Friday, August 31, 2007

Nukes of Hazard on... Nukes of Hazard

In the spirit of a little Friday humor, a Daily Show clip from January 16, 2006 on nuclear weapons and the "Axis of Evil"...

... oh, how much has changed.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Physicians for Social Responsibility and The Economist Urge Rejection of U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

Referring to the agreement as “dangerous to international peace and security,” the Nobel Peace Prize-winning American organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), together with its Indian counterpart, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), called on the governments of the two countries last week to reject the U.S.-India nuclear deal promoted by its leaders.

Although the deal does not need the approval of the Indian Parliament, the country must first negotiate a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and garner an exception in its guidelines for nuclear trade with the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). This could potentially take several months, but, if completed, the recently finalized text of the 123 authorization agreement (with its loopholes big enough to drive a Mack truck through) would then be submitted to Congress for a final vote.

With these two opportunities in mind, the well-respected magazine, The Economist, declared that “rule-bending [for India] puts at risk the anti-nuclear regime that everyone else's safety and security is built on. Governments at the NSG and the IAEA that are unhappy with this need to find the courage of their convictions, and block it.

The newspaper explains:

America's readiness to make an Indian exception to all the rules risks snapping two of the joists that support the global non-proliferation structure. At the IAEA, India wants the right not just to say which reactors can be inspected, but when. Such unprecedented laxity in India will make it hard to get others—for example, Brazil, which already does some uranium enriching of its own—to accept the tougher inspections that the IAEA wants as standard for all NPT members.

Likewise, the hard-won clarity of the NSG's trade ban has helped maintain support for the NPT, despite the cheating antics of a few. Mere talk of fudging the rules last year encouraged Russia to break them, citing spurious “safety” concerns as an excuse to sell India uranium fuel. China, unhappy at America's coddling of India, is exploring more nuclear co-operation with Pakistan—which in turn threatens to match India, should it step up weapons production or test again.

PSR and IDPD likewise called upon the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) reject this agreement as contrary to their objectives and also urged the UN Security Council to support NSG guidelines and the improvement of international legal rules for the prevention of nuclear proliferation and the promotion of nuclear disarmament.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NPEC Report: IAEA Falling Behind and Risks Slipping Further

The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC) released yesterday an insightful report that paints a disturbing picture of how well the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is doing in keeping tabs on nuclear material and that the situation is actually primed to get worse.

The report, “Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom,” details the effectiveness of the IAEA’s safeguards system and how best to improve it, and is based on two years of research and meetings with officials from the IAEA and several governments, as well as outside experts.

The 34-page report’s key conclusion is that “the IAEA is already falling behind in achieving its (nuclear) material accountancy mission and risks slipping further unless members of the IAEA board independently and in concert take remedial actions in the next two to five years.

The report notes that “it would be a mistake to wait to see if civilian nuclear energy will expand... The reason why is simple: Even if nuclear power does not expand, the amounts of nuclear weapons usable materials that the IAEA must prevent from being diverted to make bombs is already very large and growing."

It finds that the IAEA has far too little money to safeguard against a seemingly ever growing amount of weapons-grade material. The report notes that while the quantity of highly enriched uranium and plutonium the agency inspects increased by more than six-fold from 1984 to 2004 and that the number of plants containing these materials more than tripled during that time, the IAEA’s safeguards budget has barely doubled. (Oh, and by the way, that six-fold increase is enough to make 12,000 to 21,000 crude nuclear weapons.)

The report also finds that the IAEA’s overly generous views of how much material must be diverted to make a bomb and how long it might take to convert this material into a nuclear weapon exacerbates this safeguards gap. Largely based on estimates over 30 years old, the report finds the IAEA’s figures were set anywhere from 25% to 800% too high. Already losing track of “many nuclear weapons-worth of material every year” at some plants, this means that the IAEA “is unable to provide timely warning of diversions from nuclear fuel-making plants (enrichment, reprocessing, and fuel processing plants utilizing nuclear materials directly useable to make bombs).”

The report offers seven recommendations on exactly what should be done. Included below are seven basic recommendations; the actual report details them at length and includes more specific advice.

1. Resist calls to read the NPT as recognizing the per se right to any and all nuclear technology, no matter how unsafeguardable or uneconomic such technology might be.

2. Distinguish between what actually can be effectively safeguarded, and what can be, at best, monitored.

3. Re-establish material accountancy as the IAEA’s top safeguards mission by pacing the size and growth in the agency’s safeguards budget against the size and growth of number of significant quantities of special material and bulk handling facilities that the agency must account for and inspect

4. Focus greater attention on useful safeguards activities that are necessary, but have yet to be fully developed.

5. Complement the existing UN formula for raising IAEA funding with a user-fee for safeguards paid for by each nuclear operator.

6. Establish default actions against various levels of IAEA safeguards agreement noncompliance.

7. Plan on meeting future safeguards requirements on the assumption that the most popular innovations – integrated safeguards, “proliferation-resistant” fuel-cycles, and international fuel assurances – may not achieve their stated goals or, worse, may undermine them.

NEPC’s full report is available here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Joe Cirincione: A Brief History of the Atomic Age

Interested in learning the history of the Atomic Age in just over 15 minutes?

Well, you’re in luck.

Click below to watch a fascinating video of Joe Cirincione’s opening remarks from the 2005 Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference that does just that.

The video is an adapted multimedia version of Cirincione’s speech, produced by Dot-Org Digital Media Services.

Alternatively, you can read the text of the presentation here or listen to an audio version here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

James Doyle on National Security and Nuclear Weapons

James Doyle recently wrote an interesting Proliferation Analysis for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace challenging the Bush Administration’s joint statement, “National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century.”

Signed by the Secretaries of Defense, State, and Energy, the statement argues that the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) is the best means for ensuring the future nuclear deterrent and claims there will be several risks if the RRW program isn’t undertaken.

Doyle identifies and addresses in turn four of the Administration’s main points (in italics):

“Every American administration since President Truman’s day has formulated U.S. national security policy in much the same terms, making clear to adversaries and allies alike the essential role that nuclear weapons play in maintaining deterrence."

The argument for maintaining nuclear deterrence as a centerpiece of U.S. national security strategy would be more credible if the global security environment in which America finds herself was largely the same as it was during the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. It is not. …


"The extension of a credible U.S. nuclear deterrent has been critical to allied security and removed the need for many key allies to develop their own nuclear forces."

It is difficult to imagine any NATO country, with the possible exception of Turkey, that would consider [developing] nuclear weapons even if the U.S. nuclear umbrella closed tomorrow. The NATO alliance does not face a credible conventional threat from any state or block of states. Furthermore, NATO nuclear deterrence would be maintained by the nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France.


“In 2001, President Bush directed that the United States reduce the number of operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons from about 6,000 to 1,700-2,200 by 2012 – a two-thirds reduction...”

