrella associated with New START but also with the administration’s decision to depend more on conventional forces (which by the way are likely headed in one direction; down) for U.S./allied security needs. Next, there’s nuclear proliferation (North Korea and Pakistan; Iran’s apparently imminent nuclear breakout; likely growth in Chinese nuclear weapons and certain growth in delivery systems) and even greater missile proliferation. Finally, we’re certain to have less-capable-than-hoped for missile defenses as a result of expected defense cuts.

What’s left? Duck and cover, folks, duck and cover.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with taking shelter, and it’s certainly prudent. In fact, given the high-return/low-risk and cost of civil defense, it seems our CD capabilities should be our first step without ignoring the other aspects of deterrence (missile defense; reliable, capable, and available nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and warning methods; conventional capabilities; diplomacy; etc.) which are all part of the deterrence recipe.

When your options are only limited to duck and cover, your approach becomes one of hope (“I sure hope those nuclear weapons miss us!”) and it’s generally well-known within military circles that hope is not a substitute for strategy.

Finally, hope-is-not-a-strategy also explains why the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and Japan have vital interests (and investments) in missile defense.


The Washington Post ran an anti-nuclear weapons column written by the National Evangelical Association (NEA, but not the National Education Association lobby, headquartered at 1201 16th Street Northwest, Washington DC 20036). I suspect the Post ran this article because it agrees with their political sensibilities (versus, for example, running an NEA column advocating reducing the approximately one million abortions performed each year in the U.S.). Anyway, the NEA has come up with a corporate position on nuclear weapons that reflects the following:

We question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense.

Hmm. I question your question.

I’m not sure if the above is a long-recycled NEA talking point (if so, they’re Green!) or not, but since the United States has had nuclear weapons for over 60 years, did they think of bringing this concern up earlier? Regardless, there’s more:

In our globalizing world, security cannot be obtained by threatening retaliation after a nuclear strike. Instead, our security – as well as our commitment to seeking genuine peace – requires that we eliminate the very possibility of such an attack.

Well, if the NEA wants to cross the security bridge, why not go all the way? What can be done to obtain security and to eliminate the very possibility of a nuclear attack (or any attack of any sort, for that matter)?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question and history seems to indicate there are no security guarantees, only prudent courses of action (and I don’t think the NEA is providing a stealthy call for more missile defense). Nuclear weapons are not designed to be all security things to all the peoples’ security needs at all security times. They are (for example) an ill-fit to prevent social unrest in Greece, human rights violations in China, the repression of women in the Arab states, the meltdown of the Euro, a worldwide pandemic, or even reality television like A Kardashian Wedding: The Mulligan.

The NEA uses an old chestnut, the appeal to authority, to make their case:

As nonpartisan statesmen like George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger and William Perry have written, the logic of deterrence fails to guard against the dangers of our post-Cold War era. Against these perils, the very existence of nuclear weapons may be more of a liability than an asset.

The NEA also appeals to THE authority, God, and they even reference two pieces of Scripture, Genesis 1:27 and Romans 12:14.

But what are the NEA’s goals, nuclear-wise? It’s a mashed-up laundry list of common sense items and a dash of delusion (along with a splash of self-limiting U.S. behaviors):

Re-examining the moral and ethical basis for the doctrine of nuclear deterrence

Maintaining the taboo against nuclear use

Achieving verified mutual reductions in current nuclear stockpiles

Ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

Increasing safeguards against accidental use

Resolving regional conflicts

Preventing the unauthorized spread of fissile material

Continuing dialogue on the effects of possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons

Another hmm, a big one: there were two World Wars in a thirty year period that are estimated to have killed well over 100 million people and with countless others wounded. What about the World Wars since the introduction of atomic/nuclear weapons? Let’s just round it off to zero. Is this luck, or is it possible nuclear weapons have introduced more warfighting discretion and restraint by the world’s political leaders? (Granted, this line of thinking is not provable, but it is suggestive.)

Yes, there have also been plenty of not-natural deaths post World War II, but they can be largely charged to the state-sanctioned non-nuclear butchery of men like Joe Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.

When the wheels finally fell off the Soviet Union two decades ago, they were forced to deal with issues like nuclear stockpile reductions, physical security, and proliferation. The United States aided Russia greatly in these efforts and even drew down its own weapons count dramatically. Yet today, the world is more multi-proliferated than it’s ever been. What’s up with that?!

It seems to me that it’s safe to say the NEA is preaching to the saved on this entire issue. But who are the saved, you ask? The arms controllers and their like here in the friendly confines of the U.S., the UN, and Western Europe; the ones who favor U.S. nuclear disarmament without addressing the reality of nuclear proliferation or the need for nuclear deterrence.

Has the NEA has ever considered how Iran or North Korea view their nuclear weapons programs? It seems to me that those two nations (as well as China and Russia) would certainly be pleased were the U.S. to self-limit, or better yet, disarm. Perhaps the NEA will submit their piece to the Tehran Times or the Pyongyang Yeller for further support of their position.

