Did you hear the one about the “safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent”? There is, of course, nothing safe or secure about producing, maintaining, or threatening to use nuclear weapons. Nor is there evidence that they have ever deterred anything that the United States wanted deterred.
Trump’s State of the Union gave this justification for building more weapons:
“Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values. In confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict and unmatched power is the surest means of our true and great defense. . . . [W]e must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else. Perhaps someday in the future, there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly.”
Now, a rival is just something that you call a rival, and I suppose it can challenge your “values” merely by not sharing them. Perhaps it can challenge your “interests” and “economy” through trade agreements. But those are not acts of war. They don’t require nuclear weapons unless you intend to get better trade agreements by threatening genocide. Moreover, there’s nothing magical about the moment when the Nonproliferation treaty that the U.S. violates was created, nor about the current moment when the majority of nations are in fact working on a new treaty to ban the possession of nuclear weapons.
The Pentagon’s new “nuclear posture review” gives a little bit different justification for building more nukes. It claims that the U.S. has led the way in disarmament, with Russia and China refusing to follow along. It claims Russia “seized” Crimea (why wasn’t that “deterred”?). It claims Russia has been making nuclear threats against U.S. allies. It claims China is building nuclear weapons, thereby “challenging traditional U.S. military superiority in the Western Pacific.” Also: North Korea’s nuclear provocations threaten regional and global peace, despite universal condemnation in the United Nations. Iran’s nuclear ambitions remain an unresolved concern. Globally, nuclear terrorism remains a real danger.”
This is remarkably dishonest. The Pentagon, unlike the President, is at least pointing to things related to war and peace. But that’s about all that can be said for its claims. The Soviets wanted to disarm, when Ronald Reagan insisted on his “Star Wars.” It was Bush Junior who abandoned the ABM Treaty to put missiles in Europe. Russia ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, while the U.S. has not ratified or complied with it. Russia and China have proposed to ban weapons from outerspace and the U.S. has refused. Russia has proposed to ban cyber war, and the U.S. has refused. The U.S. and NATO have expanded their military presence to Russia’s borders. The U.S. spends ten times what Russia spends on war preparations.
None of this let’s Russia off the hook for its weapons production and dealing, and its war-making. But the picture of the United States as the innocent pursuer of disarmament is disgustingly false. The evil “seizure” of Crimea had as many fewer casualties than the U.S. seizure of Iraq as the total number of casualties in Iraq. It killed nobody and involved no seizing. The United States is far and away the world’s leading threatener of nuclear war. U.S. presidents who have made specific public or secret nuclear threats to other nations, that we know of, have included Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump, while others, including Barack Obama, have frequently said things like “All options are on the table” in relation to Iran or another country.
Why should a nation that isn’t in the Western Pacific dominate it? Why can’t Lockheed Martin stand accused of challenging China’s dominance of the Chesapeake Bay? North Korea wants to survive. It is far more credibly actually pursuing nukes as deterrence. There is no guarantee they will deter. Iran has never had a nuclear weapons program. And the best way to increase the risk of non-state nuclear use is to build more nukes, threaten their use, defy the rule of law, and proliferate the technology — exactly what the United States is doing.
It’s hard, in fact, to find an honest line in the Nuclear Posture Review.
“Our commitment to the goals of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) remains strong.”
No it does not. It remains completely lawless defiance of the requirement to pursue disarmament.
“U.S. nuclear weapons not only defend our allies against conventional and nuclear threats, they also help them avoid the need to develop their own nuclear arsenals. This, in turn, furthers global security.”
So, why are Saudi Arabia and the other U.S.-allied Gulf dictatorships working on nuclear energy?
“[Nukes] contribute to the:
Deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack;
Assurance of allies and partners;
Achievement of U.S. objectives if deterrence fails; and
Capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.”
Really? What makes the future less certain than building nuclear weapons?
Perhaps we should all contemplate for a moment what the U.S. objectives are that can be achieved by nuclear weapons “if deterrence fails.”