Saturday, January 31, 2009

Daring to Disarm: A Conversation with Lt. Gen. Robert Gard

George Kenney of the blog Electric Politics recently interviewed the Center's Chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard Jr. (USA-ret.), on not only arms control, but also NATO, Afghanistan, Gard’s combat experience in Korea and Vietnam, and a few other topics. Click here for the intro or here to jump straight into the interview (MP3).

From Electric Politics:

The thing about nuclear weapons is, nobody can easily afford to make a mistake. Odds are, the more nuclear weapons people have, the more likely a mistake, and the more likely that a warhead, equipment, or know-how goes astray. On the other side of it, arguments about how to "win" a nuclear war remain implausible. So it's hard to see how these particular weapons are good for anything. Frankly, they're too dangerous to keep. But having built them, how do we get rid of them? For some deep insight I turned to Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA, ret.), Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He's got a lot of sensible suggestions that should be relatively easy to implement, provided, of course, that some Republican Senators can agree to new, and renewed, nuclear arms control treaties. We also talk about NATO, Afghanistan, the General's early combat experience in Korea and Vietnam, and several other topics. It was very gracious of General Gard to take the time and I much appreciate it. Total runtime an hour and ten minutes. It's an honor to serve.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

William Hartung on Nuclear Pork Wrapped in an Economic Stimulus Blanket

Bill Hartung wrote a great piece on TPMCafe on the audacious move by the Senate Appropriations committee to include an obscene amount of money for NNSA activities in their portion of the economic stimulus plan.

Any time Congress spends hundreds of billions of dollars in a hurry we'd better read the fine print. So it is with today's Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up of the next installment -- over $365 billion -- of the economic stimulus package. Tucked away in the bill is $7.8 billion for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration -- the agency responsible for researching, developing and maintaining nuclear weapons. The funding is set aside for a variety of purposes, from construction of facilities to clean-up of weapons sites to "laboratory infrastructure," to "advanced computing development." Whatever the appropriations committee chooses to call it, it represents a bailout for an agency that should be reduced in size, not increased.

At a time when President Obama has committed himself to seeking a world without nuclear weapons -- backed up with specific pledges to seek a global test ban and a prohibition on the production of bomb-making materials -- Congress should not be throwing money at the nuclear weapons complex.

This blatant exercise in pork barrel spending comes at a time when the NNSA has been pushing a "modernization" and upgrade of the nuclear weapons complex under the antiseptic phrase "Complex Transformation." The plan includes the construction of at least three new nuclear weapons factories, and could cost up to $200 billion over the next two decades. It is incumbent upon the Obama administration to put the brakes on this ill-conceived initiative and send the agency back to the drawing boards to come up with a plan to put the weapons complex on a low-level, standby status appropriate to a time of deep reductions -- or ideally, total elimination -- of nuclear weapons.

But first things first -- Senate Appropriations Committee's attempt to slip $7.8 billion to the nuclear weapons complex must be rejected. Then we need to get on with the job of reducing the size and scope of the complex to reflect the reality that nuclear weapons can and should be eliminated once and for all.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gary Hart: An Early Victory for Obama Leadership

Gary Hart, Chairman of the Center’s sister organization, Council for a Livable World, penned a terrific short piece in HuffPo today on what could be an early victory for Obama: reaching an agreement with Russia to cap the nuclear arsenal of each country at 1000 nuclear weapons.

Every era creates its own legacy. The least worthwhile legacy of the Cold War is nuclear arsenals. They provide no meaningful deterrence to terrorists. No war plans envision their use. They serve no military or diplomatic purpose.

Very soon, against the backdrop of international banking crises and restructuring of soaring social safety net obligations, the new Obama administration must look for meaningful victories that are affordable and that increase security. Of the achievable goals, none could come closer to making the world safer than the reduction and possible eventual elimination of nuclear arsenals.

