The “if we disarm ourselves, others will be nice and follow suit” myth
In a previous article, I refuted the basic leftist myth at the heart of all arms control (=arms reduction=disarmament) policies: that cutting America’s weapon inventories, and eventually dismantling them completely (and leftists want to do so soon), will somehow make America and the world safer.
The reasons why it won’t are severalfold: disarming oneself only invites aggression; a world without nuclear weapons would be much more violent and warlike than without them (and was, before nuclear weapons were invented); and if America disarmed itself unilaterally, others would never follow suit – they’d only exploit America’s military weakness. We’ll explore this third reason in this article in more depth.
Already a few leftists have admitted that even if the US cut its nuclear arsenal dramatically, or disarmed itself completely, others wouldn’t follow suit. Global Zero chairman Bruce Blair has admitted in a Congressional hearing that if the US did so, “no one” would reciprocate. ACA leaders Daryl Kimball and Tom Collina say that Russia and others only “might be induced” to follow suit if the US made deep further cuts to its arsenal unilaterally, but don’t claim it would be sure to happen. (They advocate that the US make such unilateral cuts anyway).
But the brutal truth is that if the US cut its arsenal unilaterally, NOBODY would follow suit. On the contrary, other nuclear powers would only be too happy to exploit America’s weakness mercilessly. And you can take that to the bank.
How do we know? Because the US has already tried unilateral cuts multiple times and they’ve only emboldened America’s enemies and encouraged them to INCREASE their arsenals. Which they have done.
As even Jimmy Carter’s defense secretary, Harold Brown, has said, “When we build, they build. When we cut, they build.”
The US cut its nuclear arsenal unilaterally during the 1970s, strictly adhering to the two SALT treaties. The Soviet Union did not; it violated these treaties with abandon (the Reagan Administration withdrew the US from SALT II in 1986 over Soviet noncompliance). Russia’s behavior has been no better.
The elder President Bush cut America’s arsenal by over 50% since 1989, stopped warhead production and testing, killed the B-2 strategic bomber at just 21 aircraft, withdrew US nuclear weapons from US surface ships and South Korea, killed Peacekeeper production, killed the “Midgetman” small ICBM program, and stopped cruise missile production.
Russia, however, did not reciprocate. It made cuts to its arsenal only within the framework of the first START treaty, which expired in 2009. Nor did anyone else reciprocate: since 1989, Pakistan and North Korea developed and tested nuclear weapons while China, India, and Israel have all significantly increased their arsenals. (China now has at least 1,800, and possibly up to 3,000, nuclear weapons.)
The US again cut its nuclear arsenal under the younger President Bush, to just 5,113 warheads. Again, Russia did not reciprocate. In fact, since President Putin came to power in 2000, Russia has been building its arsenal up.
The US again agreed to cut its arsenal unilaterally under the New START treaty signed by Barack Obama in April 2010. Under that abomination of a treaty, the US is obligated to cut its strategic arsenal by one-third; Russia is not obligated to cut anything and is actually allowed to add nuclear weapons – which it has already done. Moreover, the treaty contains so many huge loopholes that you could drive a track through them. Experts Peter Huessy and Mark Schneider report that:
“The New START Treaty has many loopholes the Russians will exploit. This includes, according to Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, a “totally nuts” bomber weapons counting rule, and the complete exclusion from the Treaty limits of even nuclear-armed air-launched ballistic missiles, surface ship-launched ballistic missiles and rail mobile ICBMs. We do not hear a word out of the administration about fixing any of these problems in the next round of nuclear arms control talks.”
Also, Russia’s 171 Tu-22M strategic bombers, which have air-refueling equipment, are not counted by New START as strategic bombers, even though they are such.
Russia is not only rapidly increasing but also modernizing its nuclear arsenal. All legs of its nuclear triad, as well as many tactical delivery systems, will be replaced by new ones by the early 2020s. It is developing or deploying several ICBMs, including the RS-24 Yars (silo-based and mobile versions), the “Avangard”, the “Son of Satan” heavy ICBM (replacement for the SS-18 Satan), and a rail-mobile ICBM. The Russian Navy is receiving new Borei class SSBNs, with 16 SLBMs per boat, while the Air Force is receiving new Tu-160 bombers and developing a new, stealthy strategic bomber. Tactical nuclear units are receiving new Iskander SRBMs and Su-34 tactical bombers.
Meanwhile, the US is not modernizing. Development of new classes of SSBNs , cruise missiles, and bombers is lagging, there’s no SRBM and no plan to develop a new ICBM, and no new warheads or even warhead upgrades are being developed. Obama’s Assistant Secy. of State for Arms Control, Rose Gottemoeller, who negotiated New START, has even said it explicitly:
“We’re not modernizing. We’re not modernizing. That is one of the basic, basic, I would say, principles and rules that have really been part of our nuclear posture view and part of the policy.”
