It seems that, in recent weeks, treasonous attacks of the pacifist Left on the US nuclear deterrent have intensified. It is not, and will never be, possible for us defense conservatives to respond to all such attacks, so I’ll respond to only two: one by ACA’s Tom Collina, and the other by CATO’s Chris Preble and a doctoral student called Matthew Fay.
Let’s start with Collina. In his most recent screed, for the DefenseOne website, he calls on the USAF to cancel plans for a nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile (ALCM), claiming it, and the warheads for it, will cost $32 bn and will not be necessary because, you know, the USAF has ICBMs and is developing a new stealthy bomber. He further claims that this, and other, nuclear modernization program will compete with conventional weapons for funding. He falsely claims that:
“Such trade-offs between nuclear and conventional weapons will become commonplace as the budget crisis deepens. With no new money to be found, projects must compete with each other. It’s a zero-sum game.”
No, it isn’t. Spending on nuclear weapons and on their delivery systems is and will remain so low that even ELIMINATING it COMPLETELY will not even come CLOSE to providing the necessary savings to pay for conventional weapon programs. Collina’s claim that nuclear modernization will cost $300 bn over the next few decades is totally false, a huge exaggeration, but even if it were true (which it is not), that is just $15 bn per year… out of a military budget of $600 bn per annum. In other words, just 2.5% of the total military budget. One quarter of one tenth.
And if a choice is to be made, it is far wiser to decide in favor of nuclear weapons – for they protect America, and over 30 US allies, against the most catastrophic, and very real, threats: a nuclear, chemical, biological, or ballistic missile attack by a major power (Russia, China) or a rogue state (North Korea, Iran).
And as the number of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems owned by these four hostile countries will only INCREASE in the future, the need for nuclear deterrence, and thus the required number of US nuclear weapons and delivery systems, will only GROW, not shrink. That is not “Cold War thinking”, that is the military and geopolitical reality of the 21st century.
Collina also falsely claims that “Similarly, the Air Force will have a hard time finding $70 billion to buy up to 100 new long-range bombers.”
That is also a blatant lie. Firstly, the program will not cost $70 bn – nowhere close to that. It will cost $55 bn at most, and that’s a very pessimistic estimate assuming the USAF will not exploit economies of scale or savings from using mature technologies and will bear 100% of the R&D cost. $70 bn is a wild exaggeration.
And the DOD can easily pay for the next generation bomber program (and many other crucial programs) by terminating the F-35 Junk Strike Fighter, AKA the Jet That Ate The Pentagon.
As for forgoing cruise missiles, there are NO reasons to do so – whether financial or security reasons. WRT money, Collina and his treasonous group have routinely and wildly exaggerated the cost of nuclear modernization programs, so nothing he says on the subject (or on any other subject, for that matter) is credible.
As for security considerations: NOTHING is worse for America’s security than nuclear disarmament, ESPECIALLY its unilateral variety. Even if the US forgoes replacing its current ALCMs, NOBODY in the world will reciprocate. Nobody will be impressed by such a unilateral American gesture. And the prospects of a global ban on cruise missiles (which Collina fantasizes about) are NONE – especially given these weapons’ low cost, high speed, air defense evasion capabilities, and other attractive characteristics. If there were any chances of such a ban, there wouldn’t be so many nations possessing or developing such missiles.
Unilateral disarmament NEVER works. On the contrary, America’s enemies will only be too happy to take advantage of it. Russia is already developing a new bevy of nuclear-armed ALCMs and plans to increase their production 30-fold. France is already beginning to develop a new ALCM.
Collina is also lying when he claims that only the US, Russia, and France have nuclear-armed ALCMs. China also has them – the CJ-10A, the CJ-20, and the HN-3, and uses them to arm its H-6K bombers. India also already has such missiles, called the Brahmos. Pakistan will acquire such weapons before long.
And why are ALCMs needed when the USAF is developing a new stealthy bomber?
Because it is NEVER a good idea to put all your legs into one basket. As Robert D. Kaplan rightly says, NEVER give your enemy too few problems to solve because if you do, he’ll solve them. A US nuclear triad armed with 1) penetrating bombers 2) cruise missiles 3) ballistic missile subs and 4) ICBMs would pose a much bigger problem, a much more difficult target, and a much more credible deterrent force than a nuclear force armed with only one, two, or three kinds of these weapons. The triad’s diversity is as much a strength as its numbers. Smart managers NEVER put all their eggs into just one or two baskets.
And Collina has no credibility to invoke stealthy bombers, ICBMs, and ballistic missile submarines when he and his organization have repeatedly called for delaying the former and deeply cutting the latter! They’ve even called on the USAF NOT to pursue any ICBM replacement!
Collina’s article is a litany of blatant lies – as is his every other screed. This is not surprising, because he works for a treasonous pro-unilateral disarmament organization which receives 100% of its funding from similar organizations, some of which may have ties to George Soros.
Preble’s and Fay’s screed for DefenseOne is even more ridiculous. While, in his latest article, Collina called only for the ALCM to be cancelled, Preble and Fay went further and demanded that the ICBM and bomber legs of the nuclear triad be scrapped completely, which would mean utter and immediate suicide and an invitation for a nuclear first strike on the US.
