The nuclear weapons world has just changed for the fourth time. We’re in a new world, and new policies and actions are required.
The first change was in 1945, when we created nukes. The second came in 1949, when Russia detonated a nuclear weapon and threatened global thermonuclear war. The third came in 1991, when we won the Cold War. With no enemies in sight America went into a nuclear freeze, and we’ve been sleepwalking ever since.
We must open our eyes. The fourth nuclear world has arrived. Nuclear adversaries abound. Nuclear threats are made across the globe daily. Russia is a generation ahead of us, with advanced nukes we don’t understand. China’s huge strategic modernization program is cloaked in secrecy, and their hostile actions cover huge ocean areas.
Pakistan and India are fighting over borders and exchanging nuclear threats. The Mideast is convulsed in more wars than can be counted. North Korea and Iran — belligerent and irresponsible rogue states — are on the verge of acquiring nukes. These actions are triggering a global cascade of nuclear weapons proliferation, which could lead to a world of horror and chaos.
These sweeping changes have shattered forever the hopes for a world without nuclear weapons. The immense global nonproliferation regime — based on hand-wringing and sanctions since 1970 — has collapsed into irrelevance. Nuclear weapons are here to stay, and they’ll be used unless we prevent it.
But we have little capability to do this at present. Our generation-long nuclear paralysis has disabled us. Our deterrent policy, nonproliferation policy and nuclear strategy are ineffective. Our nuclear arsenal is aged, untested and largely irrelevant. Our weapons research and development is non-existent. Our nuclear scientists, engineers, technicians and managers — inactive for their careers — are without test experience and seriously questionable. The 30-odd allies who have counted upon our nuclear umbrella for decades are considering going nuclear.
If America is to survive we must awaken and take a number of bold and sweeping actions. To guide us, the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) which Secretary of Defense James Mattis just launched must be totally new, unlike the previous three.
Two types of change are required: a striking change in format; and an equally forceful change in content, focused on the bold actions we must take.
Regarding format: The review should be produced with an individually selected Trump team of surviving Cold Warriors with Defense, Energy and State Department experience. Anyone who served in the Obama administration should be excluded, and it should not wait for new Trump appointees to be nominated and confirmed. The review should be produced as an unclassified NPR only (no classified version). It should be limited to 10 pages (President Obama used 68). It should be finished by September (Mr. Obama took 15 months).
With regard to content, the NPR should be limited to major actions to rebuild America’s nuclear weapons capability and reassure the world, prioritized below:
• Reverse U.S. nuclear weapons policy from weakness to strength (as announced and maintained by all 12 nuclear-era presidents before Mr. Obama). America must be No. 1.
• Commence selling the world on a new concept to enable us all to live with nuclear weapons, long term. Adjust the Nonproliferation Treaty to require the five approved nuclear weapons states — permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — to enforce nonproliferation, collegially or individually. Adjust the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to make it nonapplicable to these five states, which must maintain nuclear supremacy. That would be a decades-long State Department diplomatic challenge.
• In immediate application of this concept, the U.S. must immediately use deterrence or military force to require Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities. When this has been accomplished, do the same with North Korea using the carrot and stick approach.
• Immediately resume underground nuclear testing by the Energy and Defense Departments. The Energy Department should conduct research and development on advanced concepts, test the current stockpile, and design-test-produce new nuclear weapons. The Defense Department should resume weapons-effects testing.
• With round-the-clock effort, build a plutonium pit production facility with throughput of 80-100 pits annually.
• Re-nuclearize the Defense Department. It has been stripped, except for our strategic deterrent. America must be able to fight and win on any advanced nuclear battleground. Start by re-establishing the Defense Nuclear Agency to guide the services, agencies, commands and forces.
• Replace nuclear delivery systems, advance missile defense, and create effective defenses to electromagnetic pulse attack.
This new Nuclear Posture Review must awaken America and guide our recovery of the nation’s lost nuclear weapons capabilities.
• Robert R. Monroe, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral, is the former director of the Defense Nuclear Agency.
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