Arms reduction negotiations were not vigorously pursued during recent years. Strangely, the end of the Cold War made getting rid of nuclear weapons less, rather than more, important. To the skeptics who question whether elimination of the worst weapons of mass destruction can be accomplished, the question has to be asked: Why not?

Within the first Obama term, the U.S. and Russia could readily agree to overall ceilings of 1000 nuclear weapons each. Military commanders on both sides clearly understand this is more than enough to obliterate each other and still have plenty left over to destroy most of the rest of the world. As verification of the destruction of excessive weapons takes place, both sides then have political and moral authority to call upon the Chinese, the French, and the British, and other nuclear states, to begin dismantling their arsenals, and negotiations can continue to reduce overall numbers, step by step, even more drastically.

This is not a military problem. Even the most hard-line strategist admits we don't have any use for our current nuclear arsenals. It is a problem of political will and determination, and leaders who wake up one day and say: Let's do it.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Retooled Republican SFRC Lineup

From's The Cable:

Senators George Voinovich (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and David Vitter (R-LA) have dropped off the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with retired Sen. Chuck Hagel, while Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Jim Risch (R-ID) have joined. "The Republican side, with the sole exception of Lugar, is now a very conservative group and could seek to frustrate international treaty ratification, e.g. Law of the Sea, Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)," a Hill staffer notes.

UPDATE: Also on the SFRC's schedule this morning: confirmation hearings for deputy secretary of state nominees James Steinberg and Jacob "Jack" Lew.

Center Chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, at Gitmo Signing

An interesting historical note: The Center's Chairman, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard Jr. (USA-ret.), was on hand today for President Obama's signing of the executive order that requires Gitmo be closed within a year. Gard is second from the right.

Obama recognized Gard and others for their work on Gitmo.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Joe Cirincione on “False Claims of Bush's Success on WMD”

Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, and Alexandra Bell, Research Associate at Ploughshares, put out a great piece on HuffPo on Tuesday that reviews and debunks many of the somewhat outrageous claims made by the Bush administration about its legacy, including many nuclear weapons issues. The full piece is available here, although I’m also including the full text of it below as well.

The victors write history. Few would ascribe that right to the outgoing Bush Administration. The "Highlights of Accomplishments and Results of the Administration of George W. Bush" is fifty pages of glossy photos and false claims of the last eight years, complete with "Did You Know" sections usually seen in 8th grade textbooks.

Some of the claims have already been rebutted on Huffington Post.

Here, we just want to set the record straight on the 10 big wins claimed on nuclear weapons. Rather than making us safer, President Bush leaves office with nearly every proliferation problem more dangerous than when he entered. Here are the claims and the facts.

"1-Prevented our Enemies from Threatening America and our Allies with
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)"

True, that there were no attacks in the seven years following 9/11, but there were also none in the seven years previous. Globally, threats have grown. Every member of the "axis of evil" is more dangerous to America today than in 2001. Iraq is in turmoil; Iran and North Korea advanced their nuclear programs more in the past five years than in the previous ten. The Taliban and Al Qaeda have regrouped in unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan. Nuclear sites around the world remain at risk while funding for securing and eliminating nuclear threats stagnates. Net risk has increased.

"2-Secured a commitment from North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program."

True, but only after the neoconservative fantasy of overthrowing the Pyongyang regime thwarted negotiations for five years. Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary of State John Bolton championed policies that let North Korea go from having enough fissile material for 2 weapons in 2001 to enough for 12 by 2006. It restarted its plutonium processing, withdrew from the NPT, tested new missiles and detonated a nuclear bomb. It also may have traded nuclear secrets with Syria, Pakistan and Iran. At the end of 2006, the Bush Administration finally began negotiations in earnest and got the tenuous agreement that stands today. It is a deal we could have secured eight years ago.

"3- Persuaded Libya to disclose and dismantle all aspects of its WMD and
advanced missile programs and renounce terrorism."

