In the coming clash between President Trump’s $750 billion defense budget and House Democrats’ desire to cut Pentagon spending, especially on nuclear weapons, there will be tremendous fiscal pressure to shortchange the almost $30 billion annual cost to modernize America’s strategic deterrent. The ideological cover for such penny-wise, pound-foolish cuts is the so-called Global Zero movement to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
But in reality, the global-zero idealists practice a dangerous double standard: They push the US to unilaterally cut its nuclear arsenal even as they ignore or excuse nuclear buildups by Russia, China, North Korea, and (under the table) Iran. Even if they were consistent, their pursue of zero nuclear weapons would still make no sense when none of the nine existing nuclear powers has any interest in completely disarming.
To deny the need for a strong American deterrent requires somehow handwaving away the existence of at least nine nuclear arsenals, at least three of them in hands hostile to the United States. This is not strategy: It is fantasy.
Instead of chasing the phantom of universal disarmament, we should look to President Reagan, whose strategy of “peace through strength” balanced nuclear reductions with nuclear modernization, securing sufficient public and Congressional support to simultaneously shrink and modernize the nuclear force.
At the time, the disarmament community was pushing a nuclear freeze, under which neither the US nor the USSR would introduce new nuclear weapons – freezing in place a Soviet advantage. The Soviets proposed the idea in the first place because they had fully modernized their nuclear forces while the United States had not.
The current administration is facing a similar dilemma. Just as when Ronald Reagan became President, our nuclear forces are now aging and in dire need of modernization. But instead of a push for a nuclear freeze, the disarmament community is now pursuing the chimerical objective of banning all nuclear weapons through an international treaty sponsored by the United Nations.
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