Saturday, April 10, 2010

Nuclear Posture Review Report - Post #1

A couple of days ago the Obama administration released the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) Report.  In the past (the last two were 1994 and 2001), this sort of report had an unclassified portion released to the public with a classified appendix for those who had a need to know.  All indications with this NPR point to the fact that the entire NPR is likely contained in this unclassified 72-page document that you can download here.  At this time, I have read through the Table of Contents and the first 11 pages of the "Executive Summary."

Before I start commenting on what I believe is thoroughly misguided and naive NPR, I need to add a disclaimer.  I am employed by Sandia National Laboratories. The views written here are not the official position of SNL and should not be viewed that way. They are my views as a private citizen. Now, on with the show...

It is not often that I get choked up while reading the Table of Contents, but this NPR is a real page-turner.  The last chapter of the report is entitled, "Looking Ahead:  Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons." This stopped me for a bit because, while this is a noble goal, it is an incredibly naive.  It is also dangerous to think the that the United States will be able to bring this about through the nuclear posture that is outlined and detailed later in the document. By the way, I was fine with the rest of the Table of Contents, so you can't say that I disagree with Obama on EVERYTHING in this document.

I don't start having real problems with the document until page viii (page 14 in the pdf).  Here are some excerpts that I would like to discuss further:

  • "... the role of U.S.nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks – conventional, biological, or chemical – has declined significantly. The United States will continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks."
  • "To that end, the United States is now prepared to strengthen its long-standing “negative security assurance” by declaring that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the NPT and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations."
  • "This revised assurance is intended to underscore the security benefits of adhering to and fully complying with the NPT and persuade non-nuclear weapon states party to the Treaty to work with the United States and other interested parties to adopt effective measures to strengthen the non-proliferation regime."
In case you don't understand the context, the U.S. gave up its chemical and biological weapons by treaty a long time ago, so we can't retaliate "tit for tat" with this type of weapon. The research that we do in this area is limited to the development of protective suits for our soldiers and the development of agents to deactivate or decontaminate the chem-bio agents.  In the past, we have used the unknown and ambiguous nature of our response to these types of attacks against us as a deterrent. We are now proclaiming that, as long as you are in compliance with the non-proliferation treaty, we will not retaliate with nuclear weapons even if you choose to attack us with biological or chemical weapons of mass destruction. I can't believe that I am the only one that thinks this is completely asinine and stupid.

Our soldiers went into Kuwait to expel Iraqi forces during the Gulf War wearing chem-bio protection because every one in the world KNEW that Saddam Hussein had those weapons.  Was he hesitant to use them because he was a great humanitarian?  We know that the answer to that is "NO!" because he attacked the Kurds in northern Iraq (his own people) with them in 1988. I think that he did not want his Presidential palace illuminated with a W80 warhead mounted on the front end of a Tomahawk cruise missile.  If had chosen to use these WMDs, he knew that was one of our possible responses. With this new NPR, he would not have had those fears.

My next piece of heartburn with the NPR shows up on page ix (page 15 of the pdf).  If you search for the second bullet on the page, we will find:
  • "The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners." (emphasis added)
I know there are those of you who wonder why I would have trouble with this statement. Well, it is not the statement. It is that I simply don't trust that Obama and his administration have the same vital interests as the rest of the American people (e.g., the Health Care legislation) or our allies (e.g., snubs of the Brits and the Israelis over the last 15 months).

Now, my final bone of contention in the first 11 pages of the Executive Summary is found on page xi (page 17 in pdf):
  • "First, any future nuclear reductions must continue to strengthen deterrence of potential regional adversaries, strategic stability vis-à-vis Russia and China, and assurance of our allies and partners. This will require an updated assessment of deterrence requirements; further improvements in U.S., allied, and partner non-nuclear capabilities; focused reductions in strategic and nonstrategic weapons; and close consultations with allies and partners."
This is the classic mathematical mistake of addition by subtraction.  While it is quite clear that less regulation (subtraction in the number of rules and laws) can add to the quality of life of citizens, I don't think the principal of disarmament (subtraction in war fighting capability) in the face of growing and unknown threats in any way adds to the security of this country. I am willing to listen to counter-arguments, but it is going to be had to convince me that carrying a big stick wasn't the most important part of Teddy Roosevelt's philosophy. Instead, we are going to shout loudly that we want to be nice, and we will show you this by laying down our stick. I wonder how often that works in someplace other than La La Land.

At this point during my reading, I had reached a section heading and my blood pressure was spiking.  So, I put down the document and tried to relax a bit.  As I slog my way through this document, I think that I will post opinions on a chapter by chapter basis.  The next post will handle the rest of the Executive Summary. I have hopes that the document is better than the summary, but that is probably just more of that same "Hope and Change" that really isn't working all that well right now.

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