The third world (in this example, Cuba) generally digs the UN.  Why?  It’s a sweet jobs program that makes them feel important.

Check out the heart-felt angst and disappointment of Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno Fernandez as relayed by Defense News:

"For more than a decade, it [the UN International Conference on Disarmament, of which Cuba will assume the rotating presidency] has failed to produce a single treaty or international instrument," he told the official communist party daily.

Hmm.  I suppose Cuba chairing the UN Human Rights Commission is a bridge too far.  Libya?  No, it’s too soon.  And Iran was probably too busy with the IAEA to run the Conference on Disarmament.  OK, Cuba it is!

Here’s a little background on the UN International Conference on Disarmament:

The conference, created in 1979 and based in Geneva, Switzerland, aims to be a forum for negotiating international disarmament, but Moreno said it has underperformed in fulfilling its mandate.

Switzerland?  The last really good thing to come out of there was Deep Purple’s Machine Head album.  I’d offer that if the UN put the delegates in a Somali dumpster until there was an agreement, things might move a bit faster.  I mean the Department of Defense is hard-over on earned value management in its acquisition programs; maybe there should be progress payments (versus labor hours) to the UN in this sort of endeavor as well? 

No, that won’t work either because Moreno says none of the important players want in on the multilateral arms control game:

"This [failure] is because the major nuclear powers are not interested in seeing the existence of an agreement on the subject of nuclear disarmament," he added.

So have the Global Zeros woken up to reality?  And if what Moreno says is true, what’s the point in keeping the Conference on Disarmament anyway?  Easy: it’s all about the jobs, the Geneva lifestyle, and the UN bureaucracy/power base:

Moreno dismissed as "off the mark" moves by some countries which he said have looked for ways to sidestep the U.N. conference and seek other venues for nuclear disarmament talks, which the Cuban diplomat said would constitute a "dangerous step backward."

“Dangerous step backwards” as opposed to a moronic step forwards?  Or a quasi-safe step sideways?  Or how about a truly safe step backwards (I could do this all day…)?

To try to reach a nuclear accord by working outside of the United Nations, "is to minimize its importance," at the very moment when the world community should be working "to preserve and strengthen it," he said.

The circle is thus squared by Moreno’s “explanation” in which the UN’s importance (and that of arms control itself) is self-evident.

Don’t forget you can’t hug with nuclear arms and viva la arms control non-revolucion.

(image: Jerusalem Post)

The saying is “hypocrisy is the tribute vice plays to virtue” and that observation is made manifest in the China Daily article Make outer space safe for all.

Let us address the hypocrisy as best we can.


Security in outer space has long been an issue of concern in the global arms control process.

Reality: based on observed proposals and activity, the global arms control process, whatever that is, is more interested in constraining and mitigating U.S. power than it is in securing outer space.


Since the late 1990s, China, Russia and some other countries have urged the international community to hold multilateral dialogue to prevent weaponization of outer space, and put forward specific proposals for concluding an international treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space.  

Reality: China and Russia, like the “global arms control process” (hey, if they invent it, I can use it) are more interested in constraining the U.S. than in true multilateral improvements in space security.  China talks the talk but fails to walk the walk.  Consider the January 2007 Chinese ASAT event which somehow manages to fall outside their definition of ‘space weaponization’ because it was a ground-launched direct ascent ASAT.  Of course, China was talking the anti-space weaponization talk to the various space diplomats, agencies, bureaucracies, and international organizations just up until the ASAT event. 


But the US has been using every reason to refuse negotiating such a treaty for fear that it may restrict it from maintaining and developing its outer space anti-missile system and compromise its space military technology.

Reality: China focuses on space weapons while ignoring the elephant in low-earth orbit, space warfare.  Next, the U.S. is not interested, nor has it been interested in treaties that are not definable, not verifiable, nor in the best interests of the Unites States and its allies.  The term ‘space weaponization’ has not been adequately defined and literally everything put into space including debris could be considered as a space weapon making verification either impossible or totally impractical (too expensive to do and/or too intrusive to do).  Other not-U.S.-aligned space actors are generally interested in improving their position by constraining the U.S. and the ‘global arms control process’ itself is almost always complicit.


Hence, the US has been emphasizing freedom in the use of outer space. In essence, it wants to establish its hegemony over outer space.

Reality: what does hegemony over outer space even mean (and how would we borrow pay for it)?  Just where is the manifestation of the U.S. desire to establish hegemony other than the assertion of China Daily, its writers, the writers’ handlers, and the global arms control process (which actually may be all balled up together)?


More importantly, the US has realized that its advantage in outer space is facing serious challenges, and the gap between it and other countries is narrowing. This can mean only one thing: the US has to change its outer space security policy.

Reality: policy sometimes means something, but often it doesn’t, so simply stated, policy is overrated.  However, funding always means something.  So, watch what gets funded and you can know the true policy.  The current National Space Policy has not been substantively changed (unless you count “tone” as a substantive change) since the Eisenhower administration.


