Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Arms’

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.


Loren Thompson, writing at Forbes, points out that President Obama is likely to spend more on nuclear modernization than any president since Ronald Reagan.  Why? 

This may be the ultimate example of how gaining political power can transform the beliefs of leaders — not because Obama has abandoned his support of disarmament, but because of how being responsible for the nation’s security forces him to think in practical terms about the dangers of disarming.

Later, Thompson offers this:

The paradox is that the fewer weapons each side has the greater the danger of a surprise attack because at lower numbers it becomes easier for each country to disarm the other side.

That’s not exactly a paradox as I see it.  Instead, it’s a simple reflection of the fact that as the numbers of nuclear weapons go down, the value of each remaining weapon goes up.  Similarly, the value of missile defense goes up and the value of cheating on arms control treaties and on nuclear proliferation issues goes up.

While there may not be much deterrent difference between 4800 and 5000 nuclear weapons and if the world is in a fairly stable bipolar configuration, today we’re instead looking at a third that number, as agreed to in New START.  Even at 1550, assuming a target set of (say) 700, you’re looking at up to two weapons per target.  But that assumes much including an immobile and unchanging target set and an unchanging target count.

However, nuclear proliferation is busting out all over and those nations busy plussing-up their weapons count and delivery systems don’t have a well established track record of political and military stability or friendliness and good humor.

In the bad old days we were more interested in counter-force targets, those military targets of great value in the Soviet Union.  While the Soviets may or may not have used a similar philosophy, today’s nuclear proliferated world, with less reliable weapons and delivery systems is likely to look at soft, asymmetrical targets like cities, population centers, centers of industry and government, and the likes.

What’s it all mean?  I’ll count down with five suggestions to make the United States safer: 5) stop the arms control insanity, 4) revitalize nuclear deterrence, 3) plus-up missile defense, 2) grow civil defense, 1) spend more time on anti-nuclear proliferation and more money on anti-nuclear proliferation technologies.  Concurrently develop and execute punitive (and effective) policies and sanctions for nuclear proliferators.

These are wicked-type problems, but let’s deal with the world as it is and not as we wish it to be.

Manpreet Sethi, writing at The Diplomat, offers his assessment in the article A Curious US Nuclear Policy.  While Sethi points out a number of curiosities, here’s a good one:

Non-proliferation has been a stated goal of the United States since 1945, but the experience of the last six decades clearly illustrates the limitations of treaties, sanctions, export controls etc. especially because there is no uniformity of rigour or commitment to the goal of stemming proliferation. This commitment is therefore likely to further fragment in the wake of such measures in the United States.

Oh and here’s another right behind it:

…while the United States is engaged in refurbishing its nuclear weapons complex, it has little power to stop proliferation that is already underway, such as the Sino-Pakistan variety, and has little clout – or the moral right – to stop vertical proliferation or modernisation of strategic arsenals under way in other nuclear armed states. Essentially, US nuclear weapons appear to be here to stay for the foreseeable future, so why should countries that perceive they require them for security or as a currency of power not want to acquire them?

Yes, although words matter, funding matters more. 

At this point, the funding plan is to plus-up the U.S. nuclear enterprise, an in-fact recognition that the global zero thing, while it makes for a cool bumper sticker and will be much appreciated by hippie chicks everywhere, won’t work in the real world.

A lift from James N. Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy as reported by the American Forces Press Service, AKA the Department of Defense:

…When Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited China earlier this year, he proposed a strategic dialogue to cover space, cyberspace, nuclear missile defense and other topics…  

“We are quite optimistic about the prospects of beginning such a dialogue in the not-too-distant future,” Miller said.

I understand the call for optimism, but optimism itself?Would such optimism be based on…anything?  Shared goals, values, and ideals, for example?

From CBS in early 2011 regarding China’s 2007 ASAT test:

"The contradiction between China’s statements and actions in this area raise questions about the credibility of China’s declaratory policies and commitments in other areas of national security affairs. The U.S. is refraining from any expansion of space-related cooperation with China."

Or this from the Washington Post in mid January 2011 regarding Secretary Gate’s conversation with Chinese Minister of Defense Liang Guanglie:

Liang reacted tepidly to Gates’s (sic) proposal that the U.S. and Chinese militaries engage in a wide-ranging strategic dialogue on nuclear posture, cyberwarfare and North Korea, saying the PLA was "studying it."

For years, U.S. officials have also sought talks with China’s military on its nuclear weapons posture, cyber-warfare and other sensitive issues, such as contingencies on the Korean peninsula.

When things change in a hurry (say from January to March), there is usually causation.  I’m not sure what the optimism causation is in this case.

A Russian Salute To Road Mobile ICBMs

When New START didn’t have the votes to be ratified, it was delayed until the Senate would return following the summer break.

The summer break is clearly nearing completion based on the plethora of New START articles which are obviously intended to shape the debate.

There is Should The Senate Ratify NEW START Weapons Accord? No—by Robert Monroe and Yes—by Paul Eaton, which appears in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Then we have Learning From Experience On Arms Control in the Wall Street Journal.

How about the panicky sounding Senate Must OK U.S. Russia Pact On Nuclear Arms in the Arizona Republic, which leans annoyingly and almost completely on an appeal to authority.

How about another concerned sounding effort, U.S. Grasp of Russian Nukes May Weaken, Warns Official?

The final article is The Moral Challenge Of A Nuclear-Free World.

The fundamental questions regarding New START should be ‘does it make the United States safer?’ an associated follow on ‘If so, specifically how so?’ and finally ‘How will we know?’