Obama’s Nuke Cut Proposal: Unilateral and Risky

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Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

President Barack Obama arrives with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to speak in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany June 19, 2013.

President Obama chose to announce a new United States nuclear strategy not to the American people, not even to members of Congress, but to German citizens. Presumably, he thought a speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where great Presidents like Kennedy and Reagan spoke before, would confer some legitimacy on his policies.

Since another U.S./Russia nuclear weapon reduction would require U.S. Senate ratification, he would have been better off to consult with Members of Congress first. But that is not his way, which is one reason he’s having a hard time getting any of his agenda passed by Congress.

Likewise, he might have first asked the Russians if they were interested. Indeed, Russian officials, like Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, have already stated that further reductions in strategic nuclear weapons can’t be considered until the U.S. provides the guarantees Russia is seeking on U.S. missile defense deployments. Such guarantees are, of course, non‑starters for the U.S., as our missile defenses are too important to the defense of the American people and their allies to trade away to Russia under any circumstances, especially for more reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons!

The President announced that he has decided on a new nuclear employment strategy for the United States that makes possible reducing our deployed strategic weapons by one third. But he never explained what has changed in the two years since his senior military commanders testified before the Senate that the 1550 deployed strategic warheads agreed to under the New START treaty is, “exactly what is needed today to provide the deterrent.”  The President certainly can’t argue that Russian or Chinese nuclear forces have receded – in fact, both states are currently in full swing modernizing their nuclear forces, including testing and deploying new nuclear-armed submarines and ballistic missiles. And countries like North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons, not eliminating them. As former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated in 2010, “nuclear weapons will be with us for a long time. After this treaty [the New START treaty] our focus must be on stopping dangerous proliferators—not on further reductions in the U.S. and Russian strategic arsenals, which are really no threat to each other or to international stability.”

Further, the president announced that he would unilaterally reduce our tactical and strategic nuclear weapons “hedge”, which is critical to U.S. and allied security (1) in the event that the President’s hopes for a more peaceful relationship with Russia and China don’t pan out – and history is replete with examples of heart-breaking reality crushing even the best of intentions – and (2) because the U.S. nuclear weapons are as old as they have ever been (more than twice the design life) and some weapons may need to be replaced from the hedge. In addition, the hedge is critical because the U.S. (unlike Russia and China) has no production capacity to replace unreliable or unsafe nuclear weapons.

Finally, the Administration has spoken with different voices on whether it will even commit to abide by the established, and bipartisan, tradition of seeking Senate ratification for nuclear reductions. The President should be familiar with the bipartisan Biden-Helms standard on such matters: “With the exception of the SALT I agreement, every significant arms control agreement during the past three decades has been transmitted to the Senate pursuant to the Treaty Clause of the Constitution…we see no reason whatsoever to alter this practice.” The President would be well suited to follow the counsel of his Vice President, and assure the Senate that he will not attempt to make these reductions without its concurrence.

This is, after all, a matter of U.S. national security, even though the president chose to announce it to Germans.

Jon Kyl is the former Senate Republican Minority Whip from Arizona, now with Covington and Burling, and the American Enterprise Institute.

52 comments
SpikeLee
SpikeLee

Jon Kyl does not understand the words "unilateral" and "filibuster".

brandonsfilecabinet
brandonsfilecabinet

In the unlikely event of a nuclear missile strike, organizations should make sure that there are Radiation Medicines. – Brandon Katrena

Hadrewsky
Hadrewsky

*Damn right it is risky

we should be scaring the world with next generation nuclear weapons and modern systems that will scare a lot of people

We need a minimal stockpile to be sure....but we need a few 5 megaton modern warhead "just in case'"


we should be rearming the former SAC - and scare the planet with 10 kiloton weapons to 5 megaton weapons..... as an Obama supporter I feel let down.

smjhunt
smjhunt

This article neatly omits the almost universal obstructionism that Obama faces in Congress including twisting the laws of the Senate to make it a supermarjority rules body instead of what the founding fathers intended.   It also makes the totally unwarranted assumption that somehow Obama will agree to a reduction that puts the U.S. at a disdvantage. 


