Deterrence and Nonproliferation

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

Deterrence and Nonproliferation


Byline: Robert R. Monroe, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The gravest danger the U.S. faces is the rise of global terrorism coupled with the increasing availability of weapons of mass destruction. Over the half-century of the nuclear era, America was kept safe from these weapons by the dual strategy of nuclear deterrence and nonproliferation.

Today, this dual strategy is still the only one that can save us from the different, but still devastating, threats we now face. However, both elements must be reshaped to be effective against new adversaries.

Unfortunately, rather than respond to this new challenge we have let both elements atrophy. Since the Cold War ended, no administration has informed the nation of the vital role nuclear weapons still play in national security and how our nuclear strategy and arsenal must be transformed. Lacking this leadership, we have never engaged in the national debate that can stimulate much-needed action.

- Nuclear deterrence. This is the principal force that kept us safe throughout the Cold War. It worked flawlessly. To maintain this deterrence, we had to change our nuclear weapons continually to meet new threats, advancing technology and shifting adversary strategy. And we always held at risk those assets our adversary valued most highly. Our deterrent was so effective not one nuclear weapon was ever used, despite many major crises and frequent hot wars.

Today everything has changed - our adversaries, the threats and technology. But we haven't transformed our nuclear strategy and weapons accordingly. We have been frozen in time, looking backward at a Cold War stockpile that has virtually no relevance today. Our nuclear weapons are those we depended upon for massive retaliation against an immense Soviet threat - except they're 15 years older.

Thus we have lost our nuclear deterrent, our best defense against tomorrow's threats. An example: The U.S. seeks to have a rogue state stop producing and deploying nuclear weapons. Ultimately, we threaten.

The adversary, however, is convinced the U.S. will not use its 500-kiloton, surface-burst weapons against the adversary's nuclear weapons sites buried deep in hard rock and possibly kill many thousands of innocent civilians.

So they continue building their arsenal; and the risk of nuclear weapon use (by someone) increases. Our nuclear deterrent simply doesn't work. It isn't believable where it counts - in the minds of our adversaries.

We must re-establish a nuclear deterrent against likely new adversaries: rogue states, failed and failing states, powerful terrorist groups able to take over nuclear-weapon states and terrorists based in sanctuary states.

Nuclear deterrence can be as effective now as it was in the Cold War, but our weapons must be changed. We must hold at risk those elements of national power our current adversaries value most, and they must believe we will use nuclear weapons.

We need new weapons with much lower yield, much greater accuracy, uniquely tailored weapons effects, and greatly improved intrinsic security and controllability.

We must be able to destroy deeply buried targets - sites containing chemical or biological agents (which should be neutralized); targets deliberately located near large civilian populations, etc. And our new weapons must be absolutely unusable by terrorists.

To date, this essential reshaping has been blocked by those unwilling or unable to understand nuclear weapons' important new role in national security strategy, those who mistakenly fear new U.S. nuclear weapons development and testing will somehow stimulate proliferation, and those placing domestic politics over national security.

- Nonproliferation. The demise of "nonproliferation" as a force for our security was due to different causes. At the dawn of the nuclear era, America initiated the international nonproliferation effort. …

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