Paradoxically, from a global perspective, the Obama approach to nuclear non-proliferation will have the exact opposite effect. More nations, like South Korea, will surely be forced to acquire nuclear weapons, not less. It is illogical to assume that America’s friends and allies will continue to forswear the development of nuclear weapons if they lose confidence in America’s commitment to protect them from nuclear-armed enemies. This will surely come about in the Sunni nations in the Middle East, as Iran has now been given the green light to acquire nuclear weapons in the not that distant future by Obama’s July 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
In this context, a significant concern centers on the NPR’s moratorium on the development of new nuclear warheads. Since NPR, no new nuclear weapons have been produced by the United States. This moratorium has forced the development of various life extension programs (LEP) for American nuclear warheads. The greatest challenge in this regard is finding ways to replace the aging core or pit of a nuclear warhead made from plutonium-238. Cannibalizing and reusing parts from decommissioned nuclear missiles should be done only as a last resort, not as a first choice. In addition, the NPR greatly harms the delivery systems used for nuclear weapons by simply eliminating such tactical weapons as the tomahawk sea-launched cruise missile (SLCM). One nuclear weapons policy expert assessed this as meaning that the Obama Administration has improperly “concluded that the United States could reassure U.S. allies in Asia, and deter threats to their security, without deploying sea-based cruise missiles to the region in a crisis.”
Again, if the primary goal of the 2010 NPR is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, it is not producing this result. North Korea is continuing to pursue the development of more and stronger nuclear weapons. Iran is also continuing its quest for nuclear weapons and now with the Obama treaty they will get them in the not too distant future.
On the other hand, smaller nuclear nations such as Israel will never agree to nuclear disarmament no matter the incentivizing, economically or otherwise. Even the most cursory view of the geopolitical environment surrounding the tiny nation of Israel would conclude that it would be irrational for Israel not to possess a nuclear force. Without the aid of the United States or other significant allies, the massive conventional forces of their enemies would overwhelm them in battle. Prudent smaller nations understand the realities of the world.
Under the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), deterrence is achieved through the practical realization that no nuclear State will attack another nuclear State, as the nuclear response would be unbearable. This may or may not deter a radical Muslim State like Iran that could base calculations for use of a nuclear weapon on a religious “duty” to usher in the apocalyptic “end times.”
The problem is that current and potential nuclear powers see this as a golden opportunity to close the gap between themselves and the United States, the formerly untouchable giant. The Obama policy is based on unilateral concessions, signaling weakness to nuclear and non-nuclear powers alike. In a world where nuclear weapons exist, the only realistic standard of behavior calls for the United States to maintain a robust nuclear capability, second to none, so that no nation would ever consider using a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, this simple truism is lost on Obama.
When President Obama delivered his 2013 Berlin speech on disarmament, he remarked that “so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe.” While the masses may enjoy such epigrams, this belief is absolutely false. A world in which the United States and other free nations do not possess nuclear weapons is both unrealistic and undesirable. It is precisely because of nuclear weapons that we are safe. In the nearly seventy years that modernized nations have been armed with nuclear weapons, not once have they been used by the nations that possess them. Wars have been fought between proxies of nuclear nations, but no nuclear-armed nation has attacked another nuclear-armed nation. Is this because the nature of man has changed? Or does it have more to do with the rational conclusion by even the most totalitarian regime, that the cost of using a nuclear weapon is simply unacceptable under MAD?
President Obama is simply the world’s icon for those unaccustomed to the reality of war and the necessity of nuclear weapons in the hands of countries that value freedom. Indeed, this sophomoric thinking led the international community to award the Nobel Peace Prize to the world’s foremost nuclear alarmist, Barack Obama, even before completing the first year of his presidency. The Nobel Peace Prize was primarily given for Obama’s “emphasis – in word and deed – for a world free from nuclear weapons.” In reality, if one is really concerned with keeping the peace, the real recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize should have been the atomic bomb. Shortly after Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize an article in Time magazine by David Von Drehle noted the absurdity of the award being given to Obama:
As bad as they are, nukes have been instrumental in reversing the long, seemingly inexorable trend in modernity toward deadlier and deadlier conflicts. If the Nobel Committee ever wants to honor the force that has done the most over the past 60 years to end industrial-scale war, its members will award a Peace Prize to the bomb.
In addition, America has no special burden of guilt because it is the only nation to have used nuclear weapons. Not only was the use of the atomic bomb legal under the law of war, many more lives were saved by the use of the two atomic bombs during World War II than were destroyed. It is estimated that approximately one million more American soldiers and perhaps three million Japanese would have been killed had the United States actually carried out its plan to physically invade mainland Japan. President Truman understood the real world. The concept of nuclear deterrence was immediately established in 1945, the year the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Obama Doctrine, which seems intent on employing scare tactics and demonizing the possession of nuclear weapons, imperils both the world and America. Unilateral reductions of America’s nuclear forces create a vulnerable and weakened nation that can be “intimidated into conforming to the will of less-benignly inspired actors on the international stage.” Furthermore, such a course increases the actual promotion of the development of nuclear weapons in other nations. In short, a shrinking U.S. nuclear arsenal will certainly prod other nations to strengthen their own nuclear arsenals. One thing is certain; Obama’s misguided policies of unilateral reductions in America’s nuclear arsenal have not achieved his desire for worldwide nuclear disarmament. Instead of inventing mythologies about how nuclear weapons cause a more dangerous world, strong American leadership requires assessing the world as it really is and not how one wishes it to be. Statesmen accept the nature of man as it is and keep clear of the siren song of appeasement and crusader arrogance.
The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been extremely effective in reducing the spread of nuclear weapons. In exchange for a nation’s direct commitment to the treaty not to acquire nuclear weapons (they may develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes associated with energy production), many of these nations look to the United States for their security because they know that the United States of America has the nuclear muscle to ward off totalitarian nuclear-armed nations. The treaty has worked so well that, as of this writing, there are only nine nations with nuclear weapons, down from twelve. If America weakens its nuclear posture, the number will surely increase.
Obama’s pacifist desire to rid the world of nuclear weapons cannot be achieved. Unfortunately, however, its ability to hamstring America’s nuclear capabilities is all too real. Instead of pursuing the panacea of a world without war and nuclear weapons, President Obama must be made to wake from his millennial dream and institutionalize comprehensive arrangements that only provide for American reductions if our adversaries do the same, a process that must be verified through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When it comes to nuclear weapons our policies must be fully rooted in the context of common sense. Unilateral reductions in America’s nuclear arsenal are disastrous when confronting totalitarian fanatics. The world remains a dangerous place and Russia, the other major nuclear power, is once again making noises of expansion by force. How will they be deterred from using nuclear weapons? In his book Einstein’s Monsters, Martin Amis wrote:
What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can’t get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons.
In a nutshell: The only established defense against nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons cannot be abandoned because of nuclear weapons.