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.

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