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Rebuttal of Kingston Reif’s lies

On November 19th, AOL Defense published a litany of blatant lies about the nuclear triad’s utility and cost written by an anti-defense hack, Kingston Reif, the “director of non-proliferation” at the “Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation”, a part of the pacifist “Council for a Livable World”, an organization that advocates deep, unilateral defense cuts.

In it, Reif exaggerates and complains about the cost of the nuclear triad, falsely calls it an “outdated Cold War construct”, falsely claims that America’s nuclear arsenal is still based on Cold War assumptions, lies about the nuclear triad’s (including ICBMs’) utility, and denies the decisive peacekeeping role played by nuclear weapons since 1945.

Of course, it was written by an ignorant hack from an organization which zealously advocates America’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, so it’s not surprising that it attacks the nuclear-triad. But it doesn’t excuse AOL Defense for publishing this screed.

Here’s a facts-based rebuttal. Reif falsely claims that:

“Gen. Chambers, the Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, overstates the peace-promoting virtues of nuclear weapons. In addition, he exaggerates the benefits of the nuclear triad and downplays the significant financial resources that will be required to sustain it.”

No, he doesn’t. Nuclear weapons are THE most important tool the US has to keep the peace and prevent war. Since their inception in 1945, they have prevented any war between the world’s major powers and have forced them to accept coexistence and avoid conflict.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, which Reif invokes, only proves the value of nuclear weapons. They didn’t cause the crisis, and they didn’t make it grave. OTOH, they prevented war by forcing Washington and Moscow to negotiate and to make a difficult compromise (Castro stays in Cuba, Moscow withdraws its missiles from the island, Washington withdraws its missiles from Turkey and Italy). Had nuclear weapons not existed, the US and the USSR would’ve had little or no incentive to make such a difficult compromise and would’ve likely gone to war. ONLY NUCLEAR WEAPONS prevented war in that case.

No, the chances of “something going terribly wrong” did not increase, let alone exponentially, because only President Kennedy could’ve authorized a nuclear strike, and that was the last thing he wanted to do.

As General Chambers rightly wrote, ”our nuclear forces played a central role in winning the peace.”

While nuclear weapons have not prevented all wars, they have prevented the bloodiest ones – wars between major powers, including what would’ve otherwise been a hot war between the US and the USSR in Europe if it weren’t for nuclear weapons. As former SAC commander and USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Welch rightly says, nuclear weapons are the only deterrent which has NEVER failed during its entire existence. While nuclear deterrence is not foolproof, it has NEVER failed so far in practice.

The benefits of the nuclear triad are huge: prevention of any war between major powers, and peace and security for America and the over 30 allies of the US who rely on the American nuclear umbrella. And the costs are microscopic, as I demonstrate below.

“Yet while it is true that the great powers have avoided major wars and that nuclear weapons may be one of the causes, it is not at all clear that the bomb has been the decisive factor…”

This is clearly wrong. Nuclear weapons were one of the causes of avoiding major wars and were THE decisive factor. They were, and are, THE factor which has made wars between major powers unthinkable and unrealistic. Before nuclear weapons were invented, wars between major powers were common and devastating, from the Hundred Years War up to WW2, which left 60 million dead around the world and two continents devastated – because without weapons as devastating as nuclear arms, no side had any incentive for restraint. Nuclear weapons have made another world war impossible.

Thanks to the US nuclear umbrella, since 1945 the US and its treaty allies have enjoyed  unprecedented peace and security, uninterrupted, to this day.

“Gen. Chambers’ case for the triad is equally flawed. He writes that the triad remains vital because “the number of nuclear armed states is increasing” and “complex regional crises” could “approach the nuclear threshold in the near future.” However, only North Korea has joined thenuclear club since 1998 and it is believed to possess fewer than 10 nuclear weapons.”

No, General Chambers’ case for the triad is not flawed at all. The number of nuclear states IS increasing. In 1998, Pakistan joined the nuclear club; North Korea joined in 2006 and is estimated by GlobalSecurity.org to have 13 warheads; Iran is now well on its way to the club and will have enough uranium for a nuclear weapon by June 2013 if its uranium production continues at its current pace.

“Gen. Chambers defends the ICBM leg of the triad on the grounds that it ensures “no future enemy would consider nuclear use or coercion.” But what of the ability of nuclear warheads on a dyad of submarines and bombers to perform this deterrence function? Gen. Chambers is silent on the matter.”

But I will not be silent.The fact is that ONLY a triad of ICBMs, bombers, and SSBNs can deter any enemy, including Russia and China. Why? Because a triad is the most survivable arrangement – far more survivable than a dyad or monad. As Robert Kaplan has rightly written, “Never leave your opponent with too few problems to solve because if you do, he’ll solve them.” A dyad or a monad would be far easier to wipe out in a first strike: just attack bomber or submarine bases, hunt down those American SSBNs that are currently at sea, and voila! You’ve eliminated America’s nuclear deterrent.

A triad, however, is far more difficult to eliminate: you would have to attack not just all bomber bases and both of America’s SSBN bases, and sink all SSBNs at sea, but also destroy all 450 ICBM siloes. That is far more difficult, costly, and risky than destroying a dyad or a monad – and far too risky for any enemy to do. It is THE reason why America has enjoyed peace and security since 1945.

The triad’s survivability increases even further if strategic bombers are put on a constant 24/7 air patrol, as was the case during the Cold War.

Neither a dyad or a monad could deter enemies and defend America and its allies as well as the nuclear triad can and does.

“Given the survivability and promptness of the submarine leg and the fact that ICBMs are unlikely to be used in a nuclear conflict with most of the countries we might attack with nuclear weapons (because the missiles would have to fly over Russia to reach their targets),”

That is completely wrong. ICBMs’ survivability can be greatly increased if they are placed in hardened siloes (and maybe the USAF’s siloes *are* hardened), in tunnels between siloes (as was done with the MX Peacekeeper missile), or placed on railroad launchers. There’s a myriad ways to increase their survivability. And they can reach their targets as fast as SLBMs. The claim that they would have to fly over Russia to reach their targets and would thus not be used in a conflict with most potential enemies is also completely false: it’s wrong in the case of China (whose bases and troops are located mostly in its south and southeast), and Iran.

Reif’s claim that:

“ICBMs are really only useful for fighting a major nuclear war with Russia – a threat which has long since disappeared.”

is a blatant lie. The Russian threat has anything but disapeared. Russia still has 434 ICBMs (many of which can carry far more warhead than America’s ICBMs*), 13 SSBNs, and well over 100 strategic Tu-95, Tu-160, and Tu-22M bombers. It has 1,492 deployed strategic warheads (just 58 short of the New START limit) and 2,800 in total (according to the FAS). On top of that, it has untold thousands (it refuses to say how many exactly) of tactical nuclear warheads deliverable on a wide range of systems, including torpedoes, cruise missiles, artillery pieces, and SRBMs such as the SS-26 Iskander.

Russia is now modernizing all three legs of its nuclear triad, with SS-29 ICBMs and Borei class SSBNs entering service and with PAKDA strategic bombers and “Son of Satan” heavy ICBMs under development. The Russian nuclear threat is GROWING, not shrinking.

“Gen. Chambers claims that the cost to maintain the triad indefinitely is manageable. But our budget pressures are real and likely to get worse.”

But the cost of maintaining the entire nuclear triad – let alone its ICBM leg – are miniscule. The ICBM leg of the nuclear triad costs only $1.1 bn per year, and the bomber leg only $2.5 bn per year, to maintain. Collectively, these two legs provided by the USAF cost only $3.6 bn per year to maintain – a bargain price, especially the benefits they provide in terms of security for America and its allies. Source:

http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/November%202012/1112evolving.aspx

$3.6 bn is a paltry 0.6% of the DOD’s $531 bn annual base budget and 0.5% of the total annual military budget ($645 bn). Less than one percent. It’s a microscopic, negligible cost. It’s not merely “manageable”, it’s microscopic. Consequently, no real savings can be made by cutting or even eliminating the ICBM or bomber legs of the triad. None. Cutting or eliminating them would be penny-wise and pound-foolish: it would gravely undermine America’s nuclear deterrence capabilities while producing almost no savings whatsoever.

The DOE’s nuclear weapons programs cost $7.589 bn per year, paid out of the DOE’s budget. Combined with the cost of these two legs of the nuclear triad, that’s $11.189 bn, i.e. just 2% of the total military budget.

In other words, 98% of the total military budget is spent on something other than ICBMs, bombers, or nuclear weapons.

“As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright put it: “The challenge here is that we have to recapitalize all three legs [of the nuclear triad], and we don’t have the money to do it.””

That is also completely wrong. Modernizing the nuclear triad could be very cheap, and will certainly be cheap compared to other DOD weapon programs. A single ICBM costs only $70 mn to procure; a single Next Generation Bomber which the USAF is developing  (and which will also perform conventional long-range strike) will cost, at most, $550 mn per unit, INCLUDING R&D costs; and a single new SSBN will cost only $2.4 bn (same as a Virginia class SSN) if the DOD builds a Virginia class derivative instead of an entirely new submarine class. A fleet of 12 Virginia class derivative boats would cost only $28.8 bn.

“Every dollar spent to modernize and replace aging nuclear weapons systems is a dollar that cannot be spent on defense priorities that are far more relevant to the 21st century security environment, such as upgrading conventional air and naval power projection capabilities.”

That is also completely wrong. There is NO higher defense priority than nuclear deterrence, and can never be, because America’s nuclear deterrent protects the US and its 30 allies (who rely on America’s nuclear umbrella) against the most catastrophic threats: nuclear and ballistic missile attack, whether by a major power like Russia or China or a rogue state like North Korea. Given that Russia and China have large and growing nuclear arsenals, and that beyond them the US must also deter North Korea and Iran – and given that the number of nuclear powers is growing, with Iran likely to join the nuclear club in 2013 – the nuclear deterrence is THE most relevant defense asset in the current security environment. Conventional air and naval power is useful, but is not, and will never be, a substitute for the nuclear deterrent.

Moreover, USAF bombers, as stated above, serve in a DUAL role: they can (and do) perform conventional strike missions just as well as they can provide nuclear deterrence. USAF ICBMs could also be converted for conventional long-range strike missions if need be. SSBNs can, likewise, carry Conventional Trident missiles if need be, and there’s actually been a Conventional Trident program. Reif’s claim that USAF bombers and ICBMs and USN SSBNs are somehow unable to perform conventional missions, or are somehow siphoning defense dollars away from conventional weapons, is a blatant lie.

It is even moreso a blatant lie given that, as documented above, the ICBM leg costs only $1.1 bn, and the bomber leg only $2.5 bn, per year to maintain, all told costing less than one percent of the base defense budget (to say nothing of the entire military budget). And, as I said, a single ICBM costs only $70 mn, while a single next-generation dual-capability bomber will cost only $550 mn (R&D costs fully included) and a Virginia class derivative SSBN would cost $2.4 bn.

So all dollars spent on maintaining the nuclear triad add up together to only a tiny percentage of the defense budget.

No, the nuclear triad is not siphoning defense dollars from anything. On the contrary – it is certain CONVENTIONAL weapons programs such as the notorious F-35 (total program cost: $396 bn) and non-weapon DOD costs (especially personnel costs, which now consume a full 50% of the defense budget), which are siphoning money away from the overdue modernization of the triad and from other defense priorities. Cutting the nuclear triad would not save anything; reining in the above-mentioned personnel costs would save tens of billions of dollars.