Who are the targets for the several thousand nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal today and who do we expect the 2,200 nuclear warheads will be deterring in 2012? When global economic and social realities are considered, deterrence of major aggression among leading nations such as the U.S., Europe, Russia, China, India and Japan seems to be an objective that could be fulfilled with very low numbers of nuclear weapons. …


"Delaying progress on RRW will force the United States to maintain a large stockpile of nuclear weapons and sustain it through increasingly costly and risky Life Extension Programs. Delays on RRW also raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons."

It is through assertions like this that the joint statement reveals itself to be a political document masquerading as a finished technical assessment. It implies that there is solid technical evidence and agreement that without the RRW the United States will be assuming “risks” and will be “forced” to maintain a larger stockpile of nuclear weapons.

In fact there is no such consensus at this time. …

Click here
to read Doyle’s full analysis.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Communist Opposition in India May Save the World from the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) announced on Thursday that it will withdraw from Prime Minister Singh’s ruling parliamentary coalition if the Prime Minister moves to implement the U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement. (You can read the full text of the party statement here). This development is hugely significant because Prime Minister Singh’s majority in parliament depends on the support of this party.

While smaller Indian Communist parties had already announced plans to withdraw if Singh moves forward with the deal, the CPI(M) announcement is the most significant. CPI(M) controls 43 of the Communists’ 59 votes, and without this party’s support, Singh cannot maintain control of parliament.

The Left demands that Singh not proceed with implementation of the nuclear deal until a special parliamentary committee has studied its impact on India’s nuclear autonomy. The line in the sand drawn by the Left is the negotiation of “India specific” safeguards with the IAEA: If PM Singh moves forward on negotiating these safeguards, the Left has stated that it will withdraw.

However, Singh has taken an equally strong position, reporting to the Indian media that he told the Left earlier this month:

…it is not possible to renegotiate the deal. It is an honourable deal, the Cabinet has approved it, we cannot go back on it. I told them to do whatever they want to do, if they want to withdraw support, so be it.

It is not clear whether the Left is ready to make good on its threat or are just be grand-standing – the deal could collapse entirely or it may just be delayed. Either way, the Left has now drawn its line in the sand, and the next move is Singh’s.

For an examination of Singh’s options and the possible consequences, see the flow chart below.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Few New Insights from Sunday’s Democratic Presidential Debate

Sunday’s Democratic Presidential Debate at Drake University in Iowa was, more or less, a recap of recent barbs traded by Sens. Obama and Clinton, but did offer some new insights into the positions of other candidates.

As a quick breakdown of who said what…

Sen. Clinton reemphasized her opposition to meeting with leaders of adversarial countries without preconditions and to publicly discussing the potential use of nuclear weapons in Pakistan.

Sen. Dodd concurred, pointing out that Pakistani President Musharraf is “the only person that separates us from a jihadist government in Pakistan with nuclear weapons.”

Sen. Biden opined that the U.S. needs a Pakistan policy, not a Musharraf policy, while Gov. Richardson quipped that he’s already met the dictators in question.

And Sen. Obama, for his part, said that there’s not much difference between his critics and said that it’s “common sense” that “if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and we've exhausted all other options, we should take him out before he plans to kill another 3,000 Americans.”

Moderator George Stephanopoulos then pointed out that Sen. Clinton had previously said that she would take the nuclear option off the table regarding Iran and asked her about the difference between her and Obama’s comments. Clinton responded by saying that she was referring to a specific effort by the Bush-Cheney administration to drum up support for military action against Iran, including nuclear bunker busters, and repeated the importance of not talking about hypotheticals.

Obama retorted that he didn’t see a difference between the two sets of comments, adding, “No military expert would advise that we use nuclear weapons to deal with [al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan].”

Former Sen. Edwards agreed with Clinton to “not talk about hypotheticals in nuclear weapons” but stated that he would not only stop nuclear bunker busters, but would also “lead an international effort over time to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet.”

Richardson wrapped up the point by saying that he, too, would not discuss hyptheticals involving nuclear weapons, and would declare a policy of no first use, would build international support for nuclear nonproliferation, and would pursue a “treaty on fissionable material,” presumably the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

Provided below are the excerpted highlights of the debate as they regard to nuclear weapons and nonproliferation. The full transcript can be found here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator Clinton, you did tell the Quad City Times that Senator Obama's views on meeting with foreign dictators are naive and irresponsible. Doesn't that imply that he's not ready for the office?

CLINTON: Well, George, we had a specific disagreement, because I do not think that a president should give away the bargaining chip of a personal meeting with any leader, unless you know what you're going to get out of that.

It takes a lot of planning to move an agenda forward, particularly with our adversaries. I think the next president will face some of the most difficult international dangerous threats and challenges that any president has faced in a very long time.

We're going to have to mend fences with our allies. We're going to have to deal with global warming. We're going to have to get back on the track of trying to prevent nuclear proliferation -- and so much else.

So I think that, when you've got that big an agenda facing you, you should not telegraph to our adversaries that you're willing to meet with them without preconditions during the first year in office.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Dodd, you've called Senator Obama's views confusing and confused, dangerous and irresponsible. Do you think he's ready to be president?

DODD: Well, again, I'd certainly underscore the point that Senator Clinton has made here. The point I'd make on that, when I disagreed with my colleague from Illinois, was about the issue of whether or not a speech, a prepared speech, which suggested here a hypothetical situation and a hypothetical solution here -- that raised serious issues within Pakistan.

As I pointed out before, the only person that separates us from a jihadist government in Pakistan with nuclear weapons is President Musharraf. And, therefore, I thought it was irresponsible to engage in that kind of a suggestion here. That's dangerous. Words mean something in campaigns.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Biden, it seems like your colleagues here don't want to reach the judgment that you've made. Why isn't Senator Obama ready?

BIDEN: Look, I think he's a wonderful guy, to start off, number one. It was about Pakistan we were talking about. The fact of the matter is, Pakistan is the most dangerous, potentially the most dangerous country in the world. A significant minority of jihadists with nuclear weapons. We have -- and I disagree with all three of my friends -- we have a Pakistan -- we have no Pakistan policy; we have a Musharraf policy. That's a bad policy. The policy should be based upon a long-term relationship with Pakistan and stability.


RICHARDSON: You know, it's interesting. You talk about the dispute between the two senators over dictators that -- should we; should we not meet?

I've met them already, most of them. All my life I've been a diplomat, trying to bring people together. …


OBAMA: … George, I don't actually see that much difference or people criticizing me on the substance of my positions. I think that there's been some political maneuvering taking place over the last couple of weeks.

I do think that there's a substantive difference between myself and Senator Clinton when it comes to meeting with our adversaries. I think that strong countries and strong presidents meet and talk with our adversaries. We shouldn't be afraid to do so.

