Dec 14, 2008

Disarming Ourselves

The Wall Street Journal|Opinion Journal

A new report warns Obama about our aging nuclear weapons.


Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo get more press, but among the most urgent national security challenges facing President-elect Obama is what to do about America's stockpile of aging nuclear weapons. No less an authority than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calls the situation "bleak" and is urging immediate modernization.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Gates's new boss appeared to take a different view. Candidate Obama said he "seeks a world without nuclear weapons" and vowed to make "the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons a central element in our nuclear policy." His woolly words have given a boost to the world disarmament movement, including last week's launch of Global Zero, the effort by Richard Branson and Queen Noor to eliminate nuclear weapons in 25 years. Naturally, they want to start with cuts in the U.S. arsenal.

But the reality of power has a way of focusing those charged with defending the U.S., and Mr. Obama will soon have to decide to modernize America's nuclear deterrent or let it continue to deteriorate. Every U.S. warhead is more than 20 years old, with some dating to the 1960s. The last test was 1992, when the U.S. adopted a unilateral test moratorium and since relied on computer modeling. Meanwhile, engineers and scientists with experience designing and building nuclear weapons are retiring or dying, and young Ph.D.s have little incentive to enter a field where innovation is taboo. The U.S. has zero production capability, beyond a few weapons in a lab.

We're told Mr. Gates's alarm will be echoed soon in a report by the Congressionally mandated commission charged with reviewing the role of nuclear weapons and the overall U.S. strategic posture. The commission's chairman is William Perry, a former Clinton Defense Secretary and a close Obama adviser. Mr. Perry is also one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," the nickname given to him, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn for an op-ed published in these pages last year offering a blueprint for ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

The commission's interim report is due out any day now, and the advance word is that Mr. Perry has come back to Earth. We're told the report's central finding is that the U.S. will need a nuclear deterrent for the indefinite future. A deterrent is credible, the report further notes, only if enemies believe it will work. That means modernization.

That logic ought to be obvious, but it escapes many in Congress who have stymied the Bush Administration's efforts to modernize. Britain, France, Russia and China are all updating their nuclear forces, but Mr. Bush couldn't even get Congress this year to fund so much as R&D for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. Senator Dianne Feinstein dismissed the RRW, saying "the Bush Administration's goal was to reopen the nuclear door."

In the House, similar damage has been done by Ellen Tauscher, chairman of the subcommittee on strategic weapons. Ms. Tauscher, whose California district includes the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, likes to talk about a strong nuclear deterrent while bragging about killing the RRW. She also wants to revive the unenforceable Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the Senate rejected in 1999. Let's hope the Perry report helps with her nuclear re-education.

If Congress isn't paying attention, U.S. allies are. The U.S. provides a nuclear umbrella for 30-plus countries, including several -- Japan, Germany and South Korea, for example -- capable of developing their own nuclear weapons. If they lose confidence in Washington's ability to protect them, the Perry report notes, they'll kick off a new nuclear arms race that will spread world-wide.

In a speech this fall, Mr. Gates said "there is no way we can maintain a credible deterrent" without "resorting to testing" or "pursuing a modernization program." General Kevin Chilton, the four-star in charge of U.S. strategic forces, has also spent the past year making the case for modernization. "The time to act is now," he told a Washington audience this month.

The aging U.S. nuclear arsenal is an urgent worry. A world free of nuclear weapons is a worthy goal, shared by many Presidents, including Ronald Reagan. Until that day arrives, no U.S. President can afford to let our nuclear deterrent erode.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bill Gates is an "authority" on nuclear weapons? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

With Mr. Putin's warships in Cuba perhaps we can get this debate on the front burner.

Anonymous said...

Here's what you get when you have a journalist express an opinion about something they know nothing about.

Frank Young said...

Bill Gates? Did you mean Bob?

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, engineers and scientists with experience designing and building nuclear weapons are retiring or dying, and young Ph.D.s have little incentive to enter a field where innovation is taboo." (WSJ)

But, but, but... LANS just got a score of 88% from NNSA. Things are fine, aren't they? Add in more weapon budget cuts and lab layoffs plus additional lowering of morale at the NNSA labs and the situation will soon be better than ever! I predict a LANS LLC score of 90% for FY10.

