Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Nuclear Policy Review

Bryan Bender has a long article in the Boston Globe on the Nuclear Posture Review. By other accounts, President Obama threw an earlier version, containing few if any changes from the status quo, back at the military and told them to do what he said. It sounds like they are.

The article is a summary of what's out there along with some rumors I've already read and a few new things. All of these, if they are accurate, are genuinely moving toward obama's vision of eliminating nuclear weapons. They are also safe moves that will not endanger the United States in any way. Some will require negotiation.
The review is assessing the potential threats over the next decade that would require nuclear weapons, seeking to match the arsenal and strategy to emerging dangers like North Korea, a rising China, and nuclear terrorism - and away from the far less likely massive nuclear exchange with Russia, according to several administration officials who are familiar with the review.
This is something we've needed since, oh, say, 1992.

For the first time, influential voices, including a former top nuclear commander and senior Obama advisers, are proposing that one leg of the nuclear arms “triad" - a $30 billion-a-year enterprise made up of land-, air-, and sea-based weapons - be eliminated.
The article later goes on to say that it's the bomber leg of the triad that is being considered for elimination. It would be much better to eliminate the ICBM leg. The missiles are too easily targeted and need too much lead time to get ready, so they remain on alert, as the article starts by dramatizing.

Another historic change under consideration is adopting a “no-first-use" policy, a public declaration stating the United States would not use nuclear weapons first, a step long advocated by arms control advocates who believe it would reduce the incentive for other nations to develop nuclear weapons.
There is a lot of resistance to this by those who would prefer for "all options to remain on the table." Others will say it's just words and can be revoked at any time, so it's meaningless. But words are part of an overall strategy, and to the extent that they can provide a bit more stability, it would be a good move.

Also on the table, the officials say, is explicitly limiting the nuclear arsenal’s mission to deterring other nuclear weapons - not chemical or biological attacks or halting a massive conventional military assault, as current policy stipulates.
This would also turn down the volume and uncertainty.

It sounds like the military are listening to their Commander in Chief. Get ready for anguished screams from the parson's brothers.

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