President Obama is working to realize the leftist dream of unilateral nuclear disarmament. This will leave the United States pitifully weak and create conditions for catastrophic deterrence failure.
The White House has told the Pentagon to study options for reducing the number of U.S. nuclear warheads by as much as 80 percent. The future nuclear force could have as few as 300 weapons, far below the cuts to 1,550 required by the START 2 nuclear treaty with Russia. It would give America an arsenal about the size of France’s Force de Frappe and raise serious questions on whether it would have sufficient strength for even minimal deterrence.
Supporters of radical weapons reduction contend that Mr. Obama’s “nuclear zero” is not a unilateralist strategy and that deep cuts would only come as part of a framework of global arms reduction. This is mere rhetoric. No such framework has been established or is being negotiated, and no other country in the world is contemplating such extreme cuts. START 2, which the Obama administration claims is a model for the global framework, committed the United States to nuclear cuts while giving Russia the green light for nuclear-force modernization and expansion. The weak verification regime in the treaty puts America in the position of having to take Moscow’s word for it that Russia is complying with the agreed-upon terms. Ronald Reagan counseled “Trust but verify,” but Mr. Obama signed off on “Let’s just hope they aren’t lying.”
Communist China has never agreed to be part of any strategic nuclear framework. There are no reliable official numbers on the size of Beijing’s nuclear forces, though a 2011 Georgetown University study concluded the Chinese already may have the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. The White House hasn’t pursued any nuclear negotiations with Beijing and seems to think if the People’s Republic doesn’t mention its strategic forces, they don’t exist.
Rising regional powers aren’t buying into Mr. Obama’s anti-nuke line. Pakistan, India, North Korea and Iran have or are pursuing nuclear weapons. As the U.S. arsenal shrinks, the relative value of their weapons increases, so they have every incentive to continue to move down this path. This illustrates a dangerous flaw in Mr. Obama’s thinking. At the same time he is pushing America toward “nuclear zero,” the White House is promising to extend the U.S. nuclear-deterrence umbrella to countries such as Israel and Saudi Arabia to assuage fears of the nuclear threat from Tehran. Given this credibility gap, it’s no wonder many Middle Eastern states are planning to initiate their own nuclear programs if Iran gets the bomb. In this respect, “nuclear zero” is weakening deterrence, spurring an arms race and making conflict more likely.
It will be left to Mr. Obama’s successor to dump “nuclear zero” and reverse the dangerous erosion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. If America rejects the security responsibilities of a superpower, it has no business calling itself one.
The Washington Times
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