Readers should not be fooled by Kingston Reif’s sudden supposed concern for “higher defense priorities” like conventional air and naval power. His organization advocates, and has long advocated, deep cuts in the US military across the board – in nuclear as well as conventional weapons, in strategic bombers and submarines as well as conventional air and sea power. He couldn’t care less about higher defense priorities or conventional weapons; all he and his organization want is America’s unilateral disarmament. They participated in Barney Frank’s “Sustainable Defense Task Force”, which proposed deep defense cuts ACROSS THE BOARD, in nuclear as well as conventional capabilities, in weapons as well as in troops.
Kingston Reif’s claim that:

“The assumptions that undergird the current U.S. arsenal of approximately 5,000 nuclear warheads were devised for a confrontation with the Soviet Union that no longer exists. As the Obama administration contemplates its second term defense priorities in a time of budget austerity, it should not let outdated Cold War constructs such as the triad stand in the way of reshaping U.S. nuclear policy.”

is also a blatant lie. The assumptions that undergird the current US nuclear arsenal were NOT devised against the Soviet Union, were NOT devised during the Cold War, and had nothing to do with the Soviet Union or the CW. They were devised by none other than President Obama himself, based on the belief that 5,000 nuclear warheads were enough for deterrence. At the end of the Cold War, America’s nuclear arsenal was much larger than today. It consisted of over 10,000 nuclear warheads, coming on the heels of Reagan’s defense buildup. The First START treaty, signed in 1991 with the Soviet Union, still allowed both Washington and Moscow to retain 6,000 DEPLOYED strategic warheads and 1,600 DEPLOYED strategic launchers (ICBMs, SLBMs, strategic bombers) each. By the early 2000s, the US still had over 10,000 nuclear warheads. At its peak in the 1960s, the US nuclear arsenal consisted of over 33,000 warheads.

By contrast, today, the US has only ca. 5,000 nuclear warheads in total – the smallest arsenal since the early Eisenhower years, and the New START permits the US to have only 1,550 deployed warheads, only 700 deployed strategic launchers, and only 800 total strategic launchers, deployed and nondeployed. America’s nuclear arsenal is far smaller than it was during the Cold War.

Any claim that it is a product of, or is ungirded by assumptions made for, the Cold War is a blatant lie. Likewise, Reif’s claim that the nuclear triad is an “outdated Cold War construct” is also completely false, because as I demonstrated above, the triad is as much needed for deterrence today as during the Cold War, because only a nuclear triad provides a highly survivable and effective nuclear deterrent. Moreover, only a nuclear triad can defend and reassure America’s allies and discourage them from going nuclear – and, as I also demonstrated above, all three components of the triad have conventional long range strike capabilities.

Any further deep cuts in the deterrent will leave America open to blackmail and attack by Russia and China, and will leave America’s allies no choice but to develop their own nuclear weapons, which they currently don’t need to do due to the size of America’s arsenal. If that arsenal is cut, they will have no choice but to go nuclear themselves.

Such a policy is utterly unacceptable.

MGEN William Chambers is absolutely right; Kingston Reif is completely wrong. It’s as simple as that. Reif owes General Chambers an apology and a retraction; and AOL Defense owes its readers an apology for publishing Mr Reif’s misleading, completely false hit-piece.

Last but not least, readers should not believe anything Reif says. He, like other members of the “Council for a Livable World”, advocates America’s unilateral disarmament. He therefore has an incentive to lie and to malign nuclear weapons. Therefore, he’s utterly and irredeemably biased.

*The Russian SS-18 Satan ICBM can carry 10 warheads and up to 30 countermeasures such as decoys; the SS-19 Stilletto can carry 6 warheads; the SS-29 (RS-24 Yars) can carry four warheads. By contrast, America’s sole ICBM type, the Minuteman-III, can carry only 3 warheads.

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Comments (15)

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  1. Plutonium says:

    So now this is not only a flamewar, it’s a nuclear exchange. Even 12-year-old children who feel the need to say “Obum” (how unoriginal) are ducking and covering under their desks.

    It would behoove both Mr. Mazurak and his sockpuppet, Ms. Brown, to actually read “Dr. Atomic’s” excellent arguments, and to avoid the downward spiral into “durrrr, librul!” and “AL GORE OBUM”. Do you want to be taken seriously as policy thinkers, conservative notwithstanding, or not? Because you’re not convincing anyone when you start sounding like Tea Party people with misspelled signs.

    Get back on the subject. Stop posting comments. Think carefully about your argument, and *start again.* Watching you is embarrassing to the entire nuclear weapons community.

    • “Dr Atomic’s” arguments are not “excellent”. They are nonsensical, absurd, and factually wrong by a long shot. They reveal his utter ignorance of nuclear weapon issues. They reveal such abysmal ignorance that (by my experience) high school students are more knowledgeable on these matters than he is.

      And he has tacitly conceded that by signing his garbage comments with a pseudonym rather than his real name. He won’t dare sign his comments with his real name, because he likely knows he would be laughed out of town if he did, for these ridiculous comments he has posted here.

      As for the subject, virtually all of my arguments here have been on the subject and have laid out and explained the facts. The problem is that the facts stated by me are inconvenient for nuclear disarmament advocates.

      • Dr. Atomic says:

        Dear Zbigniew,

        Let’s review the other mistakes in your original post, shall we? I don’t expect you will benefit much from this given that you have constructed your own reality in which you are the sole arbiter of what’s true and false, right and wrong. But perhaps the handful of people reading this or who come across it during a Google search in the future will find some value in the truth.
        ZM: You have found no mistakes in my article, only facts which you refuse to acknowledge. And I never claimed that I’m the sole arbiter of what is true or false. But I do know far better than you what is T/F.

        First, I don’t work for or with the Council for a Livable World, but I have followed their activities for longer than you have been alive. You characterize this organization as “pacifist,” and one that “zealously advocates America’s unilateral nuclear disarmament.” Its actual mission (http://livableworld.org/who/mission/), however, is “reducing the danger of nuclear weapons and increasing national security.” That goal also happens to be a longtime key objective of the United States government. Council for a Livable World also “believes that the United States must work toward a ‘world free of nuclear weapons.’ Council for a Livable World seeks deep reductions, and the eventual elimination, of nuclear weapons.” These objectives have been championed nearly every US president since World War II, including most notably the non-pacifist, non-liberal Ronald Reagan. The organization also supports the multilateral Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the multilateral Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (http://livableworld.org/what/issues/on_the_issues/). Council for a Livable World does not support the unilateral elimination of the US nuclear arsenal.

        ZM: Despite your whitewashing of that pacifist organization, it is pacifist. By your own admission, they advocate deep cuts in, and the eventual elimination of, all nuclear weapons. That is a classic PACIFIST policy, not supported by any nonpacifist. (Even Ronald Reagan envisioned a world without nuclear weapons only AFTER the US would deploy a massive missile defense system, which the CLW has always opposed.) But what you DON’T acknowledge is that the CLW DOES SUPPORT deep, UNILATERAL cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal (and in all other American military capabilities and arsenals), as voiced by none other than CLW’s Kingston Reif and Robert Gard in TWO separate defense budget policy blueprints (one for Barney Frank’s SDTF, one for the CAP’s Task Force on the Unified Security Budget) and in an AOL Defense article written this spring (in May, IIRC). And, in the article that I utterly refuted in my piece, Reif proposed the unilateral elimination of all American ICBMs. So yes, despite your denials, the CLW DOES support deep, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent.
        They also categorically oppose virtually every nuclear weapon or delivery system the US has been or is pursuing to modernize its arsenal, including the B-2 bomber, the Long Range Strike Bomber, the MX Peacekeeper missile, the planned replacement for the Minuteman III, the RRW, the RNEP, and modernizing the B61 bomb. (But they don’t oppose any Russian or Chinese nuclear modernization programs, including the RS-24 Yars ICBM, the planned new “Son of Satan” ICBM, the PAK DA bomber, the Borei class of SSBNs, the Jin class of SSBNs, the JL-2 SLBM, or the DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs.)
        So despite your pious denials, the CLW DOES advocate deep, UNILATERAL cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal – and also opposes any meaningful modernization of the arsenal that remains. Either you haven’t been paying any attention to that group at all or you’re blatantly lying to whitewash it. Its proposals of deep, suicidal, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear and conventional arsenals and programs are a matter of public record.
        And cutting America’s nuclear deterrent, with the eventual goal of elimination, is a cretinious policy which is only making America less secure by weakening the US nuclear deterrent while Russia, China, Pakistan, and North Korea are all building up their arsenals and Iran is racing towards nuclear weapons.

        Second, you write of the Cuban Missile Crisis that “the chances of ‘something going terribly wrong’ did not increase, let alone exponentially, because only President Kennedy could’ve authorized a nuclear strike….” There are two problems with this assertion. First, it’s not correct that only President Kennedy could initiate a nuclear strike. President Eisenhower, concerned that a surprise attack on Washington, DC, could cripple any US retaliatory response, approved predelegation instructions in late 1959, giving top military commanders the authority to launch nuclear weapons on their own under a range of specific circumstances (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB45/). President Kennedy left these orders in place despite concerns that this would increase the risk of starting a nuclear war if the military could not contact the president for any reason. These orders were thus active during the 1961-62 Berlin Crisis as well as the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/19980319.htm). Second and more importantly, you completely ignore that role of Soviet nuclear weapons in the crisis. President Kennedy was not the only person with his finger “on the button.” Khrushchev had command of a small but formidable nuclear force as well. As I mentioned previously, some 100 tactical nuclear weapons were on Cuba during the crisis (a fact of which the United States was unaware for 30 years. In fact, we learned for the first time in October that the Soviets originally intended to leave these weapons in Cuba for use by the Cubans – http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/10/10/cuba_almost_became_a_nuclear_power_in_1962). Unlike the warheads for the IRBMs, these weapons were ready for use and would almost certainly have been used had President Kennedy approved the military’s plan for an invasion of Cuba. If that had happened, it’s likely the United States would have responded with nuclear attacks of its own, and there were no guarantees such attacks would be limited to the region and would not escalate to a broader nuclear war. You also fail to mention the alarming incident aboard the Soviet submarine B-59, one of four sent to Cuba during the crisis, each armed with a nuclear-tipped torpedo (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB399/). On October 27, 1962, as US destroyers dropped practice depth charges on the B-59 in order to force it to the surface, Captain Valentin Savitsky, exhausted from the stress and the extreme temperatures in the submarine (which was not designed to operate in tropical waters), and unable to contact Moscow for instructions, ordered the torpedo to be readied for use declaring, “We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all.” Savitsky had the authority to order a launch, subject to the approval of the political officer also on the submarine. Fortunately, the deputy brigade commander of the fleet, Captain Vasili Arkhipov, happened to be aboard the B-59, putting him in the chain of command as well. Arkhipov was able to calm down Savitsky and together they agreed to surface the submarine (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB75/). The bottom line is that things were not as cut and dried as you believe.

        ZM: ONLY President Kennedy could’ve authorized a nuclear strike, as only he had the nuclear football and the codes to launch America’s nuclear arsenal (besides the few select officers carrying the football for him). It was actually JFK who created the football as we know it today, and it was precisely to prevent anyone from launching a nuclear strike without his authorization. Furthermore, it is a standing policy dating back to at least the Kennedy years that for nuclear weapons to be used by the US, both the President and the SECDEF must consent.
        As for Khrushchev, he was the only one with the access to the Soviet nuclear football (yes, they did have their own, and the Russians still do), and the only one knowing the launch codes. So without his authorization, the Soviet Union would not have used nuclear weapons. And despite being a ruthless Communist, he was not a suicidal fanatic. His generals and marshals were even less eager for war: they actually considered the CMC to be a needless provocation of the US (with the defense minister, Rodion Malinovsky, being the most outspoken critic of this deployment).