They falsely claim that
“Eliminating the other two legs of the nuclear triad — intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and nuclear bombers — would save American taxpayers around $20 billion a year.”
This is a blatant lie, meaning that people making such claims are LIARS.
In fact, completely eliminating the bomber and ICBM legs of the triad would save only a paltry $3.6 bn per year – close to nothing, and nowhere near enough to pay for the SSBNX program.
Last year, in response to similar suicidal proposals, the Air Force’s director for nuclear deterrence issues pointed out that the ICBM leg of the triad costs only $1.1 bn per year to maintain, and the bomber leg, only $2.5 bn per year. He also wrote a great article for AOLDefense (now BreakingDefense) on why the triad is necessary. The Air Force Magazine and CSBA’s defense budget analyst Todd Harrison have confirmed these small numbers.
So even eliminating ICBMs and bombers completely would “save” only $3.6 bn per year – a microscopic amount, and nowhere near enough to pay for SSBN replacement.
As for the authors’ claim that the nuclear triad is an obsolete and Cold War arrangement, nothing could be further from the truth. The nuclear triad is an absolutely necessary, proven, and and by far the most secure arrangement for America’s nuclear deterrence. It presents anyone who would wish to conduct a first strike on America with a multi-dimensional problem that is almost impossible to solve: how to eliminate all of America’s ICBMs AND bombers AND SSBNs in a single strike, before America can retaliate? Nobody has yet found any answer to that question – which is why there has never been a nuclear attack on the US or any of its allies to this very day. It is because of both the size and the diversity (triad) of the US nuclear umbrella.
The triad has, since its inception in the late 1950s, successfully prevented nuclear attack, and large-scale conventional attacks, on the US and on all allies to whom this umbrella has been extended – and it continues to prevent such attacks to this day. It has successfully deterred the Soviet Union, Putinist Russia, China, and even North Korea.
Oh, and one more thing: if the nuclear triad is such an obsolete and unaffordable Cold War era arrangement, why hasn’t anyone told that to the Russians and the Chinese? Both of them are building up and modernizing their own nuclear triads.
The Russians are now developing or deploying several new types of ICBMs, a new class of ballistic missile subs (the Borei class), two new SLBM types (Layner and Bulava) capable of carrying 10-12 warheads each, and are developing a next-generation bomber, the PAK DA. The Chinese are fielding two new ICBM types (DF-31A, DF-41), developing a rail-mobile ICBM and a stealthy intercontinental bomber capable of striking the US, and building two new classes of SSBNs while also fielding new JL-2 SLBMs to launch from these boats – missiles that will eventually have 14,000 km range and a 12-warhead payload.
A nuclear triad is obsolete, Cold War, and unaffordable? Someone ought to tell the Russians and the Chinese
You see, saving US taxpayers money or “moving away from Cold War thinking” is not what Preble, Fay, and other anti-nuclear, anti-defense hacks want. What they REALLY want is America’s unilateral disarmament. They’d love to see it disarmed and totally unable to defend itself. In their sick minds, America is evil and deserves to be decapitated.
The fact that even the anti-nuclear Obama administration, which is headed by an extremely-leftist nuclear disarmament activist, supports retaining the nuclear triad and wants to maintain all 3 of its components, should signal to everyone that the triad is really necessary. But not to ideologically blind leftist hacks like Preble and Fay.
There is a continued, and even GROWING, need for a large US nuclear arsenal and for the triad. Russia and China both have large nuclear arsenals; Russia’s ICBM fleet alone can deliver 1,684 warheads to the US and its bomber fleet can deliver over 1,700. China has 1,600-3,000 nuclear weapons and over 80 ICBMs (as well as six SSBNs) and is adding more. A small nuclear arsenal, or one based only on one type of delivery systems, will not suffice.
The authors’ claim that
“And yet, the Obama administration and other defenders of the status quo contend that all three delivery systems are necessary. Such claims do not bear scrutiny. For example, the administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review argues that the triad must be maintained as a “technical hedge” — in other words, don’t put all America’s nuclear eggs in one basket.”
It is YOUR utterly false claims, Messrs. Preble and Fay, that do not stand up to empirical scrutiny. The 2010 NPR was absolutely right to conclude that the US should not put all of its eggs into one basket. Not just because of the triad’s record of successfully preventing nuclear (and large-scale conventional) attacks since its inception, but also because cutting down to a monad would leave America’s adversaries with only one, simple, one-dimensional problem: how to detect America’s SSBNs?
Should the US ever simplify this issue so much for its enemies, they’ll solve the problem – they’ll invest sufficient resources in solving it. According to recent news, China’s and Russia’s ASW capabilities are woefully underappreciated in the West, ADM Greenert’s boasting that “we totally own the undersea domain” notwithstanding. And US intel has been taken completely by surprise by America’s enemies’ capabilities and actions so many times that it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t know China and/or Russia had potent ASW capabilities. US intel is ignorant of many things it should know.
In sum, this article, like other screeds that Messrs. Preble and Fay write, is utter garbage that belongs in the dustbin. No, America must NOT scrap ANY of the legs of its nuclear triad – and must not delude itself that doing so would save any meaningful amount of money. It wouldn’t.