Arms Control without Deterrence; Mistaken Nuclear Policy Puts U.S. on the Wrong Road

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 16, 2010 | Go to article overview

Arms Control without Deterrence; Mistaken Nuclear Policy Puts U.S. on the Wrong Road


Byline: Louis Rene Beres, Thomas McInerney and Paul Vallely, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

President Obama has signed a new arms-control agreement with the Russians, but this does not mean we no longer require adequate nuclear deterrence. The president, in his naivete on matters of national security and foreign affairs, continues to weaken the U.S. capability to deal with serious threats. Multiple existential dangers still exist, and this country will have to ensure that our remaining strategic-force assets are always capable of reaching their intended targets. At a minimum, this will mean maintaining a thoroughly modern and penetration-capable nuclear force.

To be sure, further nuclear proliferation should be curtailed, yet that particular goal will be degraded by the new treaty. The president's underlying and overriding objective, a world free of nuclear weapons, is not attainable, and it is not desirable. By themselves, the president should understand, nuclear weapons are neither good nor evil. In certain circumstances, however counterintuitive, those weapons may prove indispensable to international stability and national security.

How quickly we forget that the nuclear stalemate between the United States and the former Soviet Union played a decisive role in preventing World War III. Today, a tiny American ally's physical survival is plainly contingent upon having nuclear weapons. However ambiguous or implicit, Israel's nuclear deterrent is required for that always-imperiled country's very life.

The naive nuclear hopes of Mr. Obama will present a grave hazard. What we require in any effective arms-control policy is a model of international interactions that reflects, realistically, the passions and principles of all our potential enemies. Such a complex model would be drawn not from idealized visions of worldwide denuclearization, but from the informed awareness that America's multiple enemies still remain resolutely face-down to peace with the United States.

When Pericles delivered his funeral oration, with its praise of Athenian civilization, his perspective was inner-directed. He remarked: What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies is our own mistakes. Later, in Rome, Cicero inquired: What can be done against force without force? Today, a president of the United States still must understand that in a world of international anarchy, foreign policy must aim at maintaining and improving his country's power position.

America needs nuclear weapons for deterrence and to meet strategic operational requirements. We need continually to modernize and upgrade and refine those weapons as well as associated strategic doctrine. We need to recapitalize our national nuclear deterrent and ensure that we can maintain all essential global power-projection capabilities.

This means, at a minimum, a capable re-examination of nuclear targeting doctrine, now with regard to current threats from other countries and their proxies. It also means preparing for a world in which both our national and subnational enemies may be irrational. In all of these matters, the president's current glide path to a nuclear-free world is counterproductive and dangerous.

A key concern of U.S. strategic doctrine must still be pre-emption. Like it or not, there are major threats on the horizon that may call for anticipatory self-defense. In our uncertain strategic future, where enemy rationality cannot always be assumed and where the essential effectiveness of national ballistic-missile defense would be problematic, the only alternative to an American pre-emption could be abject surrender or defeat.

Future enemy missile launches could come from container ships off our shores. Launches against Israel likely will come directly from Iran and from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

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Arms Control without Deterrence; Mistaken Nuclear Policy Puts U.S. on the Wrong Road
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