We've tried the other way. It didn't work.

I think that, if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and we've exhausted all other options, we should take him out before he plans to kill another 3,000 Americans. I think that's common sense.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, one of the areas that -- one of the things that Senator Obama just talked about is that he thinks that some of your differences aren't as great as people have said.

Your campaign criticized Senator Obama after he made a comment ruling out the use of nuclear weapons against Al Qaida, yet, here's what you said last year when asked about Bush administration reports that they might use tactical nuclear weapons in Iran. Take a look.


CLINTON: No option should be off the table, but I would certainly take nuclear weapons off the table. And this administration has been very willing to talk about using nuclear weapons in a way we haven't seen since the dawn of the nuclear age. I think that's a terrible mistake.


STEPHANOPOULOS: So Senator Obama rules out using them against Al Qaida. You rule out using them against Iran. What's the principal difference there?

CLINTON: Well, George, you've got to put it into context. I was asked specifically about what was, very clearly, an effort by the Bush-Cheney administration to drum up support for military action against Iran.

Combine that with their continuing effort to try to get what are called bunker-buster bombs, nuclear bombs that could penetrate into the earth to go after deeply buried nuclear sites.

And I thought it was very important. This was not a hypothetical, this was a brushback against this administration which has been reckless and provocative -- to America's damage, in my opinion.

So I think there's a big difference, and I think it's a difference that really goes to the heart of whether we should be using hypotheticals. I mean, one thing that I agree with is we shouldn't use hypotheticals. You know, words do matter.

And this campaign, just like every other things that happens in the United States, is looked at and followed with very great interest. And, you know, Pakistan is on a knife's edge. It is easily, unfortunately, a target for the jihadists. And, therefore, you've got to be very careful about what it is you say with respect to Pakistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you accept that distinction?

OBAMA: There was no difference. It is not hypothetical that Al Qaida has established base camps in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That was acknowledged in the national intelligence estimates. And every foreign policy understands that.

No military expert would advise that we use nuclear weapons to deal with them, but we do have to deal with that problem.


STEPHANOPOULOS: The one I just asked, was there a difference between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama on this issue.

EDWARDS: I personally think, and I would as president, not talk about hypotheticals in nuclear weapons. I think that's not a healthy thing to do. I think what it does for the president of the United States is it effectively limits your options. And I do not want to limit my options, and I don't want to talk about hypothetical use of nuclear weapons.

I would add to that that I think what the president of the United States should actually do, beyond stopping bunker-buster nuclear weapons, which this administration's moving forward with, is what America should do and what I would do as president, is to actually lead an international effort over time to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet. That's the way to make the planet more secure.


: You know, when a president talks about foreign policy, a president has to be clear.

And this talk about hypotheticals, I think, is what's gotten us in trouble. Here's what I would do on nuclear weapons: I wouldn't, as an American president, use nuclear weapons first. However, you can never take the military option off the table.

The key is that in our foreign policy today, this administration has used the military option preemption. It should be diplomacy first, negotiation, build international support for our goals, find ways that America can get allies in our fight against terrorism, against nuclear proliferation.

We should have a treaty on fissionable material, loose nuclear weapons -- that's even more dangerous today than nuclear weapons.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

George Perkovich on the “Proliferation Trilogy: North Korea, Iran, and India”

The always insightful George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently had an interesting interview with Bernard Gwertzman on the “Proliferation Trilogy: North Korea, Iran, and India.”

Gwertzman asks, “There are three major issues on questions of nuclear proliferation right now: the agreement reached in February for North Korea to give up its nuclear program in return for, essentially, help from the outside world; secondly is the continuing defiance by Iran to the Security Council which has been trying to get it to suspend its enrichment activities; thirdly is the U.S.-India agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. On these issues which is the most important right now?”

Click here for Perkovich’s full answers.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

William Hartung: Lessons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki Not Yet Fully Learned

William Hartung of the New America Foundation recently penned an exceptional op-ed for the History News Network in which he argues, It has been 62 years since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the moral and strategic lessons of those devastating acts have still not been fully learned.

Hartung spends the first half of the article outlining the greater historical context for the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, before moving into the crux of his argument. He writes that even though the world has not seen nuclear weapons used anew,

the foundations of U.S. nuclear policy remain morally suspect. There has not been another Nagasaki, but it is U.S. policy to engage in veiled threats to launch just such an attack, even if the target nation does not possess nuclear weapons.

Case in point: the criticism Obama drew for his statements taking the nuclear option off the table in potentially attacking al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Hartung also posits that the threat of using nuclear weapons is also counterproductive at the strategic level.

The threat to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states is only liable to spur them to seek their own. Taking this stance toward Iran -- even if the actual use of the weapons is extremely unlikely -- will undermine prospects for negotiations to curb Teheran's program while giving leverage to officials within Iran who want to go from nuclear enrichment to nuclear weapons.

Hartung rightfully concludes,

Short of getting a global agreement to abolish nuclear weapons -- a goal worth striving for no matter how difficult it may be to achieve in practice -- one of the most important steps the U.S. could take would be to adopt a policy of "no first use" of nuclear weapons against any nation that is not literally poised to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. This shift in U.S. policy would suggest that it is possible to reverse the mentality that led to the bombing of Nagasaki, even at this late date.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Top Ten List from the 2007 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just put out its “Top Ten Results” from their International Nonproliferation Conference, held earlier this year in June.

The results are based on the responses provided by the 800-some participants of the Conference (including yours truly), who were asked to identify the top solutions to current and future nonproliferation challenges.

Included below is a breakdown of the results, the full descriptions of which can be found here.

Top 3 Upcoming Challenges
1. Proliferation Networks Continue After A.Q. Khan
2. To Have or Have Not: The Nuclear Renaissance Sequel
3. Fuel Assurances: A Solution Looking for a Problem?

Top 3 Best New Policy Proposals
1. Mobilize the Business Community to Report Suspicious Procurement Inquiries and Tighten Nuclear Material Security.
2. Increase the Costs of Noncompliance with IAEA Safeguards and Withdrawal from the NPT.
3. Strengthen the Euro’s Leverage as a Nonproliferation Tool.

Top 4 High Impact Ideas to Implement by 2010
1. It’s the CTBT, Stupid.
2. Don’t Waver In Obtaining Iran’s Compliance.
3. Develop New U.S.-Russian Initiatives To Reduce Risks of Nuclear Exchange.

Max Postman: Indian External Affairs Minister: Hyde Act “Not Binding” for India

*Special guest post by Max Postman

The Indian government is facing extremely vocal opposition from both the country’s leftist and nationalist parties over the “123 agreement” for nuclear cooperation with the U.S. that was reached last month. Indian opponents argue that the deal places unacceptable constraints on India’s nuclear weapons program.