        Third, you write that “a dyad or monad would be far easier to wipe out in a first strike: just attack bomber or submarine bases, hunt down those American SSBNs that are currently at sea, and voila! You’ve eliminated America’s nuclear deterrent.” There are three problems with this hypothetical. First, you are assuming that all of the preparations for such a massive and coordinated attack would go completely undetected by the United States. Russia is the only state capable of conducting such an attack now or for the foreseeable future, and given how closely we continue to monitor its nuclear forces, that is unlikely, to say the least. A “bolt out of the blue” attack was never very realistic during the Cold War and it’s even less likely now. Second, you assume that tracking US SSBNs at sea is possible when the Navy is quite confident it is not and will not be for many years to come. And third, you assume that this attack would be carried out flawlessly, destroying every single US nuclear weapon. You don’t mention the 200 or so B61 nuclear gravity bombs deployed at six bases in five European states and dedicated to NATO, which would also have to be destroyed in order for this fantastic plan to have a chance at succeeding. Any rational adversary would not contemplate such an unprecedented action without knowing with a high degree of certainty that it would succeed. Otherwise, they would be risking their own destruction. That’s deterrence. And if the adversary is irrational, no amount of nuclear weaponry, no matter how or where it is deployed, will be sufficient to deter them.

        As for relying on a dyad or a monad being a bad policy inviting a nuclear first strike, yes, it does carry a heavy risk of inviting a first strike. Like I said, destroying a few publicly-known bomber bases with the bombers on the ground, destroying a meagre 2 unhardened submarine bases, and sinking a few SSBNs would be quite easy because of the small number of targets involved. (The CLW, POGO, and other pacifist groups advocate deep cuts in America’s SSBN fleet, down to just 7-8 boats depending on the specific group, meaning that no more than 4 SSBNs would be at sea at any given time, while the rest would be in overhaul.)
        Secondly, Ohio class SSBNs are 1970s’ vintage technology, are very noisy, and far easier to detect than you or the US Navy realize. (The USN is on record woefully understating the capabilities of America’s enemies and getting rude awakenings numerous times, so they’re not infallible.) Due to being NOISY, they are easy to detect. And during the Cold War, Soviet SSNs managed to track American SSBNs, and practiced such scenarios, a number of times. So SSBNs are not that hard to find. I’m not saying it would be a cakewalk, but it wouldn’t be inordinately hard to find the few Ohio class SSBNs that would be at sea out of a meagre fleet of 6-8.
        Thirdly, the preparations for such a strike would not need to be massive. Russia currently has 1,492 nuclear warheads actively deployed, most of them on ICBMs and SLBMs that could (and would) be launched at a moment’s notice if America were to make the foolish mistake of cutting its own nuclear arsenal unilaterally and deeply. And given how ineffective the USIC is (as proven numerous times during and after the CW, from failing to detect the NK invasion to underestimating Sadat’s buildup in the 1970s to underestimating the Soviet nuclear arsenal’s size by 20,000 warheads), I wouldn’t be surprised if… the USIC were taken completely by surprise by such preparations. :)
        Fourthly, Russia is not the only country capable of conducting such a strike. China can also do that. It has far more nuclear weapons and delivery systems than is widely believed or reported; Russian general Viktor Yesin has estimated in an unbiased, impartial study that China actually has 1,800 nuclear warheads, 900 of them deployed. Former chief DOD nuclear strategist Dr Philip Karber, now a GU professor, has estimated China’s arsenal to consist of 3,000 nuclear warheads. It is publicly known that China has 36 MIRVable DF-5 heavy ICBMs, at least 30 MaRVable DF-31/31A ICBMs, a small number of DF-41 heavy ICBMs, and of course, a large fleet attack submarines (to sink American SSBNs), including a growing number of SSNs. Even if China could not undertake such an attack, the fact that Russia can is a sufficient threat and a sufficient reason not to do anything unilaterally.

        Finally, your simplistic analysis completely ignores the devastating conventional firepower possessed by the United States and NATO, all of which would be brought to bear on anyone foolish enough to attempt such an attack. Those weapons may not create radioactive fireballs, but they are quite sufficient to do serious and lasting damage to a wide variety of targets and thus enhance our deterrent posture.
        As for the “devastating conventional firepower” of the US and NATO – don’t make me laugh. Thanks to successive defense cuts, America’s conventional power is dwindling fast (and under sequestration it will erode even faster). Already its sole aircraft capable of penetrating Russian or Chinese airspace are its 20 B-2s and 180 F-22s, with F-35s years away from entering service and not being all-aspect LO. Most current USAF As for European military capabilities, don’t even get me started on Europe’s military weakness. You also completely failed to take into account that Russia, when performing a nuclear first strike, could easily destroy America’s conventional capabilities and weapons as well in such a strike, as the vast majority of US Army, USAF, USN, and USMC bases around the world are unhardened.

        The 200 B61 warheads deployed in Europe are a drop in the bucket compared to Russia’s huge tactical nuclear arsenal, and are deployed at just a few bases very well known to Russia, and would thus be easy targets for Russia in a first strike.
        So like I said, if the US deeply and unilaterally cuts its nuclear arsenal, it will be inviting a nuclear first strike by Russia. And the Heritage Foundation agrees.

        Fourth, the figures you cite for the cost of maintaining the nuclear triad are inaccurate, for the simple but poorly understood reason that the Department of Defense has never implemented the means to track all of its nuclear weapons and weapons-related costs (this problem also extends to the estimated future costs of modernizing the triad you cite). Because of the way the department’s budget is structured, the official figures exclude a variety of essential line items, including: most overhead and support costs; most research and development costs for delivery systems and supporting equipment; airlift and sealift costs for nuclear weapons programs; most centralized command, control, and communications programs associated with nuclear weapons; all intelligence programs supporting nuclear weapons; some training; and the costs of monitoring, verifying, and complying with various nuclear arms control and reduction agreements. The most comprehensive unofficial studies (http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/nuclear_security_spending_complete_high.pdf, http://www.stimson.org/spotlight/resolving-ambiguity-costing-nuclear-weapons/, and http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2012_06/Resolving_the_Ambiguity_of_Nuclear_Weapons_Costs), relying on official data, have found that the actual costs to the DOD are currently at least $23 billion a year. While this is still a relatively small percentage of the overall DOD budget, it is significantly larger than executive branch, members of Congress, or the general public believes. The point here is not that $23 billion is too much (or too little), but that for decades people have been making decisions about nuclear weapons using faulty assumptions based on incomplete budgetary data.
        Your claims about the cost of maintaining the nuclear triad are also patently false. Firstly, my original article spoke about the cost of maintaining the ICBM and bomber legs of the nuclear triad, which are, as I stated, $1.1 bn per year and $2.5 bn per year, respectively. Those numbers come from MGEN William Chambers’ statement during the recent airpower conference hosted by the AFA. (URL: http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/November%202012/1112evolving.aspx)
        Reif’s diatribe was directed mainly at the ICBM leg, so I have demonstrated that maintaining it costs only $1.1 bn per year.
        (And since you love to invoke the “authority” argument, who is more qualified to speak on nuclear matters: MGEN Chambers or you and Reif? Don’t bother – that’s a rhetorical question. Of course MGEN Chambers is more qualified than both of you ignorant anti-defense hacks will ever be.)
        While this is not the complete cost of maintaining the entire nuclear triad – and I never claimed it is, as there are also costs of maintaining the SSBN leg, the warhead stockpile itself, the facilities, and the nuclear cleanup – this cost of maintaining its ICBM and bomber legs is far less than what pacifist organizations, including Carnegie, the ACA, and Ploughshares falsely claim. This is not surprising, as these three organizations all support deep defense cuts, including deep unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal and virtually cancelling any nuclear triad modernization effort, so they have an incentive to lie and are indeed lying. Which does not surprise me; these extremely liberal organizations have been lying about these issues for decades.

        And FYI, I’m familiar with Carnegie’s and Stimson’s “studies”. I read Carnegie’s garbage study over 3 years ago; it grossly overstates the cost of maintaining the triad by counting missile defense and nuclear nonproliferation programs’ costs in. These have nothing to do with America’s nuclear triad, even though they are all policies which, through various methods, attempt to reduce the foreign nuclear threat. Including these 2 programs’ costs in the cost of maintaining the nuclear triad is utterly dishonest and serves only to exaggerate the latter, which was presumably Carnegie’s goal.
        Stimson’s estimates are much more careful and don’t appear to be exaggerated. But guess what? When one doesn’t exaggerate, one finds that the cost of maintaining the ENTIRE nuclear arsenal, including the facilities and the warheads themselves, is only $31 bn (per Stimson), which is 4.8% of the entire FY2012 military budget. Less than 5%. That’s a drop in the bucket.
        Even Carnegie’s claimed $52 bn per year figure (estimated for FY2008) would be a drop in the bucket in the FY2008 (or FY2012) military budget.
        So Reif’s claim that the nuclear triad and the nuclear stockpile are too costly to maintain, and are siphoning money away from other defense programs, was a blatant lie, just as I said and proved. The contrary is the truth: it is other, far more costly, programs that are siphoning money away from nuclear modernization. The biggest culprit here is, of course, the $396 bn F-35.

        Fifth, I find puzzling your assertion that, “There is NO higher defense priority than nuclear deterrence, and can never be….” That’s definitely not the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the head of USSTRATCOM, the secretary of defense, or even Congress. You yourself noted that nuclear weapons consume a “paltry” amount of the defense budget. And the number of people working on or responsible for nuclear weapons is a fraction of what it was during the Cold War. We agree that nuclear weapons are really only good for one thing: deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and its allies. But there is no shortage of other military and security threats for which nuclear weapons are irrelevant.
        As for my statement that “There is NO higher defense priority than nuclear deterrence, and can never be”, it’s a fact – although one that’s inconvenient for you. There are many threats to America’s and its allies’ security, but NONE of them is as grave as that of a potential nuclear attack by Russia, China, or North Korea (and in the future, Iran). This is both because of nuclear weapons’ unrivalled power and because of the fact that at least 3 countries hostile to the West possess them – 2 of them in large quantitities. And this will remain true unless and until someone invents a weapon more powerful than a onuclear warhead. There are many other threats, of which I have written on my own website, but none of them is even close to being as grave as that of a nuclear attack by Russia, China, or (on a smaller scale) North Korea. That’s because no other threat or type of attack could do as much damage to the US, or kill as many Americans or citizens of allied countries, as a nuclear attack.
        Those who think that protecting America against the most catastrophic threat – that of a deliberate nuclear attack – is a lesser one than e.g. fighting primitive insurgents in Afghanistan have their priorities wrong. Fortunately, those people don’t include MGEN Chambers.

        Insisting that we focus the majority of our time, money, and personnel on nuclear weapons is counterproductive and would make the United States less secure and less able to confront and defeat the myriad security challenges it faces. You’re certainly free to push that argument, but you won’t find any serious support for it inside the military establishment.

        ZM: Contrary to your claim, I NEVER suggested that the US should devote “the majority of our time, money, and personnel” to nuclear weapons. Stop making stuff up. What I said was merely that 1) the cost of maintaining the nuclear arsenal is low and perfectly affordable; and 2) thus, the US should fully fund its maintenance and modernization. I did not say that the US should devote a MAJORITY, or anything close to a majority, of its military budget, personnel, and its DOD’s attention and time to nuclear weapons. Given that, by your own admission, these costs are only a small part of the total defense budget, they’re not siphoning and will not siphon money away from anything, and are thus not causing any other defense program to be underfunded.
        And as for maintaining a nuclear TRIAD, rather than a monad or dyad, the United States Senate recently affirmed that unanimously by writing it into the FY2013 NDAA.
        There’s a difference between designating something as a priority and spending the absolute majority of your budget on it. But as an ignoramus, you don’t know that difference.
        The nuclear-capable bombers the USAF now plans to develop and buy will be dual-capable, meaning they’ll also be able to conduct conventional long-range strike against any target on Earth, able to fly from bases far away from the enemy’s coasts. It is no coincidence that the USAF’s and DOD’s leadership, the USAF’s Navy colleagues, a solid majority in Congress, and employees of as divergent think-tanks as Stimson, the CNAS, the Heritage Foundation, and the CSBA all support it, although Stimson wants it to be only conventional-strike-capable, and it’s no coincidence that of the 7 teams the CSBA invited for its budget-cutting exercise, all 7 elected to keep or even hasten the LRSB program.

