In spite of the leadership by Chairman William Perry and Vice Chairman James Slesinger, The Interim Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States (SPRC) has little new to offer. Commissioned by the Congress, which wanted a clearer picture of the national Strategic Posture before committing to new weapons or missile shields, the interim report (released December 15th) reviews existing programs without recommendations, which are to follow (appropriately) on April 1, 2009. From this interim report we can see that the commission is deeply divided and unlikely to arrive at any significant suggestions.
In the numbered paragraphs of the “Interim Findings” section we get some indication of where the Commission is going. In #1, for example, they say, “The best defense against such terrorism is keeping the nuclear bombs and fissile material out of the hands of terror groups. Such non-proliferation strategy, to be effective, would require intense cooperation with other nations…” This has certainly not been our policy for the last eight years.
#4. “While the Nation should continue to commit to reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons and act transparently on that commitment, the US must also maintain a nuclear deterrent… As long as the US depends on nuclear deterrence, national policies must ensure that this deterrence is reliable, safe and secure.” Here is a clear statement of the ambiguity of our strategic policy. On the one hand there is no question that we and the world would be safer without nuclear weapons; on the other we want to maintain our edge with all of its terrifying power to incinerate millions and destroy the ability of life to sustain itself. Under these conditions one wonders how much “intense cooperation with other nations” we can realistically expect.
#7. “Our non-proliferation strategy will continue to depend upon US extended deterrence strategy as one of its pillars… The US deterrent must be both visible and credible, not only to our possible adversaries, but to our allies as well.” Here we see that the nuclear threat (deterrent) is seen as basic to non proliferation, at least in the minds of some of the commissioners. Others have pointed out that the deterrent doesn’t work on those who would willingly sacrifice themselves to become martyrs.
#9. “The US could maintain its security while reducing its reliance on nuclear weapons and making further reductions in the size of its stockpile…. some types of reductions need not await Russia, especially if the US nuclear infrastructure is refurbished, allowing the US to reduce its reliance on and supply of reserve warheads.” This implies that if some of our current weapons do not detonate as planned, we’ll hurry out to the storeroom and get some of the reserves. If there was a nuclear exchange, the fear and panic would be so great that I doubt that our planes or submarines would come back to base to refill with more “reliable” weapons to deliver. If we reduce our “reliance on nuclear weapons” as suggested above, why would we want to “refurbish” our shrinking weapons stockpile?
#13. “In our final report we intend to define the most efficient and effective way to maintain a credible, safe, secure and reliable deterrent for the long term.” We are straddling an impossible contradiction: nuclear disarmament and prolongation simultaneously.
#17. In spite of the introduction, the following passage verges on a recommendation. “The Commission is prepared strongly to endorse negotiations with Russia in order to proceed jointly to further reductions in our nuclear forces, as part of a cooperative effort to stabilize relations, stop proliferation, and promote predictability and transparency.”
This ambivalent picture of our strategic posture was created in the isolated tower of nuclear policy. It reflects the divergence of views among its members, and does little to reconcile them. With three of its 12 members from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, there is plenty of representation for reliance on nuclear weapons.
However, as far as I can see there is no representation for the third of humanity that lives on less than two dollars a day. There is no representation for the thousands of Americans who are now dead or dying from radiation exposure received in the making or testing of nuclear weapons. There is no representation for the millions of people living in low-lying areas around the world who will be flooded out by the rising waters of global warming and chaos. There is not even representation for the thousands of Europeans who have experienced disease and death as a result of the Chernobyl disaster – a relatively small example of what a nuclear exchange could do to surrounding areas. And it did not take into account the depleted state of our economy, our declining infrastructure, or the deprivation of many of our children who lack good nutrition, health care and education.
From the European Union to Australia, Japan and back to the United States, world leaders – from nuclear weapons countries and many without nuclear weapons – have looked at these terminal weapons and said, No More! Zero! The American people have voted for change, for freedom from the old, fear-driven thinking and living under the threat of instant incineration. We must proceed with new courage and determination to negotiate with Russia an impressive reduction in nuclear weapons, and then ask the other nuclear-capable nations of the world to join with us in an absolute and fearless determination to rid the world of these weapons. Of course, there are risks and dangers; they can be overcome. But the real question is when are we going to pledge “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor” to the abolition of nuclear weapons and a more livable future for all mankind?