Please spare us this simplistic analysis of the issue.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Russia does't care to have Republican missels on it's border. 

jmac
jmac

Obama's arrogant and that's why he's having a hard time getting any of his agenda  passed in Congress.

Laughed my head off.  Someone lives in that tight thermos Bush Jr was in - some so-called reporter doesn't  want to look at his party and buy a clue.   McConnell and Boehner aren't passing anything - because they won't get re-elected.   Duh.  

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Let's just have the nuclear holocaust and get over with it.  That's what right wingers have to offer us.  Thanks, but no thanks.

fitty_three
fitty_three

Not to GOP idtiots:

There's not a lot of difference between being able to blow up the world 12 times over and 13 times over.

Live with it.

Adevarul
Adevarul

President Obama chose to announce a new United States nuclear strategy not to the American people, not even to members of Congress...

Note to Congress and the American people:  " I am the KING!  Don't you get that by now?!?  What I say goes and I DO NOT like being told I can't have my way by either the Congress or the American people.  That's why I do things the way I do.  Get it?!?!  It's my job to circumvent the Congress, that pesky United States Constitution, and the will of America anytime they don't line up with my agenda.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

"... one reason he's having a hard time getting any of his agenda passed by Congress." The other reason being Congress itself.

Don
Don

Republican consultants are the political equivalent of internet trolls.  There's nothing to see here, move along.

mrxexon
mrxexon

A warmonger trying to sell war. Or in this case, the hardware of war. 

Not to be unexpected in these days. Of  government where the military/industrial complex has roosted for several decades now.

They're not interested in you. They only see agenda. That, makes them every bit as dangerous to us as the enemies in foreign lands. You can have a superior military. You can build a great fortress to keep out invaders. But what are you going to do if you find out you've been holed up inside your great fortress with the enemy all along?

What then?


x

auronlu
auronlu

When I was in 8th grade, a nice member of the Fed -- someone's father, came to our school to teach us about nuclear deterrence. Again and again, he tried to teach us how having the nuclear power to blow up the world three times over was more of a deterrent than having the power to blow up the world two times over. I'm poor at math, you see, and I couldn't tell the difference between dead and dead.

I never did get it.

One thing I understand, however, is the huge cost and risk of our aging nuclear arsenal, since my father was an inspector about a decade later. The chances of a nuke blowing up in the silo and scattering radiation all over some chunk of our heartland -- or a city -- is greater than ever before. The chances of some idiot pressing the button, or an aging piece of infrastructure failing, is greater than ever before. The COST of replacing all those silos, missiles, and infrastructure is many billions of dollars. Meanwhile, the world has moved on, and the threats we face tend to be multi-country terrorist organizations rather than single, defined, bombable targets.

But of course, in this era of undercutting our nation's economy, infrastructure, and education, we have to waste billions on military programs that don't make us safer, because military spending is untouchable. The rest of the country can rot until there's nothing left to defend, but God forbid we should cancel replacing that missile pointed at some long-defunct Soviet military installation that's been rusting for 30 years.

---

China is too tied with us economically to risk bombing its own wealth, and North Korea not only doesn't have the missile capacity to hit anything but the Aleutian islands, but we can shoot down whatever they shoot at us -- and the cost of creating a missile for them is so great that they might have one or two. (For Japan's sake, we need to keep an eye on N. Korea, because it and S. Korea are in actual danger from N. Korea, whereas the U.S. is not.)

jackbrumbelow7
jackbrumbelow7

Well perhaps a thousand or so nukes would be enough?  At tleast this is a program that could save a bunch of $...

dalef
dalef

"Speak softly, and carry a big stick."

- President Theodore Roosevelt

The importance of maintaining our nuclear arsenal at an over-significant strength is to psychologically deter enemy nations from even thinking about attacking us. Reducing our nuclear arsenal too much will weaken this deterrent and make us less safe. Possessing large amounts of nuclear weapons is an insurance policy that is less likely to be used the more deterrent we have.

