Why don’t we hear more people celebrating the marvels of nuclear weapons? Donald Trump is an interesting figure, who will deal aggressively with Russian transgressions. What does he say about nuclear weapon?
In 2007 some distinguished establishment figures; Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn, called for a world free of nuclear weapons. How come? President Obama has made no secret of his wish that the world would be free of nuclear terror.
A very different, a very pro- nuclear weapons argument is presented in “The Myths of Nuclear Drawdown: A world without nukes takes us backward, not forward,” by Alan W. Down and Adam Lowther, in the August 2015 issue of The American Legion, tells us the establishment has it wrong. They argue ” What if the U.S. nuclear arsenal is the very thing that has kept us safe?” The argument begins with Hiroshima. They tell us that every day since 1945 nuclear weapons have played the central role in “deterring America’s adversaries from attacking the American heartland. A step down from that risk, nuclear weapons have ensured that the Cold War never turned into a major third world war.
“Along the way, hey have promoted stability, enhanced U.S. security and bolstered American primacy.” Now, this blog argues that the assertion about “primacy” is exactly wrong. Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons played a major role in killing over 50,000 Americans in Vietnam. People forget that Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater, advocated the use of nuclear weapons against Chinese supply lines in Vietnam. It is clear that America did not go nuclear, because the Soviet Union, and later China, had nuclear capabilities.
So, yes, the U.S. still has “primacy” in the nuclear terror game, but the superiority that it had prior to he development of the intercontinental missile is much less. America can still destroy Russia and China, but Russia and China can also destroy America. The degree of “primacy” that America had in 1956 is gone.
Well, what other argument do the authors make? They make an argument to think of each third of the nuclear triad; intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), bombers, and ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) as distinct parts of a deterrence schedule. They present brief argument to support each part of the triangle. ICBMs cannot be shot down or sunk. To successfully attack the U.S. without committing suicide, a country would have to launch successful strikes against almost 500 targets. Impossible.
The augment for the bomber is that it provides flexibility to American policy makers. “When it comes to the attributes of the triad, they (Bombers) provide flexibility because a bomber can be recalled after a launch, and visibility because the bomber force is the only leg of the triad that can be used to signal U.S. seriousness during times of tension.”
The third part of the triad, nuclear based submarines is potentially the most important part of the deterrence schedule, because it “. . is currently the most survivable leg.” However, the authors tell us the underwater tracking technology is rapidly improving, so that if we eliminated the ICBM and he bomber, they would be free to concentrate their resources on neutralizing America’s submarine fleet. They present a scenario where an adversary destroys the entire fleet with conventional torpedoes.
They argue that for a fraction of 1 percent of the federal budget, nuclear weapons give America a very valuable insurance policy. And they tell us that the value of the triad is not limited to the U.S. America’s allies also receive a valuable benefit. “As NATO declared in 2014,’The strategic nuclear forces of he alliance, particularly those of the United States, are the supreme guarantee of the security of the allies.'” But the piece moves beyond an historical analysis. It tells us that events are moving in a dangerous direction; ominous threats that will require even more nuclear weapons:
China has modernized and expanded it nuclear threat. It has increased its warheads from 100 to 600.
Pakistan has deployed about 100 nuclear weapons.
China has estimated that North Korea has 20 nuclear warheads.
The article claims that Putin plans to install an additional 400 ICBMs.
Well, what is to be done. Predictably, the authors quote Ronald Reagan. “What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that . . . we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?” . . . “This could pave the way for arms-control measures to eliminate the weapons themselves.”
The authors underline the main point: “Note the sequence: robust missile defenses would be in place before nuclear disarmament. Today, it seems Washington is trying to do the opposite.” They conclude with a ringing endorsement. “After 70 years of service, no other weapon has done more to protect U.S. sovereignty and deter America’s adversaries.”
Now, those of you have spent any time here, might guess at my first comment. Seventy years ago the U.S. could have destroyed bot Russia and China with nuclear weapons delivered by bombers un a matter of 12 hours. And Russia and China could not have responded. The United States was safe. Today the U.S. can still destroy Russia and China, and in a matter of minutes; but it is also true that Russia and China can destroy the U.S.
Nuclear weapons in the past 70 years have had a more negative effect on U.S. security than they have had on Russian or Chinese security. In the early 1950’s the U.S. homeland could not have been reached by the Russian or Chinese nuclear forces. Now both Russia and China have a second strike nuclear capability that could kill millions of Americans.
Now I don not argue that the U.S. should give up its nuclear weapons. And we can all be positive that Russia and China will not give up their nuclear forces. So, what do I advocate? I advocate for an agreement that we all agree to keep the platform for nuclear weapons out of space. Because nuclear weapons reflect engineering talent. And IQ theory tells us that Russia and China can produce formidable engineers once Russia and China educate virtually all of their boys.
America is more vulnerable today than it was 7o years ago because Russian and Chinese engineers have demonstrated an ability to match American engineered products.
Back to Trump. His emphasis on “deal making” rather than a grand anti-Russian strategy may be, in the long run, the safest and most productive approach.