…the US seeks to cooperate with its allies to integrate and use their resources, which would make up for its lack of investment and help it retain its leadership in space technology. The talks it wants would be focused on its two potential competitors, Russia and China, to regulate and constrain their development and prevent them from challenging US hegemony in space. This is typical Cold War mentality. The US’ eagerness to establish dialogue with China reflects its uncertainty over space security challenges.

Reality: we know the Russian reset (by the way, the U.S. has no Atlas V program without the Russian licensed RD-180 engines) moves them out of the category of “potential competitors” (at least until they return).  As far as China, let’s get real: they’re good at taking others intellectual property and using their advantage in labor camps costs, thus creating darn good knock offs.  China wants to get in bed with the U.S. with regard to space in order to get our intellectual stuff, or at least to find out how much further they have to go.  And “The US’ eagerness to establish dialogue with China reflects” not our “uncertainty over space security challenges,” but is more likely to be top down administration marching orders to the ‘in-house arms control process.’


During the [space arms control] coordination and dialogue process, big powers should more actively promote multilateral dialogue and cooperation under the United Nations’ framework. Truly effective and generally accepted international rules on space can be established only if they are based on equal participation of all countries.

Reality: China wants the ‘equal participation’ of space-faring powers like Burundi, North Korea, Iran, Nigeria and the likes in order to create a Lilliputian-effect of many space-inferiors constraining one space-superior’s efforts regarding space security (to include space-using missile defense).


China has always advocated peaceful use of space.

Reality: again, there’s a difference between China’s talk and China’s walk.  China has likely also always advocated freedom of expression and religion and the non-violent use of Tiananmen Square.


The US’ policies and legal frameworks, including arms sales to Taiwan, high-tech exports restrictions on China and non-use of Chinese rockets to launch US satellites seriously undermine the political foundation of China-US dialogue on space.

Reality: would you like some cheese with that whine?  China wants a weak Taiwan and also wants to underbid the U.S. on launches of all sorts including those missions sponsored by the U.S. government.  Plus understanding the integration requirements to place a U.S. satellite on a Chinese launcher provides China significant intellectual property insight.

Assertion: the author of the China Daily piece is

…secretary-general of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

Reality: like a blind pig that finds a truffle, sometimes even an article chock full of assertions, deceptions, lies, and hypocrisy, the truth may appear.

Why would South Korea eye its own nuclear weapons?  Isn’t the answer pretty self-evident?


In fact, the answer isn’t too different from why Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, or Japan might be thinking about nuclear weapons, nor far from why Israel is an undeclared nuclear state.

Global Zero, anyone?

I’m waiting to hear the press release from the Global Zeros regarding two NTI articles, Pakistan Seeks 24 More Nuke-Ready Missiles and North Korea Tested Long-Range Rocket Engine: Report.

Of course, addressing those items won’t technically be required until Phase Three of their plan.

Or we could choose to deal with the world as it is rather than as we want it to be.  Just a thought.

So what has the New START cram-down done to make the world safer?  Mark Schneider reports New START will actually allow the Russians to increase their nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  Does Russia growing its nuclear arsenal make the United States safer?  Apparently it does because the White House blog unequivocally proclaims “The New START Treaty makes America more secure.” 

So more Russian nuclear weapons and delivery systems and fewer for the United States equals more U.S. security?  The logic of the argument seems… counterintuitive (and that’s being generous).  More likely is the New START deal will enhance Russian national power vis-à-vis U.S. and the Russians will be laughing all the way to the nuclear bank.  From Mr. Schneider’s article:

Before New START, Russia had already announced plans to build about 130 nuclear missiles of various post–Cold War designs, as well as eight new missile submarines. The country was developing a new strategic bomber to be available in 2025–2030. Moreover, Russia was working to modernize the SS-N-23/Sineva, which had gone into service only in 2007, to have precision accuracy.

After New START, Russia announced the largest nuclear buildup since the Cold War. It revived the symbol of the Cold War, the heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin revealed the development of “a heavy liquid-propellant ICBM” to replace the aging SS-18 (Voyevoda), which itself carries ten warheads. The new missile is to be available by 2018.

The Russians are also looking pretty smart on that new liquid-fueled ICBM: there will almost certainly be a new space launch capability that’s either derived from or will be co-developed with the new ICBM.

So it would appear that the New START deal fits nicely into Russian plans to modernize (and grow) their nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  The U.S.?  Not so much: weapons and delivery vehicle cuts are required and new systems seem further away than ever. 

A powerful lesson of New START is the global zeros, of which the President is one, may want to give more thought to the non-efficacy of arms control as a forcing function to enhance security.  And while New START gives lip service to non-proliferation, it is a bilateral treaty.  This means it has no efficacy (unless posing is the same as efficacy) on the much more serious issue of global nuclear proliferation and contra its stated anti-proliferation aims, actually allows the Russians to modernize and grow their nuclear systems while still maintaining their stylish arms control fig leaf. 

The normal entering argument for arms control is that it’s verifiable; that it’s equitable; and that it’s in the national security interests of the United States.  The first New START report card on those respective areas shows incomplete, fail, and fail.