        Which brings me to my sixth and final point, your concern that President Obama is jeopardizing US security by reducing the size of the US nuclear arsenal below what’s necessary for deterrence. Because deterrence is a psychological construct based on what you believe will keep your opponent from attacking you, there is no single correct way to determine what’s “required.” People can and do come up with a range of wildly differing numbers based on a variety of assumptions.
        ZM: What is required to maintain nuclear deterrence changes over time and is never static. By my judgment, as well as that of the current STRATCOM commander Gen. Bob Kehler, and his predecessor, Gen. Kevin Chilton, the arsenal authorized by New START is the minimum needed right now. Gen. Kehler and Gen. Chilton have actually stated that this arsenal is “exactly what we need”. Russia currently has 1,492 deployed strategic nukes, 2,800 strategic nukes in total, 434 ICBMs, 12-14 SSBNs, and over 100 strategic bombers (Tu-95s, Tu-160s, Tu-22Ms, all armed with CMs) to deliver them, and untold thousands of tactical nukes on a wide range of delivery systems, so clearly the New-START-authorized arsenal is the bare minimum.
        A recent, very credible Heritage Foundation study by two very credible experts (Rebeccah Heinrichs and Baker Spring) has found that the US actually needs 2,700-3,000 deployed nuclear warheads right now.
        http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/11/deterrence-and-nuclear-targeting-in-the-21st-century

        But let’s set that aside and just concentrate on the actual numbers over the years. You write that the arsenal “consisted of over 33,000 warheads” in the 1960s. Per the official declassified data, the actual peak was 31,255 in 1967 (http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/10-05-03_Fact_Sheet_US_Nuclear_Transparency__FINAL_w_Date.pdf), but I won’t quibble with your number. But here’s the interesting thing. Between 1967 and 1988, there were no arms control agreements requiring the elimination of nuclear weapons and Congress was certainly not calling for this either. And yet the total size of the nuclear stockpile fell to 23,205 (8,050 weapons, a reduction of 26 percent). So what happened? Unilateral nuclear disarmament. The US military, on its own, got rid of the weapons by abandoning missions assigned to them, reducing the number of weapons required for certain missions, or assigning conventional weapons instead. And this happened while the Soviet and Chinese nuclear arsenals were expanding. Neither did that process end in 1988. It continues to the present day.

        ZM: Your recounting of the US nuclear arsenal’s shrinkage over the years is as irrelevant as it is misleading, as is your whitewashing of the cuts that were unilateral.
        Until the late 1970s and the 1980s, the US still had more nuclear weapons than the USSR, and these were deployed, for the most part, on MIRVable missiles as well as on bombers. It was not until at least the late 70s that the Soviet Union produced more warheads. But even by the late 1980s, many of its tactical warheads were obsolete and stored, awaiting dismantlement.
        The majority of the cuts in American and Soviet/Russian arsenals made between 1989 and 2001 were made as a result of the START-I treaty and as a result of Yeltsin’s Russia’s inability to financially sustain the still-huge nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union.
        So, after 1989, while America’s nuclear arsenal was declining significantly, so was Russia’s, for purely financial reasons (and, in the realm of strategic weapons, due to START-I). Meanwhile, China’s nuclear arsenal was, as of the 1990s, still too small to threaten the US, Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons at all until 1998, and North Korea not until 2006.
        President George H. W. Bush’s decision to unilaterally withdraw American tactical nukes from South Korea and deeply cut deployed tactical nukes in Europe were big blunders which have now come back to bite us big time.
        Withdrawing nukes from South Korea was a concession made to the DPRK in return for its useless promises to stop developing nuclear weapons. Those promises have now been broken. NK now has 13 warheads (per GlobalSecurity), tons of chemical weapons, and hundreds of SRBMs and MRBMs capable of striking SK and Japan at a minute’s notice, yet, the US has no tactical deterrent in SK thanks to Bush’s cretinous decision. And now, an emboldened DPRK is developing an ICBM that could hit the US (a test of that ICBM is scheduled for this month).
        Cutting tactical nukes in Europe deeply was also a big blunder. Now the US has far fewer of these in Europe (or in total) than Russia, and an emboldened Moscow now routinely makes threats to use nuclear weapons against the US or its European allies if the US deploys… a few unarmed, purely defensive, kinematic missile interceptors that are too slow to intercept Russian ICBMs or SLBMs.
        And that is just the foretaste of what unilateral nuclear disarmament would bring about.
        So your claim that we have managed to survive so far without nuclear blackmail is a blatant lie, just like the rest of your screed. Russia and North Korea blackmail us and our allies with nuclear weapons routinely.
        Since the end of the Cold War, the US has cut its nuclear arsenal deeply, but that has utterly failed to stop, and arguably contributed to, nuclear proliferation. China has grown its arsenal to at least 1,800 (and probably more) warheads by now; Pakistan, India, and NK have acquired nuclear weapons; and Iran is racing to acquire them.

        You argue that President Obama’s reductions are dangerous and unwarranted, but you ignore what his predecessors did.
        ZM: Because they ARE reckless, and if they are carried out, they will invite nuclear blackmail and possibly a nuclear first strike by Russia or China. That’s because Obama plans to cut America’s nuclear arsenal UNILATERALLY down to just (depending on what final option he settles on; most recent media reports say it will be 700) 1000, 700, or 300 nuclear warheads. This will completely undermine the US nuclear deterrent by making it vastly smaller than Russia’s and even China’s nuclear arsenal. And when that happens, don’t think that Moscow or Beijing would hesitate to carry out a nuclear first strike.
        One cannot deter Moscow and Beijing with just 1,000, 700, or 300 warheads while Russia has 2,800 strategic and goodness knows how many thousands of tactical warheads, and China has at least 1,800. A vastly smaller nuclear arsenal would be easy for Russia or even China to destroy in a first strike for the reasons I’ve already stated.
        But Obama doesn’t care, because he’s an extremely leftist idelogue, not a practical man.

        During George H.W. Bush’s four years in office, the total stockpile was reduced by 48 percent, from 22,217 to 11,511 weapons, thanks in part to his _unilateral_ decision to retire all ground-based nuclear weapons in Europe and South Korea and remove all nuclear weapons from naval surface vessels. George W. Bush went even further, cutting the total stockpile over eight years by 51 percent, from 10,526 to 5,113 weapons. (Bill Clinton, by contrast did almost nothing; when he came into office there were 11,511 warheads and when he left there were 10,526, decrease of 985 or 9 percent). President Obama started with 5,113 weapons, and while we don’t have official numbers beyond 2009, the best unofficial estimate (http://bos.sagepub.com/content/68/3/84.full.pdf+html) indicates there are about 5,000 still operational. The point is, the numbers have been falling for 45 years and yet somehow we’ve avoided both nuclear attack and nuclear blackmail. Neither have any of our allies sought to build their own nuclear arsenal.
        WRONG. Saudi Arabia has toyed with the idea of building its own nuclear weapons and, should the need arise, it could do so in a few years if aided by its close friend Pakistan. And during the Cold War, doubts about Washington’s commitment to protect Europe, as well as desires for independence from America’s umbrella, led Britain and France to develop their own arsenals, which they retain to this day. Furthermore, your rosy picture of Americas past nuclear reduction is also completely false, as these brought about negative nat-sec consequences.

        And now a few closing thoughts. In your first response to me on November 29, you insisted that “[n]uclear weapons did not cause the [Cuban Missile] crisis…” You’re certainly entitled to your belief, but this argument is akin to saying that 9/11 was caused by inadequate airport and airline security, ignoring the rather central role played by al Qaeda. We can debate what triggered the crisis, but nuclear weapons were the central players (you even acknowledge this when you say that nuclear weapons kept the crisis from escalating into a war). No nuclear weapons on either side = no Cuban Missile Crisis = no escalated risk of nuclear war. Might there have been another, conventional confrontation over Cuba in the absence of nuclear weapons? Possibly. Would that have risked the total destruction of the United States or the Soviet Union? No.

        ZM: No, nuclear weapons did not cause the CMC. Kennedy’s weakness did. If nuclear weapons did not exist, Khrushchev would still have had plenty to deploy to Cuba… but he wouldn’t need to, because he could simply order the Soviet Army’s massed tank and APC divisions and millions of Warsaw Pact soldiers armed with AK-47s to roll across Western Europe. NATO never had the conventional capability to stop such an invasion. The US would’ve avoided the same fate ONLY because of the ocean separating the US and Europe.
        And, if nuclear weapons didn’t exist, there would’ve still been a potential for a world war with devastating destruction for both sides, as evidenced by the multiple crises that DID happen during the CW and the two World Wars that happened BEFORE nuclear weapons were invented.
        Nukes prevented another World War from erupting.

        I also find it bizarre that in your November 30 response (largely reiterating your original post), you cite the Federation of American Scientists as a reliable source of information on the size of the Russian nuclear arsenal. But that information is collected and analyzed by none other than Hans Kristensen, whom you attack elsewhere (https://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/hans-m-kristensen-exposed-lifelong-anti-nuclear-pro-unilateral-disarmament-advocate/, https://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/the-real-size-of-chinas-nuclear-arsenal/) as a pacifist, a liberal, a hack, and a liar. You can’t have it both ways, Zbigniew, citing Kristensen’s work when it serves your purposes and denigrating him when it does not.

        ZM: As for the information on Russia’s strategic arsenal, it was confirmed by multiple other sources, including GlobalSecurity, the Heritage Foundation, the State Department, and others. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t rely on figures. And yes, Kristensen IS a pacifist, biased, liberal hack and a liar, as proven by me on one occassion and as evidenced by his CV (for his entire adult life, he’s been a biased pacifist activist).
        https://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/hans-m-kristensen-exposed-lifelong-anti-nuclear-pro-unilateral-disarmament-advocate/
        Moreover, he’s a Dane, not an American, so America’s defense policies are none of his business. America already has enough domestic pro-disarmament activists; it does not need to import more of them from abroad.

        And lastly, I must respond to your claim that I “don’t even have the guts to sign your comments here with your own name, instead cowardly hiding under pseudonym. You’re not even a real man. You don’t have the guts to defend your views with your own name.” Before I wrote my first response to you, I carefully reviewed everything you had ever written online, to better understand you. I quickly saw that your modus operandi is to brand anyone with whom you disagree as a “liar,” “anti-defense,” “pacifist,” “ignorant hack” et cetera. Of course, those were people whose identities you knew. So I decided to conduct a little experiment: would you react the same way to someone whom you did not know at all and had no way of knowing? Or would you challenge the arguments on the merits?
        ZM: Your nonsensical “arguments”, if they could even be called that way, have been challenged and utterly refuted on the “merits” (or rather, the lack thereof). I don’t call everyone whom I disagree with a “pacifist” or “an anti-defense hack”, only those who meet those descriptions. Only those who earn these descriptions are called by me that way. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people on the Internet who fit those descriptions perfectly – including you. People who, for purely ideological reasons, out of their delusional pacifist ideology, clamor for deep defense cuts and claim that such cuts would make America safer (despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary). People who know nothing about defense issues but somehow believe they are qualified to speak on these issues. People whose garbage claims about defense issues and disastrous defense cuts proposals are very easy to refute. People who are not interested in the truth and only want to see America’s defense gutted.
        People like POGO, TCS, CLW, and ACA members and other virulent anti-defense hacks. All of them want to weaken America’s defense, and the policies they support would achieve that goal easily.
        These people, including you, *are* ignorant pacifist anti-defense hacks.
        I call people and things what they are. I don’t mince words.
        I disagree with the CNAS, for example, on a dozen issues, but I don’t call them biased anti-defense hacks.

        Well, we know how that turned out. My original 611-word response to your attack on Kingston Reif actually said nothing about him or his organization, either in defense or opposition. I wrote entirely about two fundamental errors in your diatribe (one of which you still refuse to even acknowledge, possibly because it’s so embarrassing). Nevertheless, you immediately lumped me in with all your other enemies and calling me an “unruly child” and “ignorant” and labeling my work, about which you literally know nothing, as “leftist garbage.” You immediately assumed I was one of “them.” But in fact I could be a former Minuteman launch control officer. I could be a former naval submarine officer with deep knowledge of and experience with our undersea deterrent. I could be a former staffer with the J-5 Directorate in the Pentagon, or a congressional staff member serving on a committee with oversight responsibilities for nuclear forces, or a fellow historian. But none of that even crossed your mind, because all that mattered was that I had dared to disagree with a little of what you had written.

