Saturday, September 1, 2007

Steve Andreasen: New Nuclear Weapons Policy Needed

My hometown newspaper, the Star Tribune, published an interesting op-ed by Steve Andreasen this week, in which he argues that the presidential candidates should articulate a new policy that emphasizes nuclear weapons solely as deterrence. While Andreasen’s proposed policy change would rightfully rule out first-use of nuclear weapons, he could have gone further in calling for their abolition, as William Hartung recently advocated.

Andreasen writes:

Historically, America has maintained a policy of "strategic ambiguity," refusing to rule out a nuclear first strike. Richardson's statement aside, the early salvos in the 2008 campaign suggest that by next summer, there will be little divergence from this norm. … But this is one instance where the seemingly safest political course may be far divorced from today's reality and counterproductive to America's long-term security interest in reversing reliance on nuclear weapons around the globe.

Andreasen argues that, “it is hard to define a credible scenario for the first use of American nuclear arms” and that “it is also hard to see how the threat of nuclear first use would play any discernible role in deterring a committed terrorist.”

Additionally, “the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States in the 21st century would inevitably lower the global nuclear threshold,” potentially opening the door for a devastating attack against the U.S.

And lastly, “the possibility of nuclear arms in the hands of more nations in volatile regions of the globe raises the possibility of another costly preemptive U.S. military strike or competition with a nuclear-armed adversary.”

Andreasen concludes, “For these reasons, America's national interest would be best served by advancing the proposition that nuclear weapons are legitimate in only one role: preventing their use.” This may be a difficult task during a presidential campaign, but “a candidate who can articulate a new policy designed to make the use of any nuclear weapon even more remote might hit a welcome note with the American people.”

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