This is the most notable success of the Bush years, but made possible only by breaking with the neocon strategy. Instead of trying to change the Libyan regime, we changed the regime's behavior. US military strength played a role, but so did strong alliances, negotiations, sanctions, security assurances and persuasion over four administrations. Diplomacy delivered the victory, not force. Libya has now dismantled its nuclear, chemical and long-range missile programs. It provided the model for stopping the North Korean programs and could be applied to Iran.

"4- Withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and operationalized missile defense."

We did withdraw from the treaty, but all we have to show for it is a scarecrow of a weapons system. Over the past 8 years, the U.S. has spent almost $70 billion on anti-missile systems with no real increase in capability. The Bush-created Missile Defense Agency Pentagon faked tests, misled Congress and adopted a bizarre "spiral development" process in which interceptors and radars are deployed before they are fully tested, fail, are fixed, fail again, are fixed again, etc. This $9 billion dollar-a-year booster club should be disbanded; the weapons devolved back to the management and budgets of the military services from whence they came.

"5- Dismantled the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network."

Partially true. The A.Q. Khan smuggling network was finally disrupted in 2004, only after sensitive technology was transferred to Iran, Libya, North Korea and possibly other states. Pakistan's lack of cooperation, including its refusal to allow Khan to be questioned, has thwarted attempts of the U.S. and its allies to determine if the network persists. European intelligence reports note that nuclear black market sales continue in the region.

"6- Established the Proliferation Security Initiative and multilateral coalitions to stop WMD proliferation and strengthen our ability to locate and secure nuclear and radiological materials around the world."

The Proliferation Security Initiative is a good idea of marginal benefit. It is good at detecting and stopping illicit shipments of large items, like missiles and centrifuges, but cannot stop a suitcase full of plutonium or key nuclear components shipped through legitimate channels. This program was a major talking point of the administration, but did little to stop the nuclear program in Iran, for example. The legacy booklet points out that Bush programs have removed enough material from insecure sites for 30 nuclear bombs. That's good, but there is enough material in the world for 200,000, says Harvard's Matt Bunn. This boast is like bragging about throwing a bucket of water on a burning building.

"7- Halved the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile five years ahead of schedule."

This has been positive. We have moved ahead of schedule to cut weapons down to the numbers negotiated with Russia in the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The problem is that the treaty has no verification provisions, no dismantlement requirement and expires the day it comes into force. After this treaty the Bush Administration ended arms negotiations with Russia, leaving the increasingly authoritarian state with over ten thousands thermonuclear bombs and a deteriorating command and control system.

This is dangerous even during good times; today, U.S.-Russian relations are at their worst point since before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Administration plans to expand NATO and deploy anti-missile bases on Russia's borders inflamed Russian concerns over U.S. intentions.
There remains no coherent plan for addressing the danger from the almost 1,300 Russian nuclear warheads poised for attack within 15 minutes and thousands more in insecure storage. Former Senator Sam Nunn warns, "It's insane for us, 16 years after the Cold War, to think of the Russian president having four or five minutes to make a decision about whether what may be a false warning requires a response before he loses his retaliatory force."

The War to Nowhere

Finally, the greatest sin in the Bush Legacy Book is one of omission. Nowhere does the history note that senior officials led by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney intentionally misled the American people on the threat from chemical, biological and nuclear weapons from Iraq. Not one claim was true. At the time of the invasion Iraq did not have any significant quantities of these weapons or weapons components, did not have any programs for making these weapons, did not have any plans to restart programs to make these weapons and did not have any operational ties to Al Qaeda or involvement in the attacks of September 11.

President Bush called the failure to find any weapons in Iraq "a disappointment." It is much more. President Bush committed the greatest mistake any president can: he lead the nation into an unnecessary war. That is a legacy we will never forget.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

U.N. Acquires Nuclear Weapon

Ok, well not exactly. But this faux-article from The Onion is probably one of the best pieces of imaginary journalism I've read in a while. You can read the whole thing here, but I'm also including the full text below because it's just too good to pass up.