On Thursday, “dozens” of members of parliament opposed to the deal stormed into the center of both houses of parliament and shouted, "Prime minister quit your job" and "Stop lying, Stop selling the country.” But since the deal does not require parliamentary approval, the opposition cannot block the agreement unless they are willing to withdraw from Prime Minister Singh’s ruling coalition—which they apparently are not.

The Indian government maintains that the deal does not compromise Indian nuclear autonomy. This week, Indian officials attempted to mollify the opposition with the following statements:

Prime Minister Singh: "The agreement does not in any way affect India's right to undertake future nuclear tests if it is necessary in India's national interest.”

External Affairs Minister Mukherjee: "Whatever is stated in the Hyde Act is not binding on us. How they (US) deal with it is their problem.”

Singh and Mukherjee’s statements appear deliberately confusing. The 123 agreement is dangerously unclear about what the U.S. would do in the event that India tests a nuclear weapon. The agreement does, however, commit the U.S. to find other countries to provide nuclear fuel in the event that the fuel supply is disrupted, which strongly diminishes the consequences of testing. The Prime and External Affairs Ministers’ statements speak to the lack of meaningful or clear constraints in the 123 agreement.

Unlike the Indian Parliament, the U.S. Congress does have the power to block the agreement for nuclear cooperation. Congress and the American people should be listening very carefully to what the Indian government is saying about the deal, and consider the impact on nonproliferation efforts in that light.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Presidential Candidates Respond to Key Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation Questions

The Center's sister organization, Council for a Livable World, today released responses to seven critical questions on national security issues that were posed to all declared presidential candidates from both parties.

Joseph Biden, Hillary Clinton, Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson responded to the Council’s questionnaire. Their responses exhibited noteworthy unity while differing on some important details.

Six of the seven questions were on nuclear weapons or nonproliferation issues. A summary and analysis for those questions is provided below. The full text of the candidates' responses is available here.

Question #1 - Reducing Nuclear Weapons Stockpiles
A January 2007 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Senator Sam Nunn, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry called for moving toward a "world free of nuclear weapons" and urged the United States to lead an international effort to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles. Do you support or oppose their proposal?

All of the candidates called for moving toward a "world free of nuclear weapons" and reducing nuclear weapons stockpiles, but Biden and Clinton qualified their responses. Biden noted the difficulty of implementing several of the recommendations and Clinton committed only to working "to implement the sensible near-term steps" described by Kissinger, Shultz, Nunn, and Perry.

Question #2 - New Nuclear Weapons
Do you support or oppose researching, building, and possibly testing a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead?

Most candidates expressed support for reductions in the number of nuclear weapons and the need to de-emphasize the value of these weapons.

Obama was less clear than the other candidates on opposing the Bush administration's plan to build a new generation of nuclear warheads, saying he did not support "a premature decision to produce the RRW." Other candidates were more clear-cut.

Biden commented that "the RRW concept has been hijacked" and that the Department of Energy was using it "as an excuse for maintaining a wastefully large nuclear weapons establishment." Richardson remarked that to see a nuclear weapon "is to be astounded that millions of deaths can be compressed into such a tiny package. To know intimately our nuclear arsenal is to know intimately how our species could destroy itself."

Question #3 - Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
Would you make a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty a priority of your first term in office?

The candidates voiced unanimous support for making a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty a priority in their first-term in the White House. Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson expressed their support for the test ban treaty in terms of restoring U.S. leadership in the world.

Biden pointed out that "securing 67 votes in the Senate won't be easy" and also expressed a desire to "find a means of assuring that any undetectable cheating will not pose a military threat to the U.S." In addition to leading a bipartisan effort to ratify the test ban treaty, Clinton committed herself to "a continued moratorium on nuclear weapons testing" if ratification could not be secured. Obama suggested that until it ratifies the treaty, the least the U.S. can do is fully pay its contribution to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO).

Question #5 - Space Weapons
Do you support or oppose a multilateral international ban on placing weapons in space?

The candidates were the most divided on the issue of weapons in space. Dodd, Edwards, and Richardson endorsed a multilateral international ban on space weapons with no qualifiers.

Clinton supported the multilateral international ban but committed herself only to constraining testing and deployment of weapons in space "as much as possible, while continuing to protect our satellites from any threats that remain."

Obama said a treaty increasing space security, while "a good idea," would "take a long time to negotiate" and therefore suggested a "simpler and quicker" alternative: a "Code of Conduct for responsible space-faring nations."

Biden was the only candidate to answer "It Depends," explaining that he opposed space weapons "designed to cause damage on the ground" and supported "a carefully crafted ban on destroying or disabling another country's satellite," but remained wary of any treaty that aimed to "ban space stations or require international inspection of space payloads."

Question #6 - Nuclear Non-Proliferation Efforts
Do you support or oppose proposals for a major expansion and acceleration of nuclear non-proliferation efforts, including the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, designed to ensure that weapons of mass destruction and their essential ingredients around the world are secured and accounted for as rapidly as possible?

All of the candidates demonstrated that they understood progress on threat reduction has been slow and that nuclear terrorism is one of gravest threats to U.S. security. Since more than half the work to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons material remains to be done, all expressed a sense of urgency in expanding the funding and scope of Nunn-Lugar and related programs and accelerating nuclear non-proliferation efforts.

Both Clinton and Obama committed to the goal of entirely securing all nuclear material in vulnerable sites within four years. Clinton focused her response on the threat of nuclear terrorism, calling for the creation of a Senior Advisor to the President for the Prevention of Nuclear Terrorism, an idea she first introduced in the Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Act earlier this year. Obama included "negotiating a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material" as an element of his four-year goal.

Obama and Richardson both mentioned the need to deal with Russia, and Obama highlighted the delays and disputes that have hindered progress on securing Russian nuclear weapons and material.

Biden voiced support for his previously articulated "nuclear forensics" initiative that would "determine the origin of nuclear materials so that we can bring deterrence into the 21st century." He also drew attention to the "low-end of proliferation: buy backs of handguns and automatic weapons in troubled countries."

Edwards suggested convening a summit of leading nations to form a new Global Nuclear Compact, which would aim to provide "access to fuel for peaceful nuclear programs" while limiting the capabilities of states to make such materials and providing for "strict monitoring to ensure that materials are not being diverted."

Richardson noted his relevant experience as Secretary of Energy and said that "Pakistan's weapons are the most likely to fall into the wrong hands," calling for cooperation with Pakistan "to ensure that, in the event of a coup, Jihadists would not be able to use the Pakistani nuclear arsenal."

Question #7 - Direct Negotiations with Iran and North Korea
Do you support or oppose direct negotiations with Iran and North Korea that would include incentives for Iran not to build nuclear weapons and North Korea to eliminate verifiably its nuclear weapons program?

