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No time to beat the swords into plowshares

TOM BURGUM
Staff Columnist
burgum@lbknews.com

Unilateral disarmament is a concept that, while defying logic, appeals to many on the very far left. It is also very popular in the faculty lounges of major universities − but I repeat myself. The basic assumption behind all this is that the United States is the cause of much that’s wrong with the world today. If we were just nicer and not so heavily armed the peoples of the family of nations would beat their swords into plowshares and move into the broad sunlit uplands of peace and prosperity.

We might all sing, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” (Coca-cola, that is.).

Logical or not, Obama is moving us in that direction. On June 19, 2013, the Obama White House released a detailed version of its updated nuclear weapons policy which is based on the Nuclear Posture Review Implementation Study (NPRIS).  Not surprisingly, the NPRIS states the United States can safely reduce the number of strategic weapons by up to one-third below current levels.

Obama is a bit smarter and faster that those NPRIS guys because in a 2012 appearance in Seoul, Korea, Obama said: “But even as we have more work to do, we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need.”

So, you see, our president really don’t need no stinkin’ NPRIS study to justify his move toward unilateral disarmament.

Unfortunately, Obama’s number may not coincide with reality. In July 2010, General Kevin Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command testified: “I do not agree that [the number of nuclear weapons in the United States arsenal] is more than is needed. I think the arsenal that we have is exactly what is needed today to provide the deterrent. And I say this in light of − when we talk about the non-deployed portion of the arsenal − it is sized to be able to allow us to hedge against both technical failures in current deployed arsenal and any geopolitical concerns that might cause us to need more weapons deployed.”

In December 2013 the Chinese supplied one of those geopolitical concerns that General Chilton thought might cause us to rethink our weapons deployment.  “One Saturday morning,” according to Jeremy Page’s article, “Deep Threat“, in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, “China’s defense ministry [announced] one of their nuclear powered submarines would soon pass through the Straight of Malacca, a passage between Malaysia and Indonesia that carries much of the world’s trade.”

Page also wrote that “China is expected to pass another milestone this year when it sets a different type of sub to sea − a ‘boomer” carrying fully armed nuclear missiles for the first time − says the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI.”

China’s navy chief, Admiral Wu Shengli, in an article for the Communist party magazine as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, wrote: “This is a trump card that makes our motherland proud and our adversaries terrified. It is a strategic force symbolizing great -power status and supporting national security.” Note that the admiral emphasized “terrifying” adversaries. He didn’t want some peace-study academician in the United States trying to make out that China was peaceful and there was nothing to worry about.

To get a picture of what is now most likely to transpire in the Pacific, watch “The Hunt for Red October,” the movie taken from Tom Clancy’s book of the same name. The immediate geo-political concern is that China’s nuclear attack subs will prevent the United States from being able to make any effective intervention in conflicts involving Formosa, Japan or the Philippines.

A more distant but very real threat will be the Chinese “boomers” ability to launch effective strikes against the United States from almost any place in the world. None of this is to say the Chinese plan to nuke California anytime soon but don’t think their ability to do so won’t be a major factor in our strategic calculations.

It simply is not good news that the Chinese have added first-class nuclear submarine capability to their expanding military inventory. Just as a side note, our interest payments to the Chinese on their share of our debt is funding their military expansion. Don’t be surprised that if in the not so distant future Chinese submarines we paid for routinely surface in San Francisco Bay, if for no other reason than to get some decent Chinese carryout.

The world-wide peace movements’ dream of America leading the world in unclear disarmament isn’t working out so well. Oh, the American part so going forward a pace. The rest of the world, not so much. At the end of the Cold War with Russia, America could deploy over 10,000 warheads. Now there are less than 2,000 with a possible further reductions under the new Start Treaty to 1,000. Given the Russian recent refusal to allow inspections, the disarmament will likely be honored unilaterally by the United States.

Meanwhile, Russia has several thousand deployable nuclear warheads and threatens to develop more. If there is a peace movement in Russia, the members have the good sense to keep their mouths shut. China has about 240 but is now working on adding strategic nuclear weapons for their submarines while the French and the British have evidenced no desire to give up their more limited nuclear arsenals.

Add one more really crazy country to the list since Washington seems resigned to Iran joining the club. That Israel has between 200 and 300 strategic nuclear weapons as a deterrent might keep Iran from engaging in aggressive stupidity.

Deterrent not only kept America safe for 50 years of the Cold War, it kept both Russia and the United States aware they might be able to start a war on their terms but they wouldn’t be able to finish it on their terms.

In other words, forget the plowshares, let us keep our swords.

 

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