NEW YORK—The United Nations, a highly organized governing body bent on world peace, has obtained a nuclear warhead and intends to use the dangerous device to pursue its radical human rights agenda, sources reported Monday.

The U.N. Headquarters in New York has flags from all over the world and enough uranium to wipe Israel off the map.

News of the nuclear weapon first surfaced late last week when the United Nation's own watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency, released startling new satellite photos of the uranium-based device. Shortly thereafter, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a short and brazen list of demands, calling on all nations to "bow down at once to social progress."

"Tremble before the awesome might of this cooperative assembly of appointed representatives," said Ban, boldly holding a stack of diplomatic resolutions in his hand. "At last, when the United Nations calls for the development of more sustainable agricultural practices, the world at large will listen."

Added Ban, "We will no longer be ignored."

The warhead, an Oralloy U-235 thermonuclear detonator encased in a long-range ballistic missile, is believed to be currently housed beneath the parking lot of the U.N. complex in New York. According to Pentagon officials, it is likely that the United Nations has already tested the weapon, and may in fact be prepared to deploy it if its demands for global harmony are not met.

"All efforts are being made to engage this nationless threat in diplomatic talks, but so far, they remain uncooperative," U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said. "However, I can assure you that the United States will not be pushed around. We will not be bullied into limiting our carbon-dioxide emissions or honoring the conditions established by the Geneva Conventions. The United States will not bend."

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, President Bush echoed Chertoff's sentiments.

"This rogue group of unbiased mediators will not be tolerated," said Bush, who has promised to continue his eight-year pledge not to negotiate with the United Nations under any circumstances. "If the U.N. thinks it can force the world to appreciate the equality of all people and their right to live free of poverty, hunger, and inhumane treatment, I say to them, 'Bring it on.'"

While no country has admitted to selling enriched uranium to the United Nations, experts claimed that acquiring the necessary materials was probably fairly easy, as the U.N.'s own Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been largely disregarded since being signed in 1968.

"The Russians, the Israelis, a rogue Pakistani arms trader—there are plenty of people out there who could have done it," said Katherine Boushie, a world politics professor at Columbia University. "After all, who knows better than the United Nations where someone can find nukes? They've spent years watching nation after nation illegally stockpile arms. Might have been what pissed them off, actually."

Despite outspoken concerns from many nations, including North Korea, Iran, and Serbia, Secretary-General Ban has assured the international community that the U.N.'s nuclear arsenal will only be used for deterrent purposes. Chief among these is deterring other countries from thinking they can sign a chemical weapons ban and then act like the whole thing never happened, and coming to the U.N. only when it's convenient or profitable for them to do so.

"I will say this as clearly as I can, so you all can hear me," said Ban, his finger hovering inches away from the small red button on his podium. "Either attend the next Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, or prepare to suffer the consequences."

Many, however, refuse to be intimidated by the peacekeeping organization's threats.

"They're bluffing," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said. "The United Nations is still 15 years away from a nuclear bomb. Hell, they're 20 years away from achieving universal primary school education, and knowing them, they'll probably focus on that first."

Anticipated Democratic Committee Assignments Related to Nuke and Nonpro Issues

Majority Leader Harry Reid announced Tuesday the anticipated committee assignments for Democrats in the 111th Congress (subject to negotiations following Republican leadership elections). I haven’t seen an equivalent for Republicans but will try to post the list if possible. Included below are a few relevant committees.