The candidates all endorsed negotiations with Iran and North Korea and demonstrated an awareness of the value and importance of diplomacy and international engagement in solving some of the toughest nuclear non-proliferation problems. Biden, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson all made clear that negotiations are required to achieve a successful outcome and are a necessary part of leadership, not some sort of capitulation or concession.

Biden said that direct talks "could add to, not take away from" the Six-Party talks with North Korea and EU-3 talks with Iran.

Clinton referred to her engagement strategy as "robust diplomacy" and contrasted it with the "cowboy diplomacy of the Bush-Cheney administration."

Edwards called for cooperating "with other great powers to isolate Iran and to offer Iran economic incentives." On North Korea, Edwards said that "We must engage the country directly, through the Six Party framework, placing economic and political incentives on the table."

Obama was the only candidate to explicitly state that he "will not take the military option off the table" in confronting these threats, but he reiterated that "our first measure must be sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy."

Richardson mentioned that "no nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons," but rather that "many nations have been convinced to renounce them." He explained that "meaningful sanctions accompanied by positive incentives and security guarantees" were the right approach. Richardson also cited his personal experience in negotiating with troublesome regimes, adding that "When the North Koreans want to re-engage the U.S., they call me, because they trust me."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sen. Lugar Praises Nunn-Lugar on Albania; Next Stop North Korea?

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) put out a celebratory op-ed on Saturday praising his namesake Nunn-Lugar program for successfully destroying Albania’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Lugar writes, “In a remote corner of Southern Europe, the United States and Albania recently scored a quiet but important victory in the battle against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. This success points the way toward helping resolve some of the greatest threats the world faces from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.”

While his paean may overstate the significance of the elimination of Albania’s 16 tons of chemical weapons agents, Lugar is nevertheless correct that it is important victory, even if it is a largely symbolic one. Albania did, after all, earn the title of first nation to completely destroy all of its chemical weapons under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

But 16 tons is still a drop in the global bucket, considering that only approximately 24,000 tons of the over 74,000 tons of declared chemical agents have been destroyed. Also significant is that several countries not party to the CWC, notably Syria and North Korea, are suspected of possessing chemical weapons, while other countries that are party to the Convention, such as Sudan and China, are suspected of not fully disclosing their stockpiles.

That is not to say, of course, there that has not been progress. There has. All of the declared chemical weapons production facilities have been “inactivated,” with 61 of the 65 declared facilities having been either destroyed or converted for peaceful purposes. And over 30% of the 8.6 million chemical munitions and containers covered by the Convention have been verifiably destroyed, although this still falls far short of the 100% goal set for in 2007.

As Lugar points out, the destruction of Albania’s chemical weapons arsenal “was an important first test of the Nunn-Lugar program outside the former Soviet Union, proving we can work with other governments in new environments. And it shows the value of expanding the Nunn-Lugar program so the United States can respond to nonproliferation opportunities wherever they may appear.” And although the program’s primary focus is still on Russia, Lugar writes, “the Albanian success shows we can and must be prepared to address similar risks in the Middle East, Asia and anyplace else where supplies of weapons of mass destruction may be.”

But of particular note is that Lugar concludes by suggesting that recent progress in the negotiations with North Korea could mean that that country too could eventually be aided by the Nunn-Lugar program in dismantling its weapons of mass destruction programs. Considering that North Korea is one of only seven countries that hasn’t even signed the CWC, this could be a tall order, but one that is nevertheless crucial for global security interests.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jim Walsh on the Nuclear “Table”

Jim Walsh, Board Member of Council for a Livable World (the Center’s sister organization), gave a great radio interview last Friday on nuclear weapons, the recent Obama-Clinton spat, and that proverbial “table” for “On the Media,” a program produced by WNYC and syndicated by NPR. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below; otherwise you can download the MP3 by clicking here or read the transcript by clicking here.

Walsh also recently put out a tremendous op-ed on keeping the nuclear option on the “table,” in which he argues, “Presidential candidates who think they can go around threatening the potential use of nuclear weapons to look tough without serious international repercussions are living in a bubble.” The full op-ed is provided below.

Obama-Clinton Food Fight Goes Nuclear

The Obama-Clinton foreign policy food fight took a new turn recently, when candidate Obama declared that he would not use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan or Pakistan in the fight against Osama Bin Laden. “That’s not on the table,” declared the Senator from Illinois. According to the Associated Press, his rival, Senator Clinton, took a New York minute to “criticize” Obama, saying that presidents should not make “blanket statements with respect to… non-use of nuclear weapons.”

This incident follows a bizarre moment in a recent Republican presidential debate when virtually all the candidates affirmed that US should consider attacking Iran with nuclear weapons in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

These exchanges tell us something about both the candidates and the state of thinking, such as it is, on nuclear weapons in the Bush era. Unfortunately, the news is not very good.

First, full disclosure. I am in no way whatsoever connected to the Obama, Clinton, or Republican presidential campaigns. Having testified before Congress on nuclear weapons issues, traveled to Iran and North Korea, and attended meetings of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), I have, however, learned a thing or two about nuclear weapons.

Following in the footsteps of President Bush, the modern father of the doctrine of nuclear preemption, most presidential candidates pay loving fealty to “the table.” No option can be removed from this table. Everything is on the table, even if that includes using nuclear weapons against countries that have no nuclear weapons, like Afghanistan and Iran. (Iran is suspected of having a nuclear weapons program but years from having any weapons; Afghanistan has no nuclear program). Taking anything off the table is said to make one look weak – a non-starter for Republicans and Democrats’ greatest fear.

But wait a minute. Everything is on the table? What about poison gas or biological weapons? Is a candidate weak if he or she refuses to endorse their possible use? How about hostage taking? Should the US take the estranged family members of alleged terrorists and execute them one by one until the terrorist gives himself up? Preposterous you say! That’s illegal, immoral. It endorses the slaughter of innocent people. True on all counts, but these same objections apply to most uses of nuclear weapons, including the ones discussed by our presidential candidates.

Consider the legal issues. The International Court of Justice, of which the United States is a member, ruled on the legality of nuclear weapons in 1996. The court found that the only possible legitimate use of nuclear weapons – and even this was contentious and controversial – was for deterrence and possibly retaliation against a nuclear attack by another country – a condition that does not apply to any of the cases in question.

The moral issues should be self-evident. No use of nuclear weapons, whether strategic or tactical, is possible without the wholesale slaughter of innocent civilians. (Keep in mind that the main objection to terrorism is that it embraces the killing of civilians.)

Of course, too many will argue that in a post 9-11 world, international law and morality have to be set aside in the name of national security. We have to get them before they get us. Fine. Take law and morality out of the equation. Is this good policy? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Will we be safer following the unilateral use of nuclear weapons against the Muslim world?