Having overwhelming force can drain the fighting spirit from your enemy before they attack, avoiding war in the first place.

Since possessing nuclear weapons, no nation (terrorists are not a nation) has attacked the American homeland. This makes nuclear weapons worth their weight in gold.

Bottriell
Bottriell

We are the only country in history to utilize this technology, in an act that is deemed by history an atrocity. We now pretend to have the right to tell other countries not to develop these weapons while we hold our arsenal over their heads "for our protection." It is a wonder that our foreign policy is not taken seriously by other nations. 

What the President may be trying to do here is lead by example, instead of trying to police the world. 

I was in church one wednesday evening, as a child, and observed as a younger boy hit another boy with whom he'd been arguing. Immediately his father came over, threw him over his shoulder, and began spanking him, repeatedly saying, "Don't hit people! We don't hit people! You can't hit! Don't hit!" The boy was bawling and defeated, and perhaps he didn't hit for a while, but as any good parenting book or therapist would tell you - this is poor parenting. 

We need to re-asses our stance as world leaders. I would hope that the Senate be not so dismissive of this policy ideal. As well, I would hope that a person feeling slighted, because a world issue was addressed on another country's stage, instead of some small meeting in the Roosevelt Room, or an address on the Hill, would not affect the size of the issue comparable to the size of the person addressing it.

MrObvious
MrObvious

What arrant nonsense. If I wanted a bs viewpoint I'd ask for it. I want information - not punditry.

grape_crush
grape_crush

 > ...he would have been better off to consult with Members of Congress first.

No, Senator. Congress - especially the party you belong to - are about as useless as tts on a boar pig. Remember the hassle your side put up over New Start? Sure you do! You were the primary GOPer negotiator who "blindsided" the White House by blocking a vote on that treaty.

Sadly, you're not really interested in honest, good-faith negotiation, are you? People like you are willing to play political football with nuclear warheads...which means that there is little need to listen to what your opinion is.


eifg
eifg

Unilateral is fine with me, lead by example. It is hard for us to credibly tell other countries not to  develop nuclear weapons while we declare them vital to our national security. Risky, I doubt it, 2/3 of our existing arsenal is more than enough to deter an attack. No country wants to be hit by 1 nuclear missile let alone 1000. Of course those with an interest in preserving the size of the arsenal will use scare tactics to try to convince the public that any cuts will have grave consequences. 

destor23
destor23

"Even though the President chose to announce it to Germans."

Really, Time?  I get that he's a Senator and that you'll occasionally give space and voice to such people, but shouldn't you apply some reasonable standard towards editing the content?  Kyl makes it sound like it's somehow difficult for Senators to get news of what an American president says in Germany.  Did he have to wait for the carrier pigeons to emerge from the gyrocopter from Prussia?

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

The US nuclear program is a money toilet and no one knows that better than John Kyl. The arsenal we need to effectively deter any threat was achieved decades ago. But there are too many moochers feeding at the public ^i^ to allow for meaningful reductions. 

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

He announced it in Germany because if anyone is sick of the US Cold War mentality, it's Germany.

Also, considering that the US and Russia each have an order of magnitude more weapons than anyone else, I think they can afford to reduce their numbers a bit further without really weakening themselves relative to, y'know, the Chinese.  Or even more ludicrously, North Korea who might have 12 nukes - maybe - that may or may not work.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@fitty_three 

Socialist, you know if we bring it down to say 10 times over it'll send the message to our enemies that we want them to invade us. I mean 1000 nukes, don't you feel a little unsafe now?

DBritt
DBritt

@fitty_three This, absolutely.  This article is textbook lobbyist BS.  List a bunch of irrelevant facts that make you look like a wonk while ignoring the most important fact of all.

