Center for Security President Frank Gaffney recently appeared on Fox News to debate Obama’s planned further cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent with Joe Cirincione, a strident liberal who leads the treasonous, extremely leftist Ploughshares Fund, which lies about nuclear weapons and advocates America’s nuclear disarmament. During that short, 8-minute debate, Cirincione and the Fox News anchor who was supposed to be a neutral moderator, Jenna Lee, made a number of utterly false claims.
What follows is my rebuttal of these claims.
1) The US military is NOT saying that the US has too many nuclear weapons. None of America’s current military leaders have said that. On the contrary, the current commander of the Strategic Command, Gen. Bob Kehler, and his predecessor, Gen. Kevin Chilton, have said that the current US nuclear arsenal is “exactly what we need” (Gen. Kehler’s words, not mine). Both of them, moreover, have utterly rejected proposals of groups like “Global Zero” to cut the US nuclear arsenal deeply.
2) The US nuclear arsenal is NOT expensive to maintain and is NOT siphoning money away from “the troops” and the military. It costs only $32 bn to $36 bn per year to maintain (all of it plus its supporting infrastructure). That’s about 6% of the total FY2013 US military budget ($613 bn). Nor is it causing defense budget cuts (the Budget Control Act and the Congress’ inability to rein in nondefense spending is causing that). Cutting the US nuclear arsenal, no matter how deeply, would not save more than a pittance. Eliminating the entire ICBM leg of the nuclear triad would save only $1.1 bn per year; eliminating the bomber leg, only $2.5 bn per year. So deeply cutting the US nuclear arsenal would save only a pittance. Peanuts. There would be NO significant savings.
3) While Cirincione has listed the deep cuts that have been made in the US nuclear arsenal since the 1980s, those are only cuts in AMERICA’s arsenal – not in those of other countries. They have made America WEAKER and LESS SECURE, not more. These deep cuts in America’s atomic arsenal have utterly failed to convince countries “around North Korea” and “around Iran” to step up the pressure on North Korea and Iran.
(Besides, America’s East Asian and Middle Eastern allies are in full agreement with the US on the necessity of stopping NK and Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. It’s China and Russia who are the problem, and they won’t be convinced to “pressure” North Korea or Iran no matter how deeply the US cuts its nuclear arsenal. For them, their lucrative business deals with Tehran and Pyongyang are far more important than American disarmament gestures.)
Cutting America’s nuclear deterrent by over 75% since 1991 has therefore UTTERLY FAILED to increase the pressure on North Korea and Iran and has UTTERLY FAILED to stop or even slow down nuclear proliferation. Thus, it has made America much less secure.
Doing this further will only make America LESS SECURE and WEAKER while UTTERLY failing to convince anyone to increase pressure on North Korea and Iran – just like all past cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal have utterly failed to do so.
Doing more of the same and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.
4) Since the end of the Cold War, the number of nuclear weapon states has INCREASED, not shrank. The US, Britain, France, Russia, China, India, and Israel retain nuclear weapons; Pakistan and North Korea have joined the nuclear club; and Iran is well on its way there.
5) The number of nuclear weapons that the US has DOES matter. A small nuclear arsenal of just 50 or 500 nuclear warheads and their delivery systems would be laughably easy for any enemy to destroy – precisely because of its small size. A nuclear arsenal HAS to be large in order to be survivable. Otherwise, it will be easily destroyed in a first strike by Russia or China. Moreover, a small nuclear arsenal of just a few hundred warheads would be way too small to target Russia’s, China’s, NK’s, or Iran’s military assets (bases, factories, etc.) and could target only their civilian populations – an immoral targeting policy that no sane person would ever endorse. Moreover, such “minimal deterrence” policy would not deter these enemies, because they don’t value their civilian citizens’ lives. The only effective way to deter them is to target their military assets – and for that, thousands of nuclear warheads are needed.
6) Nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented or eliminated from the world. That a number of US presidents, from JFK to Ronald Reagan, dreamed of eliminating them from the world, is completely irrelevant. US defense and foreign policy need to be guided by realistic assumptions and the brutal truth about the world, NOT by idealistic, lofty, unrealistic notions of a world without nuclear weapons that are neither achievable nor desirable. North Korea, Pakistan, China, and Russia will never give up their nuclear weapons.
7) Since Putin came to power, Russia has begun REBUILDING its nuclear arsenal and continues to increase it. And recently, it declared straightforward that it will NOT agree to any further cuts in its arsenal.
Cirincione’s claim that the US needs only a few hundred nuclear weapons and that no one has a bigger arsenal is a blatant lie, like the rest of his claims. Russia has 2,800 strategic and up to 4,000 tactical nuclear warheads – deployed and nondeployed – and the means to deliver all of them. Russia’s ICBM fleet alone can deliver 1,684 warheads to the CONUS, while its SSBN fleet can deliver 2,200 warheads to the US homeland. China has at least 1,800, and possibly up to 3,000, nuclear warheads and 3,000 miles of tunnels to hide them and their delivery systems. The claim that the US can safely cut its nuclear arsenal to just 50-500 warheads is a despicable lie.
9) And to Jenna Lee, who falsely claimed that the US nuclear arsenal has failed to slow down nuclear proliferation: it has not. It acts, and ahs acted, as a protective umbrella for over 30 allies of the US, thus convincing them that they don’t need their own nuclear weapons, since America’s umbrella protects them. But should that umbrella be cut further, or eliminated, they will have no choice but to “go nuclear”. They cannot bet their security and their very existence on America’s kool-aid notions that “nuclear disarmament will make the world safer”, or on America breaking free of those notions in 2016.
Frank Gaffney made, IMHO, a good case for retaining America’s nuclear deterrent and against cuts in it, but he could’ve made a stronger one by refuting Joe Cirincione’s and Jenna Lee’s blatant lies (about supposed savings, about US military leaders supposedly saying they have too many nukes, etc.) directly.