One would think that the experience of the last four years had taught us something, but maybe not. Senator Clinton clearly believes that she “got” Senator Obama, that his decision to take nuclear weapons off the table in these circumstances shows naiveté.

The irony is that it is Clinton who is naïve. Presidential candidates who think they can go around threatening the potential use of nuclear weapons to look tough without serious international repercussions are living in a bubble.

Clinging to the nuclear “option” looks like a not so veiled nuclear threat to other countries. It increases their incentive to acquire nuclear weapons in order to defend themselves and makes the US look like a nuclear rogue. It reduces our ability to work with other countries to improve the nonproliferation regime, making us look both hypocritical and dangerous. Loose nuclear talk makes us vulnerable, not strong, and calls into question the judgment of those who seek to be commander in chief.

Obama may not be a nuclear expert, but on this issue his instincts are right on. By contrast, Clinton is playing politics with an issue that could have profound ramifications for the future of nuclear proliferation.

Finally, the press has to take some responsibility for this ugly state of affairs. Candidates are given a free pass when they intone, “all options are on the table.” This sounds good but is often offered without content. Where are the follow-up questions? What are the circumstances in which using nuclear weapons preemptively is allowable? Sadly, the candidates get a pass.

Obama may not win the nomination or the presidency, but at least he isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid. If voters are truly tired of the politics of unilateralism and self-defeating threats, then the candidates in both parties better rethink their nuclear strategy. In the meantime, I’m sitting at a different table.

Jim Walsh is a Research Associate at the Security Studies Program at MIT and a frequent commentator on CNN.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bombs on Parade

Efforts to build a new generation of nuclear weapons got some well-deserved attention yesterday.

In an attempt to spur public debate on the necessity of nuclear weapons, Parade Magazine (with a circulation of 71 million readers) published a brief article on the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program. (Click here for more information on RRW.)

The article largely frames the debate on RRW by alternating quotes from critics and acolytes of the program, but also provides some basic figures on nuclear weapons worldwide (although mention of nuclear weapons held by India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel is notably absent).

It concludes by challenging the reader to answer the questions: Should our goal be a nuclear-free world, or are nukes still vital for our defense? And if we need them, should we build a new arsenal?

If you’re so inclined, click here to drop your two cents and answer an informal poll on the topic.

Gary Hart Weighs in on Obama-Clinton Spat

Sen. Gary Hart, Chairman of Council for a Livable World (the Center’s sister organization), weighed in on the Obama-Clinton spat on the Huffington Post recently.

(Click here for a recap of the recent debate over Obama’s comments and here for the Center’s thoughts on it.)

A veteran of both national security issues and presidential politics, Hart begins…

Should presidents, or for that matter presidential candidates, be open, honest, and straightforward about how they would conduct foreign and defense policy or should they reserve space for what in the Cold and post-Cold War worlds have come to be known as covert operations?

He later continues,

As something of a veteran, seasoned or unseasoned, of the covert world of the 20th century and as one who peeked far enough into the 21st to see terrorists coming, this is a question Americans and their candidates should seriously address. Those who have the advantage of living in the world of black and white find this question, as with many others, easy to answer. The whites say that all our actions should be transparent. The blacks say do whatever is expedient at the moment and presume no one will notice. The rest of us, as usual, see the global village in patters of plaid and shades of gray.

Intrigued? Click here to read Hart’s complete post.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Not an Island – Palau Ratifies the CTBT

In a small but important step, Palau ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) on August 1, bringing the total number of ratifications to 139.

The country already hosts a station that is a part of a global system being built to monitor compliance with the Treaty. So far over 200 stations have been built out of a total of 337 in order to check the oceans, the atmosphere and beneath the Earth for telltale signs of a nuclear explosion.

To date, 177 countries have signed the Treaty. In order for the CTBT to enter into force, however, it must ratified by the 44 countries identified in Annex 2 of the Treaty (countries that participated in the negotiations of the Treaty in 1996 and possessed nuclear power or research reactors at the time).

While 41 of these countries have signed the Treaty, only 34 have ratified it, leaving the U.S. as only one of ten countries to stand in the way of its full implementation. The other countries are China, Columbia, North Korea, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan. Not exactly a shining list of countries that the U.S. should aspire to keep company with.

Palau's ratification is important because, as Doug Shaw of PSR notes, “If Palau campaigns to bring small states into the CTBT at the General Assembly, they will be successful. More small states ratifying the Treaty would mean less political cover for those that remain outside, advancing the cause of early entry-into-force. In this way, Palau could make a historically disproportionate contribution to international security.”

Jack Mendelsohn: Presidential Candidates Should Delegitimize Nuclear Weapons

Jack Mendelsohn of Arms Control Association put out an excellent op-ed in today’s Christian Science Monitor, in which he argues, “If the Democrat candidates want to distinguish themselves from their opponents, and if the Republicans want to recover from the disastrous foreign policy of this administration, the candidates should commit to delegitimizing – not stressing – nuclear weapons.”

(For a recap of the most recent debate over Obama’s statement of non-use of nuclear weapons, see my earlier post.)

Mendelsohn continues, “It is overwhelmingly in the US national interest to preserve the ‘taboo’ on nuclear weapons use and to seek to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons in US security policy.” In order to accomplish this, he writes, the presidential candidates should undertake four actions:

1) Announce that they reject nuclear intimidation and the current policy of preventive war;
2) Commit to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons;
3) Declare that they plan to withdraw all US nuclear weapons from Europe during their term in office; and
4) Make it clear that the United States will not resume nuclear testing.

Mendelsohn properly concludes, “In the run-up to the presidential election, the candidates of both parties have a chance to indicate to the world that the next administration will forgo the policy of nuclear intimidation and actively strive to delegitimize nuclear weapons. This nation cannot become more secure by reserving for itself the right to use nuclear weapons while preaching nuclear abstinence for the rest of world.”

C-SPAN Q&A with Joe Cirincione on Nuclear Weapons

In the off-chance that you’re looking for an interesting video on nuclear weapons issues during these hot, long summer days, look no further than a recent C-SPAN Q&A with Joe Cirincione. Senior Fellow and Director for Nuclear Policy at the Center for American Progress, he is also the author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons and Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, and altogether rock star on nuclear weapons issues. (And, yes, I’m fine with being a Joe Cirincione shill…)

Below is a list of the five parts to the interview; part 3 seems to be missing, but don’t let that stop you.