TyPollard
TyPollard

@fitty_three 

It's like the movie "Spinal tap" when Nigel is impressed that their volume goes to eleven.


anon76
anon76

@Adevarul 

Seems to me he went straight to the American people about 7 months ago, and we sent him back for another round.  A majority of us also voted against the party that has a stranglehold on Congress, but that's what gerrymandering will do for you.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Adevarul 

BTW - there's nothing in the constitution about nukes or a president having to talk to Congress before he speaks. He and all of us are aware that we need the congress to vote (2/3rds) for any treaties.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@Adevarul 

Take your blood pressure medicine and stop imagining things. I hope you didn't get too upset when Reagan told Soviet to tear down that wall. I mean he didn't consult Congress about such a radical thing.

Grim
Grim

Intelligent risk analysis requires that we look at the threats holistically.  The possibility of an invasion of the homeland is fairly unlikely.  Ask yourself this:  when is the last time Japan was invaded?  How about Denmark, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Brazil, etc., etc.?  None of these nations have nuclear arsenals.  To suggest the US needs a huge nuclear arsenal is to suggest that we are a weaker and easier target based on our police, military, and militia forces than every other non-nuclear western nation on the planet.

-

The primary threat of attack on US soil, then, is terrorism (well, actually it is accident, followed by disease, crime, natural disaster, and then way far down the list is domestic terrorism followed by international terrorism).  The larger our nuclear arsenal is, the better for a potential terrorist.  Much like giving every crew member on an airplane a gun, what you have done by having these weapons is removed the need to build and deliver the weapons to the US.  They are already built, and they are already over the border.  In short, having them makes things better for our enemies, not worse.  And their presence encourages attack rather than deterring it.  Not to mention that having them encourages other nations to seek them.

JoeCogan
JoeCogan

@dalef No nation has attacked the American homeland since the War of 1812, well before we had a nuclear arsenal.

anon76
anon76

@grape_crush 

No sh!t!  I wonder if Obama would still contemplate eliding the Senate's historic role in treaties if that body had not been filibustering at an historic rate for his entire presidency.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Kyl is a lobbyist now, not a Senator.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@PaulDirks As ever, follow the money.

Speaking of which, I see Covington and Burling's client list includes Xe Services-or, as they were formerly known, Blackwater.

dalef
dalef

@Grim  

Some of the countries that you mentioned, such as Japan, Canada, Denmark, Italy, and Mexico are under the umbrella of American protection. Besides for our NATO obligations, do you think we would just stand by if Canada or Mexico were to be invaded by a foreign power?

Many other countries can have relatively weak military forces due to our strength and our guarantee to protect them if attacked.

dalef
dalef

@JoeCogan 

That may be technically true as Hawaii was not a state when it was attacked by the Japanese navy in 1941. However, Hawaii became an American territory in 1898, so whether Hawaii was considered part of the "homeland" during the attack on Pearl Harbor is debatable.

 Regardless of the semantics, if we had a large nuclear arsenal before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, do you think the Japanese would have attempted to carry out such as attack?

dalef
dalef

@jackbrumbelow7

The cost of nuclear weapons is less than the cost of an invasion by an enemy nation on the United States.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@Paul,nnto 

Does anyone at TIME - Klein, Altman, Scherer,  et. al. wonder why so many of us hold the MSM in such contempt?

It's pieces like this from a self- serving hack like Kyl, who suckled off the public nipple long enough to get a sweet lobbying gig. He represents everything that is rotten and corrupt about our political system. Go back to Arizona Jon  and sit in the hot sun and fry your brain.

destor23
destor23

@Paul,nnto Brain freeze.  Doesn't really change my point.  Except that it's worse to allow a lobbyist space to print unedited nonsense.

ClintonMcDade
ClintonMcDade

@dalef @jackbrumbelow7 Nobody will try to invade us. We got too many guns! Besides what would they do here? How you gonna come into a country and make 300 million people do what you want? Think about it.

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

@dalef @jackbrumbelow7 

I spent a year in Viet-Nam defending against an "invasion" that never came. Nuclear weapons? By the time the GOP gets done with this country, there won't be anything or anyplace worth invading.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@dalef @jackbrumbelow7 

You gotta have a vivid imagination of you think anyone will plan to invade us because we went from about 1500 to 1000 nukes.


Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Believe me-they hold us in much more contempt than the other way around.

Perhaps not Altman but certainly the other two you mention.