Monday, March 7, 2011

The Four Horsemen Stumble Again

In today's Wall Street Journal, the "Four Horsemen" (Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn) appear to address some of the problems with nuclear deterrence. But what are they really saying?

The four former high-ranking US government officials lay out five somewhat contradictory "practical steps toward deterrence that do not rely primarily on nuclear weapons or nuclear threats to maintain international peace and security."

The first step is to develop a strategy to deal with the many other issues that threaten the survival of a country (chemical/biological weapons, cyber warfare, terrorism, climate change, health crisis).

The second step is to realize that continued reliance on nuclear weapons encourages (or at least excuses) proliferation in other countries.

The third step is for the US and Russia to take their nuclear weapons off of hair-trigger alert, engage in further reductions of strategic nuclear weapons and eliminate tactical nuclear weapons.

The fourth step is "as long as nuclear weapons exist, America must retain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear
stockpile primarily to deter a nuclear attack and to reassure our allies through extended deterrence" but the US and Russia should lead the build-down of nuclear stockpiles.

The fifth step is to address regional dynamics that make nuclear weapons more appealing to countries, such as an imbalance in conventional military power.

To me, this list reads like a standardized test where you have to identify which of the five points doesn't fit in with the topic.

Let's look at the wording of #4 along with my translations:
  • "As long as nuclear weapons exist" = everyone else must disarm. We are responsible stewards of nuclear weapons and can be trusted under all circumstances.
  • "America must retain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile" = the nuclear weapons labs in which we have a significant economic interest must continue to receive billions and billions of taxpayer dollars to make more nuclear weapons even though in point #2 we say that continued reliance on nuclear weapons encourages proliferation in other countries.
  • "Primarily to deter a nuclear attack" = there are other things we will use nuclear weapons for, including offensive purposes.
  • "To reassure our allies through extended deterrence" = we want to keep as many countries as possible under our thumb by continuing to pretend that our nuclear weapons will keep them safe.
In mid-February, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation hosted a conference challenging nuclear deterrence at its headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. Conference participants drafted a statement that actually rejects nuclear deterrence and explains why. You can read and sign on to the Santa Barbara Declaration here.

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