Anonymous said...

You can write all the articles you want about this subject, but the simple fact is none of the people in political power care about this subject. The main political power holding up the weapon complex over the last 15 years has been Sen. Dominici and he's now gone.

If we are lucky, we'll continue to see more benign neglect. If we are unlucky, Congress will actually proceed with plans to dismantle the US nuclear weapons complex and destroy the NNSA research labs.

Either way, it's all downhill from here.

Anonymous said...

What would it take for a single commenter on this blog to do something positive, whining on a blog, pointing fingers at others, or expecting others to do the heavy lifting do not count, to improve the U.S.'s nuclear policy and nuclear preparedness?

The readers of this blog are more effected by the contents of the main article than anyone in the country, but even so they will not do anything.

Why should anyone in any other county in the U.S. care, given that the most knowledgeable do nothing?

Anonymous said...

"The readers of this blog are more effected by the contents of the main article than anyone in the country, but even so they will not do anything." (11:44 AM)

Thus, helping to prove the point. It's all downhill from here. QED.

Frank Young said...

I would counter that the commenters on this blog are the ones doing the most to improve the U.S.'s nuclear policy and nuclear preparedness. They could walk away in disgust, as many have, but they keep working at the lab.

I've heard all the arguments - they can't sell their homes, they have kids in school and so on. I really believe most of them put up with the crap they endure at work because they know what is at stake and they love their country.

Yes they complain. Who says they have to like it? Things could be a lot better with a few changes. The complaining is a symptom, not the problem.

Anonymous said...

11:44, or should I say "Eric," how the fuck would you know what I am doing when I'm not posting on this blog? How dare you accuse LANL staff of "not doing anything" for nuclear preparedness?

Anonymous said...

To 12:36,

Good comment. NOT.

Profanity, anger, and no effective political action by someone who has to remain anonymous is what was criticized and is what you gave.

The commenter at 11:44 said nothing about LANL workers not being hard working or technically talented. The commenter at 11:44 only said that they, as represented on this blog, are completely ineffective politically.

Your ad hominem attack on a person not even mentioned in this debate, your complete misunderstanding of the post, and your lack of being willing to do something politically constructive proves the point of the post.

QED.

You provide perfect support for 11:39 and 11:58.

Anonymous said...

"12/15/08 2:55 PM


F-off idiot.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with Secretary Gates. A withdraw from idealism, return to history, and back to realism and reality.

This national security experiment, e.g. the voluntary test moratorium since 1992, and no new nuclear weapons systems since the 80s has created a false security, and essentially a withdraw from history, it also made the terrorist attack of 9/11/01 more likely, not as a causa prima, rather as causa remota, i.e. in the surrounding atmosphere of general naivite, and its belief in "the end of history," as well as US has no real adversaries, nor today, or in the future. But, we all know what happened when 21st Century started, i.e. September 11, 2001.

And finally; I have previously posted on this blog, 8/8/08 5:43 PM:

My perspective:

The overall agenda of the so-called "zeroists," i.e. the very naive view of actual zero nuclear weapons in the world, and that the US should unilateral surrender its nuclear deterrence, and believe other to follow this idealistic idea, is to be a fool of grand proportion, in other words, political correctness is hurting US nuclear weapons policy, as well as in other areas, like nuclear power, foreign policy, expanding domestic oil and natural gas exploration and production, environment issues, et cetera.

This idea that polital correctness gain you, is severly wrong, if US continue on this political correctness path, paths that are expanding, that hurt US status as a superpower, not a route to embark.

And the policy of no nuclear testing, no new nuclear weapons systems introduced, no real modernization, is essentially political correctness, that in the long term perspective hurt US national security policy.

A path out of this labyrinth, first created with President George H.W. Bush´s voluntary test moratorium for US in 1992, further cemented by President Bill Clinton in 1996 with the signature of the CTBT, but at least not ratified by the Senate in 1999, is essentially a belief in the so-called "End of History," a perspective introduced by Francis Fukuyama in the essay "The End of History?" in 1989, and the expantion to "The End of History and the Last Man" in 1992, it is also the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet Union, the US victory against Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the first Gulf War, 1991, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, but nothing of these events protected that Pakistan and North Korea became nuclear powers, the rise of China, Iran to seek nuclear weapons, the rise of Islamic terrorism, and 9/11 to happen.