If you’re not modernizing your arsenal, you’re essentially disarming yourself unilaterally, because your arsenal will eventually wear out due to old age.
No modernization equals unilateral disarmament. And “no modernization” is the official, stated policy of the Obama Administration.
Nowadays, Russia absolutely refuses to enter into any talks about cutting its own nuclear arsenal; it only wants to discuss cutting America’s. The treasonous Obama Administration, composed of anti-American leftists like Obama himself and Goettemoeller, is only too happy to oblige.
Russia has stated explicitly that it will NOT cut its nuclear arsenal and that, as former Chief of the General Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov has said, “The strategic nuclear forces for us are a sacred issue.” Russia is currently building up its nuclear arsenal, a fact repeatedly reported by reputed journalists such as Bill Gertz. Moreover, Russia has, in the last 6 years alone, made at least 15 public, overt threats to use nuclear weapons against the US or its allies, and has publicly reserved to itself the right to use nuclear weapons first, even against a non-nuclear adversary or in a purely conventional war. In April 2012, when Russian bombers practiced strikes against Alaska, Russian military spokesmen said they were “practing attacking the enemy.”
Since then, Russia has sent its strategic bombers to practice strikes against the US and Japan 4 more times – in the last 14 months alone. One of these practice strikes was on… the Fourth of July 2012.
This is not surprising: during the Cold War (which Vladimir Putin apparently wants to replay), the Soviet Union’s war plans and military doctrine also called for using nuclear weapons first, on a massive scale, despite Leonid Brezhnev’s public assurances of a no-first-strike policy.
To cut one’s own nuclear deterrent in the face of such an adversary who has a huge nuclear arsenal, is rapidly growing and modernizing it, frequently makes threats to use it preemptively, and has repeatedly practiced attacking the US and its allies with it, would be worse than an utter folly. It would be downright suicidal (or treasonous).
And it isn’t just Russia. Since 1989, China and India have significantly increased their nuclear arsenals, while two new states (Pakistan and North Korea) have joined the nuclear club and Iran has made tremendous progress towards nuclear weapon status. Moreover, since their first nuclear tests, Pakistan and North Korea have increased their arsenals of both warheads and ballistic missiles, and North Korea has announced its intention to grow it further.
Meanwhile, the US is cutting… and cutting… and cutting its nuclear arsenal unilaterally, even though NO ONE is following suit.
And I’m not the only analyst warning about this fact. Multiple other analysts, including CSBA Vice President Jim Thomas and Center for Security Policy Frank Gaffney, have warned about this as well.
And it’s not just America’s enemies who are developing their nuclear capabilities; so are America’s allies. Japan, for example, has just opened a nuclear facility where it could produce enough fissile material for 3,000 warheads in a year if need be! South Korea also has the potential to “go nuclear” in less than a year, and according to a very recent poll, 66.5% of South Koreans already advocate doing so, in the face of the North Korean threat and America’s rapidly-shrinking and increasingly obsolete nuclear deterrent.
Likewise, CSBA experts Andrew Krepinevich, Eric S. Edelman, and Evan B. Montgomery warn that if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, and if the US cuts its arsenal below New START levels, its nuclear umbrella will not be credible and Persian Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, will develop their own nuclear arsenals.
So the unilateral nuclear arsenal cuts that successive administrations have made (and which Obama plans to double on), and which pacifist organizations advocate, have not only emboldened America’s enemies but also made America’s allies very worried and forced them to prepare for “going nuclear” in a matter of months if need be.
So despite the myths that the Left has been spreading for decades, cutting the US nuclear arsenal has NOT encouraged ANYONE to follow suit; on the contrary, NOBODY is following America’s lead, and MANY are going in the opposite direction.
So the unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United States, and the entire arms control process, is an abysmal failure and has made America, the West, and the entire world dramatically LESS secure.
The problem is not just a poor execution of arms control agreements; the problem is arms control itself, period.
Arms control is just a codename for unilaterally disarming the West while Russia, China, North Korea, and others build up their nuclear and conventional arsenals.
Nor should it be a surprise to anyone. If you disarm yourself while an evil person does not, do you really think he’ll likewise disarm himself? No, he’ll attack you.
Likewise, if the US continues to cut and gut its nuclear deterrent, other countries, like Russia and China, will not say “Oh, America has set such a great moral example, let’s follow it’s lead and disarm ourselves, too!” They will only build up their arsenals further and become even more aggressive towards the US and its allies. A Russian nuclear first strike is a very real possibility, by the admissions of Russia’s own leaders.
As Harold Brown has said, “When we build, they build. When we cut, they build.”