Senate Committee on Appropriations

  1. Daniel K. Inouye, of Hawaii, Chairman
  2. Robert C. Byrd, of West Virginia
  3. Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont
  4. Tom Harkin, of Iowa
  5. Barbara A. Mikulski, of Maryland
  6. Herb Kohl, of Wisconsin
  7. Patty Murray, of Washington
  8. Byron L. Dorgan, of North Dakota
  9. Dianne Feinstein, of California
  10. Richard Durbin, of Illinois
  11. Tim Johnson, of South Dakota
  12. Mary L. Landrieu, of Louisiana
  13. Jack Reed, of Rhode Island
  14. Frank R. Lautenberg, of New Jersey
  15. E. Benjamin Nelson, of Nebraska
  16. Mark L. Pryor, of Arkansas
  17. Jon Tester, of Montana

Senate Committee on Armed Services

  1. Carl Levin, of Michigan, Chairman
  2. Edward M. Kennedy, of Massachusetts
  3. Robert C. Byrd, of West Virginia
  4. Joseph I. Lieberman, of Connecticut
  5. Jack Reed, of Rhode Island
  6. Daniel K. Akaka, of Hawaii
  7. Bill Nelson, of Florida
  8. E. Benjamin Nelson, of Nebraska
  9. Evan Bayh, of Indiana
  10. Jim Webb, of Virginia
  11. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri
  12. Kay Hagan, of North Carolina
  13. Mark Udall, of Colorado
  14. Mark Begich, of Alaska
  15. (tba)

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

  1. Jeff Bingaman, of New Mexico, Chairman
  2. Byron L. Dorgan, of North Dakota
  3. Ron Wyden, of Oregon
  4. Tim Johnson, of South Dakota
  5. Mary L. Landrieu, of Louisiana
  6. Maria Cantwell, of Washington
  7. Robert Menendez, of New Jersey
  8. Blanche L. Lincoln, of Arkansas
  9. Bernard Sanders, of Vermont
  10. Evan Bayh, of Indiana
  11. Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan
  12. Mark Udall, of Colorado
  13. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire

Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
  1. John F. Kerry, of Massachusetts, Chairman
  2. Christopher J. Dodd, of Connecticut
  3. Russell D. Feingold, of Wisconsin
  4. Barbara Boxer, of California
  5. Robert Menendez, of New Jersey
  6. Benjamin L. Cardin, of Maryland
  7. Robert P. Casey, Jr., of Pennsylvania
  8. Jim Webb, of Virginia
  9. Jeanne Shaheen, of New Hampshire
  10. (tba)
  11. (tba)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Gary Hart: What a Year It Might Be

Gary Hart, Chairman of the Center’s sister organization, Council for a Livable World, wrote a great piece in the Huffington Post yesterday on what 2008 may portend for the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia, included below.

Even as the new president and administration struggle to restructure and transform the American economy in 2009, consider this possibility: 2009 could be the year when the two former Cold warriors, America and Russia, decide to make dramatic reductions in nuclear weapons and convene an international conference of all nuclear nations to agree to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.

By December 2009, the START I treaty will terminate unless renewed. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty must be reviewed by 2010. And a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has been in abeyance for years. These are all relics of the Cold War which, thank God, ended 18 years ago, but there are the framework for more dramatic action.

A year ago four prominent Americans proposed elimination of all nuclear weapons. An international organization has been formed to support this ideal. Both involve conservative figures who, during the Cold War, were not known as leading arms reduction advocates. Clearly, a serious groundswell is forming to collectively embrace a goal few of us ever thought possible -- elimination of the most dangerous instruments of war ever devised by man.

Improvement in the US-Russian relationship is imperative in our own interest. We have many more areas of common interests than we have differences. Climate change, energy security, combating terrorism, pandemic protections, and stopping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are among these common interests. At the center, however, is the issue of reversing the Cold War competition in nuclear weapons and leading other nations to do likewise.

Some will say "it's the economy, stupid," and thus suggest that nothing else can be done until we recover. But that suggests the United States and its new president can only do one thing at a time. This is flawed thinking. Even while building a new 21st century economy, the Obama administration must look for bold initiatives such as Nuclear Zero that demonstrate we live in a new world and new century featuring entirely new realities and the United States intends to play a new and creative leadership role in it.

This would make 2009 one of the happiest new years of all time.