        ZM:You merited the anti-defense hack label from the beginning, because from your very first comment it was clear that you know absolutely nothing whatsoever about defense issues (but you think you know it all); you believe that nuclear weapons caused the CMC and that without them America and the world would’ve been much safer (when the contrary is the truth – refer, for example, the over 100 Soviet tank divisions stationed in CE during the CW); you are making stuff up as you go in order to smear nuclear weapons and mislead the public.
        Typical tactics of anti-defense hacks. And, what’s more, you didn’t (and still don’t) have the guts to even sign your ridiculous screeds with your real name, instead of hiding behind a pseudo.
        I can tell if I’m dealing with an ignorant anti-defense hack from the comments he/she writes.
        No former submarine officer (BTW, can there ever be a non-naval submarine officer? I didn’t know armies or air forces operated submarines), no former ICBM operator, and no current or former J-5 official would ever write a garbage comment like those you litter this thread with. No such person would write a garbage screed like Reif’s, either. And no such person would ever give you any credit whatsoever or hide behind a pseudonym.
        All of your comments since then have only confirmed my assessment as being correct.
        As all of your comments have revealed, you are utterly ignorant and dead wrong on the issues you pontificate here. You know nothing about these issues (but you think you know it all). You quote biased, pacifist organizations as authoritative sources. You make stuff up as you go. You have utterly failed to refute my arguments (even the one about the USAF’s ICBM fleet, because the issue of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal still remains). And when proven dead wrong, instead of admitting being wrong, you persist in your old errors while making new lies up.
        But, at least your garbage comments here have provided me (and I presume, others as well) with free entertainment :)

        That’s more than a little sad and not at all in keeping with the historians I know, all of whom relish the opportunity to exchange views and information and are open to revising their understanding of events when confronted with new facts. If you want to know who’s “utterly and irredeemably biased,” look in the mirror, my friend.

        • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

          You have found no mistakes in my article, only facts which you refuse to acknowledge. Your comments are nothing but garbage, full of false claims which only reveal your utter ignorance (or your propensity to lie) about defense issues, including those related to nuclear weapons.

          First, the CLW. Despite your whitewashing of that pacifist organization, it is pacifist. By your own admission, they advocate deep cuts in, and the eventual elimination of, all nuclear weapons. That is a classic PACIFIST policy, not supported by any nonpacifist. (Even Ronald Reagan envisioned a world without nuclear weapons only AFTER the US would deploy a massive missile defense system, which the CLW has always opposed.) But what you DON’T acknowledge is that the CLW supports deep, UNILATERAL cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal (and in all other American military capabilities and arsenals), as voiced by none other than CLW’s Kingston Reif and Robert Gard in TWO separate defense budget policy blueprints (one for Barney Frank’s SDTF, one for the CAP’s Task Force on the Unified Security Budget) and in an AOL Defense article written this spring (in May, IIRC). And, in the article that I utterly refuted in my piece, Reif proposed the unilateral elimination of all American ICBMs.

          So yes, despite your denials, the CLW DOES support deep, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent.

          They also categorically oppose virtually every nuclear weapon or delivery system the US has been or is pursuing to modernize its arsenal, including the B-2 bomber, the Long Range Strike Bomber, the MX Peacekeeper missile, the planned replacement for the Minuteman III, the RRW, the RNEP, and modernizing the B61 bomb. (But they don’t oppose any Russian or Chinese nuclear modernization programs, including the RS-24 Yars ICBM, the planned new “Son of Satan” ICBM, the PAK DA bomber, the Borei class of SSBNs, the Jin class of SSBNs, the JL-2 SLBM, or the DF-31 and DF-41 ICBMs.)

          So despite your pious denials, the CLW DOES advocate deep, UNILATERAL cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal – and also opposes any meaningful modernization of the arsenal that remains.

          And cutting America’s nuclear deterrent, with the eventual goal of elimination, is a cretinious policy which is only making America less secure.

          Secondly, regarding the CMC, ONLY President Kennedy could’ve authorized a nuclear strike, as only he had the nuclear football and the codes to launch America’s nuclear arsenal (besides the few select officers carrying the football for him). It was actually JFK who created the football as we know it today, and it was precisely to prevent anyone from launching a nuclear strike without his authorization. Furthermore, it is a standing policy dating back to at least the Kennedy years that for nuclear weapons to be used by the US, both the President and the SECDEF must consent.

          As for Khrushchev, he was the only one with the access to the Soviet nuclear football (yes, they did have their own, and the Russians still do), and the only one knowing the launch codes. So without his authorization, the Soviet Union would not have used nuclear weapons. And despite being a ruthless Communist, he was not a suicidal fanatic. His generals and marshals were even less eager for war: they actually considered the CMC to be a needless provocation of the US (with the defense minister, Rodion Malinovsky, being the most outspoken critic of this deployment).

          So no, the risk of nuclear weapons being used during the CMC was not high. It was close to zero, given that both sides valued survival more than anything else.

          As for relying on a dyad or a monad being a bad policy inviting a nuclear first strike, yes, it does carry a heavy risk of inviting a first strike. Like I said, destroying a few publicly-known bomber bases with the bombers on the ground, destroying a meagre 2 unhardened submarine bases, and sinking a few SSBNs would be quite easy because of the small number of targets involved. (The CLW, POGO, and other pacifist groups advocate deep cuts in America’s SSBN fleet, down to just 6-8 boats depending on the specific group, meaning that no more than 4 SSBNs would be at sea at any given time, while the rest would be in overhaul.)

          Secondly, Ohio class SSBNs are 1970s’ vintage technology, are very noisy, and far easier to detect than you or the US Navy realize. (The USN is on record woefully understating the capabilities of America’s enemies and getting rude awakenings numerous times, so they’re not infallible.) Due to being NOISY, they are easy to detect. And during the Cold War, Soviet SSNs managed to track American SSBNs, and practiced such scenarios, a number of times. So SSBNs are not that hard to find.

          Thirdly, the preparations for such a strike would not need to be massive. Russia currently has 1,492 nuclear warheads actively deployed, most of them on ICBMs and SLBMs that could (and would) be launched at a moment’s notice if America were to make the foolish mistake of cutting its own nuclear arsenal unilaterally and deeply. And given how ineffective the USIC is (as proven numerous times during and after the CW, from failing to detect the NK invasion to underestimating Sadat’s buildup in the 1970s to underestimating the Soviet nuclear arsenal’s size by 20,000 warheads), I wouldn’t be surprised if… the USIC were taken completely by surprise by such preparations. :)

          Fourthly, Russia is not the only country capable of conducting such a strike. China can also do that. It has far more nuclear weapons and delivery systems than is widely believed or reported; Russian general Viktor Yesin has estimated in an unbiased, impartial study that China actually has 1,800 nuclear warheads, 900 of them deployed. Former chief DOD nuclear strategist Dr Philip Karber, now a GU professor, has estimated China’s arsenal to consist of 3,000 nuclear warheads. It is publicly known that China has 36 MIRVable DF-5 heavy ICBMs, at least 30 MaRVable DF-31/31A ICBMs, a small number of DF-41 heavy ICBMs, and of course, a large fleet attack submarines (to sink American SSBNs), including a growing number of SSNs. Even if China could not undertake such an attack, the fact that Russia can is a sufficient threat and a sufficient reason not to do anything unilaterally.

          As for the “devastating conventional firepower” of the US and NATO – don’t make me laugh. Thanks to successive defense cuts, America’s conventional power is dwindling fast (and under sequestration it will erode even faster). Already its sole aircraft capable of penetrating Russian or Chinese airspace are its 20 B-2s and 180 F-22s, with F-35s years away from entering service and not being all-aspect LO. Most current USAF As for European military capabilities, don’t even get me started on Europe’s military weakness.

          In any case, conventional weapons are not, and will never be, a substitute for nuclear weapons, as recognized by the Heritage Foundation and former STRATCOM commander Gen. Kevin Chilton:

          “In addition to their physical qualities, nuclear weapons have unique psychological effects. This is because deterrence has everything to do with creating a calculus in the minds of U.S. enemies that attacking the U.S. is not worth the cost. The extreme destructive power of nuclear weapons make their possible employment a more persuasive deterrent. In 2010, General Kevin P. Chilton, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, warned, “We have to be careful when we start talking about one-for-one substitutions of conventional weapons for nuclear weapons,” because “the nuclear weapon has a deterrent factor that far exceeds a conventional threat.””

          The 200 B61 warheads deployed in Europe are a drop in the bucket compared to Russia’s huge tactical nuclear arsenal, and are deployed at just a few unhardened bases very well known to Russia, and would thus be easy targets for Russia in a first strike.

          A small nuclear arsenal (or a monad) would not only be easy to destroy in a first strike, it would also be very inflexible in terms of the retaliatory options it could offer (a very important negative, as underlined by Dr Keith Payne[1]) and would be unable to strike most (let alone all) of Russia’s or China’s military assets, and would thus have to be aimed at civilian populations, a policy that most Americans would not accept, a sitting US President would probably refuse to execute, and therefore, not a credible retaliatory policy at all. That would only invite an enemy nuclear first strike, since the enemy would know that 1) the President and the American people would not accept retaliation against civilians, and 2) most of his military assets would remain unharmed. As the Heritage Foundation explained so well here.

          Already during the last several years several NATO members have warned the US against further reductions of its nuclear deterrent, saying that they would threaten their security and NATO cohesion. Japan and South Korea have, during the last 6 years, repeatedly underlined the importance they attach to America’s nuclear umbrella, as Dr Payne mentions here.

          So like I said, if the US deeply and unilaterally cuts its nuclear arsenal, it will be inviting a nuclear first strike by Russia.

          Your claims about the cost of maintaining the nuclear triad are also patently false. Firstly, my original article spoke about the cost of maintaining the ICBM and bomber legs of the nuclear triad, which are, as I stated, $1.1 bn per year and $2.5 bn per year, respectively. Those numbers come from MGEN William Chambers’ statement during the recent airpower conference hosted by the AFA. (URL: http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2012/November%202012/1112evolving.aspx)
          (And since you love to invoke the “authority” argument, who is more qualified to speak on nuclear matters: MGEN Chambers or you and Reif? Don’t bother – that’s a rhetorical question. Of course MGEN Chambers is more qualified than both of you ignorant anti-defense hacks will ever be.)

          Reif’s diatribe also spoke primarily of the cost of maintaining the nuclear triad, but his main target was the ICBM leg. Unfortunately for him (and for you) maintaining it costs only $1.1 bn per year, as confirmed by MGEN Chambers and, independently, by CSBA budget analyst Todd Harrison in a YT interview for the Time magazine, where he said that eliminating all ICBMs would save only $1-2 bn per year and that bombers are needed for both nuclear and conventional missions.

          While this is not the complete cost of maintaining the entire nuclear triad – and I never claimed it is, as there are also costs of maintaining the SSBN leg, the warhead stockpile itself, the facilities, and the nuclear cleanup – it is far less than what pacifist organizations, including Carnegie, the ACA, and Ploughshares falsely claim. This is not surprising, as these three organizations all support deep defense cuts, including deep unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal and virtually cancelling any nuclear triad modernization effort, so they have an incentive to lie and are indeed lying. Which does not surprise me; these extremely liberal organizations have been lying about these issues for decades.