C-SPAN Q&A with Joseph Cirincione, Part 1,
C-SPAN Q&A with Joseph Cirincione, Part 2,
C-SPAN Q&A with Joseph Cirincione, Part 4,
C-SPAN Q&A with Joseph Cirincione, Part 5

Nevertheless, if you must hear every word, you can visit C-SPAN to download the full video in either Real Media format or Windows Media Video format.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Lt. Gen. Robert Gard: Obering Overstates Missile Defense

The Center’s Lt. General Robert Gard (USA, ret.) today released a trenchant analysis criticizing recent assertions made by Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Entitled Excessive Claims for Missile Defense, Gard argues that Obering drastically overstates the capability of the GMD missile defense system, and that the system has been prematurely deployed and could be easily defeated by countermeasures. Gard’s complete analysis is provided below.

In his article “Missile Defense Hits the Mark: Increasing Success Undermines Critics” (Defense News, July 23, 2007), Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA), carries the traditional and laudable “can-do” attitude of the military too far. He claims an operational capability, yet to be demonstrated, for the Ground-Based Mid-Course (GMD) system, designed to protect the U.S. against a limited attack from warheads launched on long-range ballistic missiles by so-called rogue states. Such hyperbole not only misleads Congress and the public, but it could be dangerous if national security decision makers relied on an unproven defense in an emergency.

General Obering states flatly that the U.S. “had an operational capability to defend against a missile launched at the United States” at the time of North Korea’s abortive attempt in July 2006 to launch a Taepodong-2 missile with an estimated range of 2,500-3,700 miles. This, he says, provided the president with “an alternative other than pre-emption and retaliation.” He failed to mention that our huge nuclear arsenal and overwhelming conventional military superiority provide effective deterrence against such an attack.

There are two separate camps of wrongheaded critics of GMD, according to Obering: (1) the near-term deployment of the GMD system is misguided and (2) the system’s susceptibility to countermeasures makes its deployment an imprudent, futile exercise. There is, however, nothing mutually exclusive between the two points of view, and there is considerable evidence to support the critics. Count me as a charter member of both camps.

MDA has prematurely deployed elements of GMD, including 19 interceptors, while the complex system of systems is in its developmental phase. The fancy name for this approach is “spiral development,” sometimes called “concurrency.”

The idea is to accelerate operational capability by deploying a weapons system or its components in the developmental stage in the hope that only minor modifications will be necessary to correct the earlier mistakes in producing an operationally effective system.

Yet the Governmental Accountability Office, congressional oversight committees and even the Pentagon’s own Defense Science Board of outside industry experts have repeatedly warned of the perils of concurrency. This acquisition approach has led to notorious procurement fiascos and cancellation of unworkable systems after the government had spent billions of dollars.

Premature deployment of a complex system of systems runs a high risk that critical technologies will not function as intended. At best, this can result in significantly increased costs, but more likely a necessity to return to the drawing boards for re-design, with the resultant waste of billions of dollars in the case of GMD.

Moreover, a key element of the GMD system is not even scheduled for completion until far into the future. The Missile Defense Agency has characterized the Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) as “an essential element” in all but a most rudimentary mid-course system. The launch of test satellites just to determine the feasibility of tracking missiles and warheads from space has been postponed yet again. Even if the technology should prove to work, deployment of this sub-system cannot be accomplished until well into the next decade at the earliest.

When asked about the capability of the GMD system in August of 2006, after the claim of operational capability during the Korean missile test, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, hardly one of the critics, said he would withhold judgment until all the pieces are put together in operational tests, which are not yet even scheduled.

There are credible technically qualified critics who believe that there is no current technology, nor any in sight, that can defeat countermeasures easily available to any nation, even a rogue state, that can develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). A 1999 National Intelligence Estimate of the Ballistic Missile Threat through 2015 concluded that any country that can flight test an ICBM will be able to develop countermeasures to penetrate a missile defense system.

This confirmed an Office of Technology Assessment report of 1988 noting that decoy designs are very difficult to counter with passive infrared sensors in conjunction with radar, the only capability currently available. Previously, the defense Science Board in a 1987 review concluded that passive infrared sensors could discriminate only the most primitive decoys and debris.

The former Chief Scientist and Deputy Director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, George Rathjens, and the former chair of the Federation of American Scientists, Karl Kaysen, more recently expressed strong doubts that the problem of discriminating between incoming warheads and countermeasures could be solved in the near future, if ever.

These evaluations and their own personal knowledge have led a former director of the Defense Test and Evaluation Agency, Philip Coyle, to conclude that GMD is “a scarecrow, not a defense.” A distinguished defense scientist, Richard Garwin, has stated in characteristically blunt terms that GMD is “totally useless.”

Perhaps unintentionally, General Obering appeared to confirm the problem presented by countermeasures by stating in his article that “the Multiple Kill Vehicle system … will allow us to handle decoys and countermeasures.” Not only is his conclusion questionable, but the complex sub-system to which he refers is in its early developmental phase.

Since the launch of a ballistic missile can be traced to its source, it is highly doubtful that a rogue state would choose to attack the U.S. in this fashion, thereby inviting a devastating retaliatory strike. Even in the unlikely event that the expensive GMD system of systems eventually proves workable, the opportunity cost of its deployment should be compared to expending the funds to counter more likely threats to U.S. security.

Nagasaki Remembered

Sixty-two years ago today, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki Japan, killing an estimated 74,000 people. It was the second and last ever use of such a weapon on a civilian population. Like the bomb that had been detonated over Hiroshima three days prior, the bomb dropped on Nagasaki had been similarly loaded aboard a plane on the island of Tinian in the Pacific Ocean. The primary target was actually Kokura, but the plane was diverted to its secondary target of Nagasaki due to cloud cover. The Nagasaki bomb was also different in that its design was an implosion-design plutonium bomb, tested only weeks earlier in New Mexico. A third bomb had been scheduled for use on either August 17 or 18, but was called off when Japan finally capitulated on August 15.

Click here to watch a portion of the BBC’s documentary, “Hiroshima,” which details the bombing of Nagasaki and provides accounts of the American justification for dropping a second bomb in Nagasaki.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Letter from Reps. Hobson and Visclosky Rebuffs Secretaries Gates, Rice and Bodman on National Security and Nuclear Weapons

Reps. Hobson and Visclosky sent a letter last week to Secretaries of Defense, State, and Energy last week rebuffing their joint statement, “National Security and Nuclear Weapons: Maintaining Deterrence in the 21st Century.”

The joint statement reiterated that the U.S. plans to maintain its nuclear weapons stockpile well into the future and describes the proposed new nuclear warhead, the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), as the best means for ensuring the future nuclear deterrent.

But instead of offering a serious and thoughtful analysis, the three-page joint statement read more like a propaganda piece and only served to illustrate the Bush administration’s desperate efforts to salvage its beleaguered program to build a new generation of nuclear weapons.

And it appears that Rep. David Hobson, Ranking Minority Member, and Rep. Pete Visclosky, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, saw right through it as well.