As of August 2008, US should address this policy, for its nuclear deterrence:

(1) We have the right to underground testing, if there is a need.

(2) We have the right to introduce new nuclear weapons in the stockpile, if there is a need.

(3) We have the right to change the military capabilities of every nuclear weapon in the stockpile, if there is a need.

(4) We have the right to withdraw from the Moscow Treaty and the CTBT, if there is a need.

And finally; there are essentially two ways to make history:

(5) What preserves the species.- The strongest and most evil spirits have so far done the most to advance humanity: again and again they relumed the passions that were going to sleep- all ordered society puts the passions to sleep- and they reawakened again and again the sense of comparison, of contradiction, of the pleasure in what is new, daring, untried; they compelled men to pit opinion against opinion,, model against model. Usually by force of arms, by toppling boundary markers, by violating pieties- but also by means of new religions and moralities. In every teacher and preacher of what is new we encounter the same "wickedness" that makes conquerors notorious, even if its expression is subtler and it does not immediately set the muscles in motion, and therefore also does not make one that notorious. What is new, however, is always evil, being that which wants to conquer and overthrow the old boundary markers and the old pieties; and only what is old is good. The good men are in all ages those who dig the old thoughts, digging deep and getting them to bear fruit- the farmers of the spirit. But eventually all land is exploited, and the ploughshare of evil must come again and again.

Nowadays there is a profoundly erroneous moral doctrine that is celebrated especially in England: this holds that judgments of "good" and "evil" sum up experiences of what is "expedient" and "inexpedient." One holds that what is called good preserves the species, while what is called evil harms the species. In truth, however, the evil instincts are expedient, species-preserving, and indispensable to as high a degree as the good ones; their function is merely different. (The Gay Science, Book One, section 4, Random House, Inc., 1974, by Friedrich Nietzsche.)

(6) Historia abscondita. - Every great human being exerts a retroactive force: for his sake all of history is placed in the balance again, and a thousand secrets of the past crawl out of their hiding places- into his sunshine. There is no way of telling what may yet become part of history. Perhaps the past is still essentially undiscovered! So many retroactive forces are still needed! (Ibid, section 34.)

Anonymous said...

7:43 pm: "And finally; I have previously posted on this blog, 8/8/08 5:43 PM:

My perspective:"

Jeez, can you get any more self-important? Clue: nobody cares what you think. And, your pedantry is annoying.

Anonymous said...

"..your pedantry is annoying."

12/15/08 8:28 PM

Yes, I agree. There is a strong odor of self importance to the boring and insufferable long posts of 7:43 PM.

Anonymous said...

"12/15/08 8:28 PM

Yes, I agree. There is a strong odor of self importance to the boring and insufferable long posts of 7:43 PM.

12/15/08 9:22 PM"

Your microscopic and pointless post reeks of self-loathing and diminished esteem. Turn the valve on it already.

Anonymous said...

Gates is already bending Obama's ear that NNSA should be part of DOD. He's said privately that DOD could do a better job running the nuclear weapons complex. Obama is aware of the recent issues DOD had with nuclear weapons handling, but has been impressed with Gates forceful hands on approach to correct - firing both military and civilians involved.

Anonymous said...

To 7:43,
As I've said on this blog before, "Fuck you!"

As I haven't said before, maybe you and eric should start a mutual admiration society. Somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

"To 7:43,
As I've said on this blog before, "Fuck you!"

As I haven't said before, maybe you and eric should start a mutual admiration society. Somewhere else.

12/16/08 10:27 AM"

You never said that on the blog before. I do admire your courage, insight and strength. You are a true pure-breed Chihuahua amongst the muts of thinkers.

Anonymous said...

12/15/08 8:28 PM, 12/15/08 9:22 PM, and 12/16/08 10:27 AM:

Oderint Dum Metuant.

(Let them hate so long as they fear.)

(My thanks to 12/15/08 10:01 PM, and 12/16/08 1:54 PM.)

Anonymous said...

12/16/08 10:27 AM

Racist pig !

Anonymous said...

"Racist pig ! - 12/18/08 3:07 PM"

Iowa racing pigs compete for a single oreo cookie at the state fair.