          And FYI, I’m familiar with Carnegie’s and Stimson’s “studies”. I read Carnegie’s garbage study over 3 years ago; it grossly overstates the cost of maintaining the triad by counting missile defense and nuclear nonproliferation programs’ costs in. These have nothing to do with America’s nuclear triad, even though they are all policies which, through various methods, attempt to reduce the foreign nuclear threat. Including these 2 programs’ costs in the cost of maintaining the nuclear triad is utterly dishonest and serves only to exaggerate the latter, which was presumably Carnegie’s goal.

          Stimson’s estimates are much more careful and don’t appear to be exaggerated. But guess what? When one doesn’t exaggerate, one finds that the cost of maintaining the ENTIRE nuclear arsenal, including the facilities and the warheads themselves, is only $31 bn (per Stimson), which is 4.8% of the entire FY2012 military budget. Less than 5%. That’s a drop in the bucket.

          Even Carnegie’s claimed $52 bn per year figure (estimated for FY2008) would be a drop in the bucket in the FY2008 (or FY2012) military budget.

          So Reif’s claim that the nuclear triad and the nuclear stockpile are too costly to maintain, and are siphoning money away from other defense programs, was a blatant lie, just as I said and proved. The contrary is the truth: it is other, far more costly, programs that are siphoning money away from nuclear modernization. The biggest culprit here is, of course, the $396 bn F-35 (a weapon that I used to support, but am now very critical of).

          As for my statement that “There is NO higher defense priority than nuclear deterrence, and can never be”, it’s a fact – although one that’s inconvenient for you. There are many threats to America’s and its allies’ security, but NONE of them is as grave as that of a potential nuclear attack by Russia, China, or North Korea (and in the future, Iran). This is both because of nuclear weapons’ unrivalled power and because of the fact that at least 3 countries hostile to the West possess them – 2 of them in large quantitities. And this will remain true unless and until someone invents a weapon more powerful than a onuclear warhead. There are many other threats, of which I have written on my own website, but none of them is even close to being as grave as that of a nuclear attack by Russia, China, or (on a smaller scale) North Korea. That’s because no other threat or type of attack could do as much damage to the US, or kill as many Americans or citizens of allied countries, as a nuclear attack.

          Those who think that protecting America against the most catastrophic threat – that of a deliberate nuclear attack – is a lesser one than e.g. fighting primitive insurgents in Afghanistan have their priorities wrong. Fortunately, those people don’t include MGEN Chambers.

          And contrary to your claim, I never suggested that the US should devote “the majority of our time, money, and personnel” to nuclear weapons. Stop making stuff up. What I said was that 1) the cost of maintaining the nuclear arsenal is low and perfectly affordable; and 2) thus, the US should fully fund its maintenance and modernization. Given that, by your own admission, these costs are only a small part of the total defense budget, they’re not siphoning and will not siphon money away from anything, and are thus not causing any other defense program to be underfunded.

          And as for maintaining a nuclear TRIAD, rather than a monad or dyad, the United States Senate recently affirmed that unanimously by writing it into the FY2013 NDAA.

          There’s a difference between designating something as a priority and spending the absolute majority of your budget on it. But as an ignoramus, you don’t know that difference.

          The nuclear-capable bombers the USAF now plans to develop and buy will be dual-capable, meaning they’ll also be able to conduct conventional long-range strike against any target on Earth, able to fly from bases far away from the enemy’s coasts. It is no coincidence that the USAF’s and DOD’s leadership, the USAF’s Navy colleagues, a solid majority in Congress, and employees of as divergent think-tanks as Stimson, the CNAS, the Heritage Foundation, and the CSBA all support it, although Stimson wants it to be only conventional-strike-capable, and it’s no coincidence that of the 7 teams the CSBA invited for its budget-cutting exercise, all 7 elected to keep or even hasten the LRSB program.

          Your argument that “there is no shortage of threats for which nuclear weapons are irrelevant” is a non sequitur. There’s also no shortage of threats against which ASW aircraft, minesweepers, aircraft carriers, helicopters, fighters, and tanks are irrelevant. But that doesn’t mean they are unneeded, or that America can afford to make deep cuts in her inventories of these weapons. Each of these and other types of weapons protects America and its allied against certain threats, against certain types of enemy weapons and tactics; each of them has its own valuable mission to perform. (Although for pacifists, no weapon has a valuable mission to do.)
          Likewise, nuclear weapons have their own valuable roles to play, and they protect America against three types of threats: 1) nuclear attack; 2) nuclear proliferation; 3) conventional attack. And doing it very well.
          Only the nuclear deterrent can protect America against the first two threats. This includes nuclear proliferation, because if the US nuclear deterrent becomes inadequate – and it will if it is significantly cut further – America’s allies and enemies alike will develop their own arsenals.

          As for the third threat, the nuclear deterrent is needed to protect against it as well, as America’s conventional capabilities are dwindling fast, due to both budget/programmatic cuts and downright neglect. To take but one example, production of the only fighter in the world capable of defeating the PAK FA and the J-20, the F-22 Raptor, has been killed, and all eggs have been put in the Junk Strike Fighter/Super Bug basket. Neither of these aircraft stands any chance against the PAK FA or the J-20.

          As for the size of the nuclear arsenal, yes, it’s true that what is required to maintain nuclear deterrence changes over time and is never static. By my judgment, as well as that of the current STRATCOM commander Gen. Bob Kehler, and his predecessor, Gen. Kevin Chilton, the arsenal authorized by New START is the minimum needed right now. Gen. Kehler and Gen. Chilton have actually stated that this arsenal is “exactly what we need”. Russia currently has 1,492 deployed strategic nukes, 2,800 strategic nukes in total, 434 ICBMs, 12-14 SSBNs, and over 100 strategic bombers (Tu-95s, Tu-160s, Tu-22Ms, all armed with CMs) to deliver them, and untold thousands of tactical nukes on a wide range of delivery systems, so clearly the New-START-authorized arsenal is the bare minimum.
          A recent, very credible Heritage Foundation study by two very credible experts (Rebeccah Heinrichs and Baker Spring) has found that the US actually needs 2,700-3,000 deployed nuclear warheads right now.

          http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/11/deterrence-and-nuclear-targeting-in-the-21st-century

          They also acknowledge the fact that having a vastly smaller nuclear arsenal than the enemy would invite an enemy’s first strike by making that smaller arsenal easier to destroy:

          “if the U.S. maintains a minimal force, it would lack survivability and likely would be completely destroyed by the enemy’s first strike in the event deterrence does fail.”

          Your claim that so far none of America’s allies have developed their own nuclear weapons or raised concern about cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal is also false for all of the reasons stated above. And, as three CSBA analysts (Eric Edelman, Andrew Krepinevich, and Evan B. Montgomery) have pointed out in their 2010 Foreign Affairs article, if the US makes further cuts in its nuclear deterrent beyond New START, and if Iran develops its own nuclear weapons, America’s Persian Gulf allies will be forced to build their own nuclear arsenals, thus making the proliferation problem much worse – in the most volatile region of the world, where we can least afford it and where BM flight times are measured in less than 10 minutes.

          Your recounting of the US nuclear arsenal’s shrinkage over the years is as irrelevant as it is misleading, as is your whitewashing of the cuts that were unilateral.

          Until the late 1970s and the 1980s, the US still had more nuclear weapons than the USSR, and these were deployed, for the most part, on MIRVable missiles as well as on bombers. It was not until at least the late 70s that the Soviet Union produced more warheads. But even by the late 1980s, many of its tactical warheads were obsolete and stored, awaiting dismantlement.
          The majority of the cuts in American and Soviet/Russian arsenals made between 1989 and 2001 were made as a result of the START-I treaty and as a result of Yeltsin’s Russia’s inability to financially sustain the still-huge nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union.

          So, after 1989, while America’s nuclear arsenal was declining significantly, so was Russia’s, for purely financial reasons (and, in the realm of strategic weapons, due to START-I). Meanwhile, China’s nuclear arsenal was, as of the 1990s, still too small to threaten the US, Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons at all until 1998, and North Korea not until 2006.

          President George H. W. Bush’s decision to unilaterally withdraw American tactical nukes from South Korea and deeply cut deployed tactical nukes in Europe were big blunders which have now come back to bite us big time.

          Withdrawing nukes from South Korea was a concession made to the DPRK in return for its useless promises to stop developing nuclear weapons. Those promises have now been broken. NK now has 13 warheads (per GlobalSecurity), thousands of tons of chemical weapons, and hundreds of SRBMs and MRBMs capable of striking SK and Japan at a minute’s notice, yet, the US has no tactical deterrent in SK thanks to Bush’s cretinous decision. And now, an emboldened DPRK is developing an ICBM that could hit the US (a test of that ICBM is scheduled for this month).

          Cutting tactical nukes in Europe deeply was also a big blunder. Now the US has far fewer of these in Europe (or in total) than Russia, and an emboldened Moscow now routinely makes threats to use nuclear weapons against the US or its European allies if the US deploys… a few unarmed, purely defensive, kinematic missile interceptors that are too slow to intercept Russian ICBMs or SLBMs.
          And that is just the foretaste of what unilateral nuclear disarmament would bring about.

          So your claim that we have managed to survive so far without nuclear blackmail is a blatant lie, just like the rest of your screed. Russia and North Korea blackmail us and our allies with nuclear weapons routinely.

          Since the end of the Cold War, the US has cut its nuclear arsenal deeply, but that has utterly failed to stop, and arguably contributed to, nuclear proliferation. China has grown its arsenal to at least 1,800 (and probably more) warheads by now; Pakistan, India, and NK have acquired nuclear weapons; and Iran is racing to acquire them.

          As for Obama’s planned, reckless nuclear arsenal cuts: yes, they are reckless, and if they are carried out, they will invite nuclear blackmail and possibly a nuclear first strike by Russia or China. That’s because Obama plans to cut America’s nuclear arsenal UNILATERALLY down to just (depending on what final option he settles on; most recent media reports say it will be 700) 1000, 700, or 300 nuclear warheads. This will completely undermine the US nuclear deterrent by making it vastly smaller than Russia’s and even China’s nuclear arsenal. And when that happens, don’t think that Moscow or Beijing would hesitate to carry out a nuclear first strike.

          One cannot deter Moscow and Beijing with just 1,000, 700, or 300 warheads while Russia has 2,800 strategic and goodness knows how many thousands of tactical warheads, and China has at least 1,800. A vastly smaller nuclear arsenal would be easy for Russia or even China to destroy in a first strike for the reasons I’ve already stated.

          But Obama doesn’t care, because he’s an extremely leftist idelogue, not a practical man.

          No, nuclear weapons did not cause the CMC. Kennedy’s weakness did. If nuclear weapons did not exist, Khrushchev would still have had plenty to deploy to Cuba… but he wouldn’t need to, because he could simply order the Soviet Army’s massed tank and APC divisions and millions of Warsaw Pact soldiers armed with AK-47s to roll across Western Europe. NATO never had the conventional capability to stop such an invasion. The US would’ve avoided the same fate ONLY because of the ocean separating the US and Europe.

          And, if nuclear weapons didn’t exist, there would’ve still been a potential for a world war with devastating destruction for both sides, as evidenced by the multiple crises that DID happen during the CW and the two World Wars that happened BEFORE nuclear weapons were invented.

          Nuclear weapons have, since 1945, prevented another World War from erupting by forcing major powers to restrain themselves at least a little and not start wars among each other. Without nuclear weapons, there would’ve been no such incentive and the world would’ve seen another world war – if not during the Korean War, then by the Berlin Crisis of 1961, when Soviet and American tanks faced each other on the streets of Berlin, a full year before the CMC.

          Then, as during the rest of the CW, nuclear weapons forced both sides to restrain themselves at least a little.

          As for the information on Russia’s strategic arsenal, it was confirmed by multiple other sources, including GlobalSecurity, the Heritage Foundation, the State Department, and others. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t rely on figures. And yes, Kristensen IS a pacifist, biased, liberal hack and a liar, as proven by me on one occassion and as evidenced by his CV (for his entire adult life, he’s been a biased pacifist activist).
          https://zbigniewmazurak.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/hans-m-kristensen-exposed-lifelong-anti-nuclear-pro-unilateral-disarmament-advocate/

          Moreover, he’s a Dane, not an American, so America’s defense policies are none of his business. America already has enough domestic pro-disarmament activists; it does not need to import more of them from abroad.

