Friday, April 9, 2010

Nuclear Surrender


An essential part of deterrence over the last 50 years has been our purposefully vague policy of nuclear retaliation.  While we have always specifically stated that any nuclear attack on our country or on our allies would be responded to with the full power of our nuclear arsenal, we have never really defined -- publicly at least -- under what other circumstances we would use nukes.  And we have never committed to a "no first strike" policy.

This, combined with the fact that we have actually used nuclear weapons on two cities, has left our adversaries with the belief that any significant attack could well earn them a hit with the big nuclear stick.

This nuclear posture has resulted in 50 years without a big war.  Europe has remained free, Israel's existence has remained unchallenged, the Russians have been deterred (after we explained the situation more fully in the Cuban missile crisis), China pretty much stayed out of Vietnam, and the US has remained the shining beacon of freedom.  All without even using one nuclear weapon.

But now, Obama has spelled out that we will never use nuclear weapons unless attacked by a country with nuclear weapons -- with the exception that we may attack North Korea and Iran, and any other NPT non-compliant nations.  We are also committed to reducing our arsenal and eventually eliminating it.

What does this do?

First of all, by eliminating the ambiguity and restricting our responses to attack, all of our adversaries can consolidate and revise their contingency war plans.  Everything becomes simpler for them.  The percentage of plans that have positive results increases dramatically, and viable plans with negative results have less severe negative results.  The world has instantly become more dangerous, since attacks on the US and our allies are now safer to make.  This is just basic game theory -- which Obama apparently does not understand.

Next, everyone needs to understand that the Cold War never ended.  We did not win.  The US and the Russians still retain their missiles, aircraft, subs, and nuclear weapons, and they are all still pointed at military targets and cities.  (Yes, I know that officially they are targeted to "broad ocean areas", but these are just the default targets.  In a real war, the targets next down on the list would be designated.  BOA is a political fiction.)

So we still need good old Cold War deterrence.

One of the main arguments since the 1950's  for developing and maintaining our nuclear deterrent has been that it is a very inexpensive way of defending our country and our friends and allies.  In Europe, for example, Russia has always had vast numbers of tanks and troops that could be used to invade.  We and our NATO allies have a token force -- backed up by tactical nuclear weapons.  Without the nukes, our defense was not credible, and would have required vastly more soldiers and equipment to become credible.

So, by reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons, our defense costs will go up.  To get to the point where we have the same deterrence value as nuclear weapons could be exceptionally expensive.  Nukes kept the peace for 50 years.  What enormous level of conventional weapons would have been required without nukes?  How big would our army have had to have been to contain the USSR, even if they had not had nukes either?

Of course, we are now assuming that Russia will disarm too.  Maybe they will.  But over the last 15 years, they have been busy developing new nuclear bombs, and mobile and submarine-launched ICBMs with very modern capabilities.  We have been stagnant for the last 30 years, with no new nuclear weapon delivery system since the Peacekeeper missile -- and it has been decommissioned.  Our ICBM forces date from the mid 1970's.  This doesn't augur well for us.

And then there are the other upcoming adversaries like Iran and North Korea who are developing nuclear weapons -- and potential future adversaries like Pakistan who already have nukes, and could well be taken over by the Islamists.

The zealotry of our new adversaries is much different from that of our staid, basically rational Russian adversaries of the last half of the 20th century.  I would argue that the world is much less safe now than it was back then, and will likely be much worse in 20 years.

So by reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons, we will end up with a much more dangerous world, and it will cost us much more to defend the US and our allies.

One of Obama's statements is particularly concerning:  We will no longer be developing any new nuclear bombs or weapon systems.  This locks us into whatever we have now, while Iran, North Korea, the Russians -- and God knows who else  --  march ahead with nuclear technology.  It is easy to foresee a time in only a few years when the US has no nukes (or at least old nukes of dubious functionality, since we can no longer test them), and other nations have the ability to attack us with nukes.  We will then have to do whatever they say.

And we will no longer have the ability to build new nuclear weapons in the future.  The production of nukes is difficult and dependent on many subtle factors.  By eliminating our entire nuclear weapon infrastructure, Obama is eliminating the knowledge base we would have to rely on if we would ever need to develop new weapons.  A few years from now, after all of our true experts have died off, it could well take us 10 years -- even with a crash program -- to get back to where we were.  Maybe 20 years if we have to do it clandestinely in a world ruled by others.  Or more likely never.

If we want to remain free, we will need nuclear weapons.  And with the zealotry insanity of our new enemies, simple deterrence may fail.  That is a harsh fact of reality in the world today. 

Obama's apparent lack of understanding of basic nuclear game theory and basic foreign affairs, combined with his naive belief  and trust in our adversaries, is leading us to a completely untenable position in the world.

I say his "apparent lack of understanding" because once again I see the alternate explanation.  If Obama wanted to destroy our country, what would he be doing differently?


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