Click on the image to read their letter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Dispute Over Nuclear Weapons Underscores Clinton and Obama’s Differences

Getting a few more miles out of the story, the Center recently put out an interesting press release on the topic, included below.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s recent dispute over the use of nuclear weapons highlights serious differences between their positions on threatening to use or employing the most destructive weapons ever developed, the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation said today.

Responding to a question about his willingness to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorism and bin Laden, Sen. Obama said, “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance" in Afghanistan or Pakistan. "There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table," he added.

Sen. Clinton objected to Obama’s pledge, stating that "Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons.”

Leonor Tomero, Director for Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center, commented: “The United States should not recklessly threaten to use nuclear weapons, particularly against states that do not have these weapons.”

John Isaacs, Executive Director of the Center, cautioned:For more than 60 years, there has been a bright line drawn against dropping atomic bombs that would kill untold tens or even hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.”

As part of the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whereby 182 countries have given up the right to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, the United States - along with France, the United Kingdom, China, and Russia - promised never to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states that are members of the NPT, except if attacked by a non-nuclear state that is allied with a state possessing nuclear weapons. Pledged in 1995, these so-called “negative security assurances” were reiterated at the 2000 Non-Proliferation Review Conference.

Threatening to use nuclear weapons to fight Al Qaeda in Pakistan and in Afghanistan is unnecessary and irresponsible,Tomero added. “Sen. Obama’s nuanced position reflects a responsible understanding of the logic of deterrence. There is currently no justification for lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.”

NOTE: The Center does not endorse or fundraise for presidential candidates and has no ties to either the Obama or Clinton campaigns.

Political Fall-Out Over Obama’s Statement of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Against al Qaeda in Pakistan

There has been quite a bit of discussion and rancor following Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) recent comments on potentially striking al Qaeda in Pakistan if there was “actionable intelligence” and if President Musharraf refused to act, including whether the attack would include nuclear weapons.

Allow me to try to recap and clarify.

Obama delivered an address on August 1, in which he stated:

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

(Click here to read my previous post that highlights Obama’s comments on nuclear weapons issues during the speech. Or click here to read a post that highlights Obama’s statements on nuclear weapons issues he made not long ago in a Foreign Affairs article.)

In an interview with Obama the day after he made his speech, the Associated Press pushed the discussion of a potential strike against al Qaeda to include nuclear weapons:

AP: Sir, with regard to terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan ...

OBAMA: Yeah.

AP: Is there any circumstances where you'd be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden?

OBAMA: No, I'm not, uh, there has been no discussion of using nuclear weapons and that's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss.

AP: Not even tactical?

OBAMA: No. I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance. Uh, if involving you know, civilians... Let me scratch all that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table so...

AP: No discussion within your group?

OBAMA: I made a very narrow statement that I think is incontrovertible, which is if we've got a actionable intelligence then uh....that there are high value Al Qaeda targets, that we should take them out. And that's the extent of the statement. I mean it's...

AP: But the nuclear topic is bound to come up because of the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons and is certainly capable from Middle East experts to have an irrational religious fanatic type leader.

OBAMA: I'm not going that far field on this topic -- right now the question is are we going after Al Qaeda, and that's what the topic of the speech was about.

(Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki later crystallized his comments: "His position could not be more clear: He would not consider using nuclear weapons to fight terror targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.")

That was the jumping off point for several Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to pounce on Obama’s comments.

Although she declined to say whether she agreed with Obama, fellow presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) did comment:

I think that presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. Presidents, since the Cold War, have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.
Her comments came after a recent dust up in which Clinton criticized Obama for stating that he would be willing to meet the leaders of a number of countries unfriendly to the U.S.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), also running for president, likewise jumped in, stating:

Over the past several days, Senator Obama’s assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused. He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options.

Presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) similarly chimed in, calling Obama’s approach of attacking al Qaeda in Pakistan if the U.S. has actionable intelligence and if President Musharraf won’t act "very naïve."

Obama’s comments also drew fire from the other side of the aisle during last Sunday’s Republican presidential debate, most notably former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), who said:

…I had to laugh at what I saw Barack Obama do. I mean, in one week he went from saying he’s going to sit down, you know, for tea, with our enemies, but then he’s going to bomb our allies. I mean, he’s gone from Jane Fonda to Dr. Strangelove in one week.

Later on, after an amusing game of “Gotcha!” by moderator George Stephanopoulos, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was eventually squeezed for an answer similar to that of Obama’s:

Well, I would take that action if I thought there was no other way to crush Al Qaida, no other way to crush the Taliban, and no other way to be able to capture bin Laden. I think Pakistan has, unfortunately, not been making the efforts that they should be making. I think we should encourage them to do it, we should put the pressure on them to do it, and we should seek their permission if we ever had to take action there as we were able to get their permission -- Undersecretary or Deputy Secretary Armitage was very effective in getting Musharraf’s permission for us to act in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001 and 2002.

When asked for his thoughts, Romney quipped:

Yes, I think Barack Obama is confused as to who are our friends and who are our enemies. In his first year, he wants to meet with Castro and Chavez and Assad, Ahmadinejad. Those are our enemies. Those are the world’s worst tyrants. And then he says he wants to unilaterally go in and potentially bomb a nation which is our friend. We’ve trying to strengthen Musharraf. We’re trying to strengthen the foundations of democracy and freedom in that country so that they will be able to reject the extremists. We’re working with them -- we’re working with them...
Stephanopoulos then pressed Romney, who instead deflected the question, saying that the U.S. should keep all of its options on the table, but not discuss them publicly.

When asked if anyone disagreed with Romney, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) jumped in but quickly digressed. He argued that Pakistan is already helping the U.S., that the problem lies with lies tribal chiefs in the border region, and that, ”When you have a country which is cooperating, you don’t tell them you are going to unilaterally move against them, or you are somehow going to undertake this by yourself.”

In a related discussion that followed, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also faulted Obama, stating:

It’s naive to say that we will never use nuclear weapons. It’s naive to say we’re going to attack Pakistan without thinking it through. What if Musharraf were removed from power? What if a radical Islamic government were to take place because we triggered it with an attack?

The always interesting Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who recently gained attention for threatening to attack Islamic holy cities Mecca and Medina in order to deter Islamic terrorists from using nuclear weapons, went so far as to say that “…anybody that would suggest that we should take anything like this off the table in order to deter that kind of event in the United States isn’t fit to be president of the United States.

Leave it to Tancredo to make Hunter, McCain and Giuliani look like moderates.

But Obama did recently get some defense from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who criticized the Democratic presidential candidates who have refused to rule out using nuclear weapons in foreign policy. Likening the discussion over the potential use of nuclear weapons to President Bush’s policy, he said, "It's just wrong, not the way to beat terrorists." Harkin went on to say, "You're going to drop a bomb in Pakistan? They do have nuclear weapons themselves, folks."