          And no, I don’t call everyone whom I disagree with a “pacifist” or “an anti-defense hack”, only those who meet those descriptions. Only those who earn these descriptions are called by me that way. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people on the Internet who fit those descriptions perfectly – including you. People who, for purely ideological reasons, out of their delusional pacifist ideology, clamor for deep defense cuts and claim that such cuts would make America safer (despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary). People who know nothing about defense issues but somehow believe they are qualified to speak on these issues. People whose garbage claims about defense issues and disastrous defense cuts proposals are very easy to refute. People who are not interested in the truth and only want to see America’s defense gutted.

          People like POGO, TCS, CLW, and ACA members and other virulent anti-defense hacks. All of them want to weaken America’s defense, and the policies they support would achieve that goal easily.
          These people, including you, *are* ignorant pacifist anti-defense hacks.
          I call people and things what they are. I don’t mince words.

          I disagree with the CNAS, for example, on a dozen issues, but I don’t call them biased anti-defense hacks.

          You merited the anti-defense hack label from the beginning, because from your very first comment it was clear that you know absolutely nothing whatsoever about defense issues (but you think you know it all); you believe that nuclear weapons caused the CMC and that without them America and the world would’ve been much safer (when the contrary is the truth – refer, for example, the over 100 Soviet tank divisions stationed in CE during the CW); you are making stuff up as you go in order to smear nuclear weapons and mislead the public.

          Typical tactics of anti-defense hacks. And, what’s more, you didn’t (and still don’t) have the guts to even sign your ridiculous screeds with your real name, instead of hiding behind a pseudo.
          I can tell if I’m dealing with an ignorant anti-defense hack from the comments he/she writes.

          No former submarine officer (BTW, can there ever be a non-naval submarine officer? I didn’t know armies or air forces operated submarines), no former ICBM operator, and no current or former J-5 official would ever write a garbage comment like those you litter this thread with. No such person would write a garbage screed like Reif’s, either. And no such person would ever give you any credit whatsoever or hide behind a pseudonym.

          All of your comments since then have only confirmed my assessment as being correct.

          As all of your comments have revealed, you are utterly ignorant and dead wrong on the issues you pontificate here. You know nothing about these issues (but you think you know it all). You quote biased, pacifist organizations as authoritative sources. You make stuff up as you go. You have utterly failed to refute my arguments (even the one about the USAF’s ICBM fleet, because the issue of Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal still remains). And when proven dead wrong, instead of admitting being wrong, you persist in your old errors while making new lies up.

          But, at least your garbage comments here have provided me (and I presume, others as well) with free entertainment :)

          [1] Keith B. Payne, Maintaining Flexible and Resilient Capabilities for Nuclear Deterrence, “Strategic Studies Quarterly”, Summer 2011, p. 14.

  2. Dr. Atomic says:

    Rebutting all the falsehoods and unsupported assertions in your tendentious article would require more time than I have, so I’ll restrict myself to the two most glaring errors in your argument, which tend to undercut everything else you’ve written.

    1. “The Cuban Missile Crisis, which Reif invokes, only proves the value of nuclear weapons. They didn’t cause the crisis, and they didn’t make it grave. OTOH, they prevented war by forcing Washington and Moscow to negotiate and to make a difficult compromise (Castro stays in Cuba, Moscow withdraws its missiles from the island, Washington withdraws its missiles from Turkey and Italy). Had nuclear weapons not existed, the US and the USSR would’ve had little or no incentive to make such a difficult compromise and would’ve likely gone to war. ONLY NUCLEAR WEAPONS prevented war in that case.”

    The Cuban Missile Crisis was _all about_ nuclear weapons. You’re evidently too young to have lived through it, but did you not pay attention to any of the excellent commentaries or documentaries or analyses last month marking the fiftieth anniversary? The crisis was triggered when Nikita Khrushchev unwisely decided to try and balance the threat posed by US Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles based in Turkey by secretly deploying Soviet IRBMs to Cuba. These weapons, Khrushchev believed, along with some 100 tactical nuclear weapons (cruise missiles, short-range rockets, and bombs), would not only give the Soviet Union bargaining leverage over the United States in Berlin and elsewhere but would also protect client-state Cuba from US attack. Let’s just say that things didn’t work out as he intended, because the United States discovered the missiles before they were deployed, touching off the most dangerous phase of the crisis.

    If nuclear weapons did not exist, there would have been no crisis and absolutely no risk of nuclear war, either deliberate or accidental. Of this there can be no doubt. Khrushchev would not have felt threatened and he would have had nothing to deploy in Cuba. Moreover, you overlook the fact that the US nuclear arsenal utterly failed to deter the Soviet Union from making such a risky move; in fact, the way US nuclear weapons were deployed so close to the Soviet border encouraged Khrushchev to try something similar in the US backyard. Yes, the crisis ended short of a full-blown war, but historians and many of the key participants agree that this was _despite_ the existence of nuclear weapons, not because of them. Or to put it another way, at multiple times during the darkest days of the crisis, things very nearly went disastrously wrong _because_ of how nuclear weapons were deployed on both sides coupled with the inability of Kennedy and Khrushchev to control every aspect of their respective militaries. Check out the history please, it’s illuminating.

    2. “The claim that they [ICBMs] would have to fly over Russia to reach their targets and would thus not be used in a conflict with most potential enemies is also completely false: it’s wrong in the case of China (whose bases and troops are located mostly in its south and southeast), and Iran.”

    This demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding of basic geography. Please go look at a globe (or Google Earth). It’s okay, I’ll wait. Now, find Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and North Dakota. That’s where our 450 Minuteman III ICBMs are deployed. Now trace a path over the north pole from those states to anywhere in Iran or China or North Korea (or Pakistan, for that matter). I defy you to find a way to fly an ICBM to any part of any of those “potential enemies” without overflying Russia. It cannot be done, Zbigniew.

    • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

      There are no „falsehoods” or „unsupported assertions” in my article, only inconvienient truths which you, Reif, and other pacifists and anti-defense hacks don’t like.
      The Cuban Missile Crisis started not because the US deployed missiles in Turkey and Italy (it did so in 1958; if responding to it were the real cause of Soviet SS-4 deployment in Cuba, they would’ve done so long ago), but because the US President of the time was a weak leftist Democrat who showed himself to Khrushchev to be very weak, thus emboldening the Soviet leader to push him around. Kennedy blew the Bay of Pigs invasion (failing to support Cuban emigres trying to liberate their country), allowed Khrushchev to verbally beat him up in Vienna in 1961 (Kennedy himself admitted, “He beat the hell out of me”), and responded ineffectually to the Soviet blockade of West Berlin and the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961.
      No, American missiles in Turkey and Italy did not cause Khrushchev to deploy nuclear weapons in Cuba. Kennedy’s weakness did.
      That’s what you get when you elect a weak Democrat as President, as Khrushchev demonstrated aptly in the 1960s and as Vladimir Putin has demonstrated several times already.
      Nuclear weapons did not cause the crisis – Kennedy’s weakness and Khrushchev’s aggressiveness did.
      Nuclear weapons did, however, PREVENT the crisis from escalating into a war, because, thanks to them, both Washington and Moscow knew they could not afford to start a nuclear war, because that would mean committing national suicide, and they valued self-preservation more than anything else. But it was ONLY because of nuclear weapons, as only these weapons had and still have the power to threaten the very existence of a country. Conventional weapons lack such power, and always will.
      Nuclear weapons are the asset – the SOLE asset – which prevented the Cold War from escalating into a Hot War over 46 years, from the dispute over Iran in 1945-1946, to the Berlin blockade of 1948-1949, to the Chinese provocations against Taiwan in the 1950s, to the Berlin Crisis of 1961, to the CMC of 1962, to the Six Day War, to the Yom Kippur War, through 1991 (the collapse of the USSR). Nuclear weapons prevented all of these (and other) crises from escalating into war for the same reason: because the leaders of the countries involved (including the US and Communist countries), always knew that, whatever they wanted, NOTHING was worth starting a nuclear war over it. Not even a huge plot of land. This is also why NATO was able to keep its members secure and keep the peace in Europe for 42 years of the Cold War (1949-1991) despite the Soviet Union’s overwhelming advantage in conventional weapons: because NATO (primarily the US) had a sufficient nuclear deterrent.
      Your claim that “If nuclear weapons did not exist, there would have been no crisis and absolutely no risk of nuclear war, either deliberate or accidental. Of this there can be no doubt.” is utterly false, just like the rest of your screed. If nuclear weapons did not exist, there would’ve been no nuclear war, but there sure as hell would’ve been a bloody conventional war.
      As a historian, I know the subject far better than you or Reif ever will, so listen VERY CAREFULLY, son. Throughout human history, from the early years of the ancient times to WW2, humans went to war with no restraint whatsoever and no consideration for the stakes involved or the possible casualties and destruction. Furthermore, they usually went to war for much lighter reasons than nuclear weapons being deployed offshore. Sometimes, it was out of sheer greed for wealth and territories, sometimes to kill other (hated) peoples, sometimes to gain domestic legitimacy or unify the people against a common enemy, and sometimes simply because of petty insults. Human history from the ancient times through WW2 is one of incessant war usually waged for light reasons. This included many devastating wars between what were, during those eras, the world’s (or a region’s/continent’s) major powers.
      Since the advent of nuclear weapons, however, war between major powers has become a thing completely out of question – and it is SOLELY because of nuclear weapons. Because all major powers (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain) know that, whatever their disputes may be, and whatever they may desire to gain, nothing is worth starting a nuclear wear over.
      Nuclear weaponry is quite literally a self-enforcing restraining order of sorts.
      Conventional weapons are far less powerful than nuclear weapons and do not have that restraining capability.
      Since the advent of nukes, the US and its NATO allies have enjoyed almost complete security and peace, except when they involved themselves in dubious nationbuilding crusades abroad. And that peace and security was solely BECAUSE of nuclear weapons.
      If nuclear weapons did not exist, Khrushchev would’ve still had plenty to deploy in Cuba: conventional bombers and BMs, long-range artillery, fighters, warships… In 1970 the Soviets actually tried to build a submarine base at Cienfuegos Bay in Cuba, but President Nixon dissuaded them from that.
      If nuclear weapons did not exist, Moscow would not have needed to deploy anything in Cuba, however: it could have simply ordered its massive tank armies to sweep across Europe, conquering all of the Continent and ordering VVS Tu-4, Tu-16, Tu-22M and Tu-95 bombers to bomb Britain into oblivion. Without nuclear weapons, there would’ve been nothing to deter Moscow from doing so. Western conventional armies in Europe were inferior, in quantity and at some points also in quality, to their Soviet/Warsaw Pact opponents during all of the Cold War.
      ONLY nuclear weapons prevented a Soviet conquest of Europe.
      You’re worse informed of 20th century history than the Russians and the Chinese. But at least they have an excuse – they’re simply not told what happened. Go back to school and start studying history.
      And I don’t care what most historians and politicians say about the CMC. I’m a historian myself, and a damn good one, and I also understand human psychology better than most of my peers ever will. Thus, I understand what causes or dissuades human behaviors.

      • Dr. Atomic says:

        Notwithstanding your arrogant and needlessly vituperative response, it is good to see you at least tacitly acknowledge that the Earth is indeed round. That’s a start.

        • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

          It’s not arrogant. It does smack you down, though, like an unruly child, which is exactly what you are.

          It would be good to see you at least tacitly acknowledge Russia’s huge nuclear arsenal, its huge ICBM fleet that can carry far more warheads than the US ICBM fleet, and the low cost of maintaining the ICBM fleet. But expecting that of an unruly child would be unrealistic.

