Sunday, September 9, 2007

WSJ Responses to Linton Brooks on RRW

Linton Brooks, former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, wrote an interesting op-ed in the Wall Street Journal not long ago, in which he tries to defuse criticism of the Bush administration’s plan to build a new generation of nuclear weapons by arguing that the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program “is fully consistent with U.S. nuclear nonproliferation objectives.”

I found this argument unpersuasive when I heard Brooks present it at this year’s Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in June and I remain unpersuaded by it now.

And it looks like I’m not alone.

The Wall Street Journal recently published two responses to Brooks’ op-ed that hit the nail on the head. Both the article and the responses require a subscription, so instead I’m including the full responses below and the full article in the comments section.

Let's Not Play the Deadly Deterrent Game

September 6, 2007; Page A15

Mr. Brooks reminds us that questions about the U.S. nuclear arsenal remain first priority concerns. He asks the pertinent question, "Should the U.S. even have a nuclear deterrent?" but his answer is weak. He cites history and rests his case. Readers should agree with him only if we also agree that North Korea should have a nuclear deterrent, and Iran and Brazil and Egypt and Malaysia -- that's how the deterrent game is played.

In 1968, the U.S. signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Article VI of the NPT recognizes that rules of proliferation are quite simple. If anyone has nuclear weapons, everyone can have them. If we don't want others to have them, we have to give up ours. That's why we promised to disarm back in 1968.

To argue now that we need an enduring stockpile, either to support the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW), the NNSA's current darling, or the ongoing Stockpile Life Extension work in Oak Ridge, Tenn., which is upgrading our current arsenal one warhead at a time, is to stand arrogantly and wrongheaded in the face of reality.

The only path to safety -- as former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Sen. Sam Nunn, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry noted in the Journal last January -- is the path to disarmament, and an enduring stockpile won't get us there. Nothing else Mr. Brooks can say will overcome that simple fact, and his arguments in favor of the RRW even lack the virtue of being supported by facts.

"Whole classes of U.S. weapons have been eliminated," he says. What he doesn't add is -- but only when they were deemed no longer useful or were replaced by alternative weapons. "The number of nuclear weapons dismantled this year will increase by 50% over last year," he says, neglecting to mention that we have a 15-year backlog of bombs awaiting dismantlement, and capacity issues at the Y12 Plant in Oak Ridge and safety concerns at Pantex limited the number of bombs dismantled in 2006. "We're reducing the deployed stockpile to 2,200 by 2012," he says, failing to point out this falls short of the commitments of the Moscow Treaty (1,700 is the low end of the treaty's goal) and the missiles being withdrawn from the field are not scheduled for dismantlement; they are merely being shelved in a strategic reserve.

So, fellow readers, make no mistake. If Congress funds the RRW, it is funding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Agree with Linton Brooks at your peril. Literally.

Ralph Hutchison
, Tenn.

Linton Brooks ("Bombs Away, For Good," editorial page, Aug. 29) is asking all the wrong questions when it comes to the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" program. Why isn't he asking, "Will building new nuclear weapons make other states (such as Iran) more or less likely to pursue a nuclear weapons program of their own?" Or what about, "In a world where we face no superpower threat, is it really necessary to keep thousands of nuclear weapons deployed around the world, ready to launch at a moment's notice?"

Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) calls for the U.S. and other Nuclear Weapon States to "pursue negotiations in good faith . . . on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Such negotiations have not happened in the 37 years since the NPT came into effect.

Building thousands of new nuclear weapons under the Reliable Replacement Warhead program will not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of the NPT; rather, it will perpetuate life under the shadow of nuclear destruction for decades to come.

Rick Wayman
Santa Barbara, Calif.

1 comment:

Jeff Lindemyer said...

Wall Street Journal
August 29, 2007
Pg. 15

Bombs Away, For Good

By Linton Brooks

Are the plans to upgrade our nuclear arsenal with a Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) consistent with America's interests in opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Some reasonable critics of the program have expressed doubts.

They are wrong: The RRW is fully consistent with U.S. nuclear nonproliferation objectives.

When judging this issue, consider the first and most basic question: Should the U.S. even have a nuclear deterrent? For the past 60 years, U.S. nuclear forces have strengthened our security as well as the security and stability of the international community. They have also helped prevent nuclear proliferation by extending our deterrent to protect allies, who therefore don't need to seek their own nuclear weapons. Japan's deep concern in the wake of North Korea's nuclear test shows that the need for extended deterrence remains strong.

But what about the size and shape of our deterrent? The RRW will replace many of the current, aging warheads deployed on Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. It provides no new military capability, nor increases the arsenal's size or power.

Three further questions need to be considered regarding nonproliferation. Will the RRW make future nuclear testing more or less likely? Will it advance or hinder efforts to reduce the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal? Will it make the weapons we deploy safer and more secure?

Both the administration and Congress have made it clear the RRW is being pursued under the requirement that it will not need to be tested before being certified to become part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. This reinforces our commitment to maintaining our moratorium on underground nuclear testing.

No one can, however, guarantee that as the older weapons in our current stockpile age further, they will not need to be tested to maintain confidence in their safety and reliability.

The RRW will also facilitate further reductions in the U.S. nuclear stockpile. U.S. accomplishments in this area have already been substantial, if largely overlooked. Whole classes of nuclear weapons delivery vehicles -- short-range and intermediate range nuclear missiles -- have been eliminated.

The number of nuclear weapons dismantled this year will increase by over 50% compared to last year. The number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons will go from over 10,000 at the peak of the Cold War, to between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2012. Because of decisions by the Bush administration, within five years, our nuclear arsenal will be at its lowest since the 1950s.

Moreover, the RRW will give us greater confidence in the reliability of our weapons. This increased confidence will reduce the need for large numbers of spare warheads and allow us to take the U.S. stockpile to still lower levels, consistent with our international obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.

Finally, the RRW will allow us to deploy weapons that are safer to make and to store for people and the environment and also less susceptible to theft or misuse by terrorists. For example, the new warhead will not use beryllium, a poisonous metal used in the current weapons. Moreover, anti-theft measures have improved dramatically over the decades and will be implemented in the new warhead, preventing unauthorized use.

In sum, the new warhead will make nuclear testing less likely, facilitate further reductions in our arsenal, and help to ensure that the weapons we do deploy are as safe and secure as possible. The RRW is thus entirely consistent with U.S. nonproliferation objectives. It deserves the support of the nonproliferation community, the national-security community and all Americans.

Mr. Brooks negotiated the START I Treaty in 1991 and was a senior arms control and nonproliferation official in five agencies within the U.S. government. From 2002 to 2007 he was the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.