          • Dr. Atomic says:

            Zbigniew, you personify arrogance. You have no idea who I am, yet you not only insist that you cannot possibly be wrong (and also fail to acknowledge when you clearly are) but that you know more than I do. Bravo.

            Not that I expect you will modify your behavior, but for the record I’m at least twice your age, I have nearly 30 years of experience analyzing and writing about nuclear weapons policy (compared to your five years’ experience), I’ve written far more extensively about these matters than you have (and for a much broader range of national and international publications), and unlike your little self-published book, my lengthy, peer-reviewed, and award-winning book was issued by a serious and well-respected publisher. But that’s nothing compared to your awesome intellect, right?

            Seriously, if anyone is acting like “an unruly child,” it’s you. Keep up the good work.

          • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

            You are the one here who personifies arrogance. You’re trying to compensate with your arrogance for your appalling ignorance of defense (incl. nuclear), geopolitical, and human psychological issues.

            I didn’t say I’m always right. But I would say that I’m right about 95% of the time when I speak on defense issues. :)

            You know nothing about me. And I don’t care how long and how extensively you may have written about the issues being discussed here. It doesn’t change the fact that you are FACTUALLY WRONG by a huge margin and that you’ve shown utter and appalling ignorance. And it is, IMO, immoral to speak on issues of which one is ignorant.

            Accordingly, your only response here (except your first, very pathetic, and factually wrong comment) has been to childishly attack me ad hominem, instead of trying to refute my points. But that’s understandable – because my points were, and still are, factually correct. So I understand why you’ve resorted to childish AH attacks and petty insults.

            And hence, I said you’re behaving like an unruly child. Which you are.

            So yes, your 30 years of writing leftist garbage about nuclear weapons, including your precious little book, are worth nothing. And they are nothing compared to mine, the Heritage Foundation’s, the AEI’s, the FPI’s, and other credible analysts’ works. Mine and these entities’ unbiased, holistic analysis is a stark contrast to the leftist, biased garbage that you and the socialist CLW have been spouting for decades. The most important difference is that neither those think tanks nor myself profess any predetermined beliefs that something must be maintained just because it should be, or just because we “like it”. We analyze weapon systems and their employment strategies and ask ourselves: “Do they work? How well do they? Have they worked well in the past? What are the prospects of them serving America well in the future? How much do/will they cost?” Etc.

            Meanwhile, you and your beloved CLW always advocate deep, unilateral cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent not based on any rationale, but out of your leftist pro-unilateral-disarmament beliefs and your irredeemable bias against American nuclear weapons.

            But while you do write a lot of garbage, you don’t even have the guts to sign your comments here with your real name, instead cowardly hiding under a pseudonym. You’re not even a real man. You don’t have the guts to defend your views with your own name.

            So yes, your garbage writings are worth nothing. And you can invoke those 30 years all day. By my experience here are high school and freshman college students who understand defense issues better than you ever will. And that, by itself, ought to put you to shame.

          • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

            So, let’s quickly rerun the facts:

            1) Nuclear weapons were the factor which prevented the CMC, and the entire Cold War, from blowing into a war. With nuclear weapons, both sides had to refrain from attacking one another. Without nuclear weapons, there would’ve been no incentive for either of them to restrain themselves.
            2) If there were no nuclear weapons, Khrushchev would have still had plenty of conventional weapons to deploy in Cuba… but he would not need to play with that, as he would merely need to order the Warsaw Pact’s over 100 armored divisions to roll cross Europe an conquer the continent, easily defeating the vastly outnumbered NATO divisions. Without a nuclear deterrent, NATO would not have had anything to deter or defeat the Soviets with. If the Cold War ever went hot in Europe, it would’ve become a nuclear war within a week. NATO never had sufficient conventional Power in Europe to stop a Soviet conventional onslaught. Kennedy knew it, Khrushchev knew it, everyone familiar with the opposing order of battles in Europe (which obviously excludes you) knew it. That is the only reason why the Soviet Union never invaded Western Europe and Soviet leaders never carried out their threats about Berlin: they knew that Moscow would be a smoking, radioactive crater if they did.
            3) If there were no nuclear weapons, any of the crises of the Cold War – and there were many – would’ve likely transpired into a full-scale WW3. In 1948, the Soviets blockaded Berlin, and in 1961, Allied and Soviet tanks faced each other on the streets of that city. ONLY nuclear weapons imposed some sanity on both sides’ leaders and forced them to restrain themselves.
            4) Since 1945, the US and its NATO allies have enjoyed nearly complete peace and security, thanks SOLELY to America’s military power, PRIMARILY its nuclear deterrent, which has also convinced all of America’s allies except Britain and France that they don’t need their own nuclear weapons. But they will develop them if America continues to cut its own nuclear deterrent.
            5) America’s nuclear deterrent has an unbroken 67-year-long (and counting) record of protecting America and its allies against the most catastrophic threats: Soviet Union/Russia, China, North Korea, and now, an Iran racing towards nuclear weapons.
            6) The biggest nuclear threat by far is Russia, which has 2,800 strategic warheads (per FAS) and the means to deliver all of them if necessary. It has well over 100 strategic Tu-95, Tu-160, and Tu-22M bombers (capable of dropping free-fall nuclear bombs as well as delivering nuclear-tipped CMs), 13 SSBNs (each capable of delivering 16 SLBMs with 10 warheads each, and each of this missiles can reach the CONUS even if launched from home waters) plus one test SSBN (the Dmitry Donskoi) with 20 missile tubs, and 434 ICBMs, including 58 SS-18 Satan ICBMs (capable of delivering 10 warheads and 30 decoys each), 136 SS-19 Stiletto 6-warhead ICBMs, 144 single-warhead SS-25 Sickle (RT-2PM Topol) ICBMs, 72 single-warhead SS-27 Sickle B (RT-2UTTH Topol-M) ICBMs, and 18 (and growing) 4-warhead RS-24 Yars ICBMs. This ICBM fleet could, if need be, deliver 1684 warheads to the CONUS.
            7) So long as Russia retains ANY of these large legs of its nuclear triad, let alone all of them, retention of any quantity of ICBMs – even more than the current fleet of 450 3-warhead MMIII ICBMs – is fully justified.
            8) The ICBM leg of the nuclear triad is the cheapest, costing only $1.1 bn (i.e. 1/531 of the DOD’s base defense budget and 1/645 of the entire FY2012 military budget) to maintain. No real savings can be accomplished by scrapping that leg.
            9) Deploying next-gen ICBMs on trains, shuffling them in tunnels between siloes as the USAF did with Peacekeeper ICBMs, hardening siloes, and building decoy siloes can hugely increase ICBM survivability, with the railroad basing option offering the most survivability at little cost.
            10) A single MMIII ICBM cost $70 mn in today’s money. If the next-gen ICBM costs a similar amount of money, replacing the entire ICBM fleet will cost only $31.5 bn. Developing and procuring it together with the Israelis, as a Jericho-IV ICBM, will reduce costs even further and increase both countries’ security.
            11) The bomber leg of the nuclear triad (which has dual nuclear and conventional usage, and has actually been used in conventional warfare quite often) costs only $2.5 bn per year to maintain. Thus, the two legs of the triad for which the USAF (and MGEN William Chambers personally) is responsible, costs only $3.5 bn per year, less than 1% of the base defense budget, a laughably cheap investment yielding huge returns in terms of security for America AND its 30 allies who depend on the US nuclear umbrella.
            12) The NGB/LRSB program will cost only $55 bn, and that’s a pessimistic estimate leaving much room for unexpected costs (retired USAF Colonel Mark Gunzinger of the CSBA says it could cost as little as $44 bn over the life of the program). That will pay for the development and procurement of 100 dual-capable LRSBs, which will, together with B-2s, serve as the bomber leg of the triad while also performing conventional missions.
            13) Per Jess Bachmann’s FY2012 Budget Poster, which derives its data from official government sources (mostly the OMB), the cost of all DOE nuclear weapon programs is $7.589 bn, again a fraction of America’s annual military budget.
            14) Thus, the nuclear triad is no financial threat to anyone, and gives the taxpayer, the country, and America’s 30 allies huge security benefits (which no conventional weapon could ever offer) at a minimal cost. It is the best investment ever made, with the best return on investment in world history.
            15) It is CONVENTIONAL weapon programs, and especially the hugely expensive, $396 bn F-35 program, which are siphoning money away from other weapon programs, including the nuclear triad, and which are (together with personnel costs, which now constitute a full 50% of the defense budget) eating the defense budget alive. Yet, the F-35, unlike the B-2 and the planned LRSB, is not all-aspect or wideband stealthy and, as a small plane, is easy for lower-band radars to detect (while bigger aircraft are far more difficult to detect due to their size); and due to its short range, it’s a sitting duck if the enemy destroys in-theater bases or just their runways. The B-2 and the planned LRSB can operate from Andersen, Diego Garcia, Hickam, Europe, and even the CONUS. Andersen is too far for any Chinese weapon except the DF-4, the ICBM fleet, the SSBN fleet, and cruise missiles launched from H-6 bombers to reach. Even the J-20 can’t fly that far. It’s more than 3000 kms away from China’s coast.
            16) Thus, when the question is “what is more worthy investing in: the nuclear triad, which is our protection against the nuclear threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea, and in the future, Iran, and our bomber fleet that can strike from beyond the enemy’s reach, or is it the short-range, “economy stealth” F-35?” the answer must be the former.
            17) Peer-reviewed analysis by AirPowerAustralia and the CSBA has reached largely the same conclusions and helped inform my own analysis.
            18) A nuclear triad is the MOST effective and MOST survivable arrangement for nuclear deterrence, as it creates multiple targeting and striking problems for the enemy, as well as hundreds of additional targets that have to be eliminated if his first strike is to be successful. It is no coincidence that Russia, China, and Israel have their own nuclear triads, and that India is striving to create one. Other arrangements, including dyads and monads, are far less survivable and risk inviting an enemy nuclear first strike. As Robert Kaplan rightly says, “Never give your opponent too few problems to solve because if you do, he’ll solve them.”
            19) The Senate agrees, which is why it has just adopted an amendment to the FY2013 NDAA stating that it is the sense of the Senate that the US must maintain a nuclear triad and modernize all of its legs.
            20) It is also no coincidence that all 7 teams from across the political spectrum recently invited by the CSBA to make $519 bn savings in the defense budget all chose to protect the LRSB and SSBNX programs (as well as the SSBN fleet) and to make few, if any, cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent. (Vide “Strategic Choices”, ed. by Todd Harrison and Mark Gunzinger, Washington DC, November 2012.)
            21) Contrary to Reif’s blatant lie, the US nuclear arsenal is NOT driven by the Soviet threat, but rather by the need to deter Russia, China, and North Korea (and in the future, Iran), and it’s far smaller than it was in 2005 (over 10,000 nuclear warheads according to GlobalSecurity.org), let alone in 1991, when the newly-signed START-1 treaty still permitted the US to keep 6,000 deployed strategic warheads and 1,600 strategic delivery systems. That’s more than America’s total nuclear arsenal (deployed and nondeployed, strategic and tactical) today: 5,113 warheads, 14 SSBNs, 96 nuclear-capable bombers, 450 ICBMs. The ceilings allowed by New START are far lower than those allowed by START-1.
            22) Contrary to Reif’s blatant lie, the nuclear triad is not a relic of the Cold War. It is a proven nuclear deterrent force which is needed now more than ever.
            All of the above 22 statements are FACTS. There isn’t a single lie or “untruthful assertion” in any of them. I challenge you to refute them. But you can’t. Because they are FACTS.

    • Zbigniew Mazurak says:

      Your garbage undercuts nothing. It only proves how ignorant you are. But by all means, continue to post your garbage here. Thus, you’ll only continue to make an ass of yourself.

  3. Jan Brown says:

    Guess we’re supposed to replace nukes with white flags??? This thinking goes in the same bag as the excuse Al Gore gave for Obums lack of perfomrnce at the first debate..” It was due to the altitude change from flying from LA to Denver” Caca de toro!!