Obama’s Disarmament by Stealth – by Matt Gurney


As a demonstration of the axiom that the world remains a dangerous place, the events of the past few weeks have been highly instructive. Iran reveled in the announcement of its Qom uranium processing facility, making the Middle East an even more parlous place. At the United Nations, the toxic rants of Libya’s Moamar Gaddafi and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were all the more disturbing because the two men are not fringe figures but the leaders of their respective countries. Yet the import of all this has gone unnoticed by the Obama administration, which has decided to take this unlikely opportunity to lead the United States towards eventual nuclear disarmament.

That goal is at the heart of a UN Security Council resolution unanimously accepted by the five “declared” nuclear powers – America, Russia, China, France, and Great Britain – and committing them to work together towards disarmament. But despite it being described by some as a diplomatic win for the administration ­— an administration noticeably lacking in major international successes – this achievement is actually quite modest. It gives President Obama the appearance of a diplomatic breakthrough, and some good press, but it does nothing to make the world a safer place. For instance, it will have no effect on the nuclear weapons programs of Iran or Syria. Instead, the plan will likely weaken the United States while exempting its enemies.

So, why has the administration supported it? One reason is that the president is a true believer in that nuclear disarmament project. He has been talking about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons since before he was elected. In pursuit of that vision, he’s been helped by Congress, which on several occasions has refused to provide funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program. This program would replace America’s aging stockpile of nuclear warheads, built in the 1970s and 1980s for use against the Soviet Union, with more advanced, safer, more accurate, and overall less powerful warheads (the reduced power would be offset by the greater accuracy). Defense Secretary Robert Gates has publicly disagreed with the administration on this, citing the urgent need of the United States to maintain a reliable stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Gates has it right. For nuclear warheads, reliability is paramount. As America’s warheads age well past their intended lifetimes, doubts have developed about whether their internal components might have deteriorated with age. If there is any doubt as to a warhead’s chances of detonating, more warheads will have to be assigned to each target, leading to more radioactive contamination and collateral damage. New warheads would do far less damage while still maintaining America’s deterrent. By forcing the military to continually extend the warheads’ life spans and thus reducing the confidence they have in each one, the administration is actually making an exchange of nuclear weapons more destructive than it would have to be.

Combine this malign neglect of America’s existing nuclear arsenal with this month’s UN disarmament resolution, and it seems that President Obama is bent on achieving his dream of nuclear disarmament by stealth. Having already canceled a major missile defense program in Eastern Europe, he now seems determined to allow America’s warheads to rust into uselessness. America will give up its nuclear warheads simply by refusing to replace them.

Meanwhile, as America’s stockpile ages and diplomats grandstand at the United Nations, Russia and China are improving their nuclear weapons systems, while Iran continues working on its own. All these powers must do is maintain their stockpiles at their current level and wait until America’s military advantages slip away. Russia and China don’t need to spend more money. They just need patience.

If President Obama hopes that the United Nations will offer him a way to turn America’s growing weakness into a moral virtue, he should recall the experiences of one of his predecessors, Harry Truman. Truman also went to the United Nations to try and cut a deal on a world free of nuclear weapons. After months of diplomatic wrangling, the talks collapsed, and the nuclear arms race began.

President Obama is not wrong to wish for a world free of nuclear weapons. But he is naïve to imagine that he can get there through agreements that erode American power while doing nothing to reign in the rogue states that make the risk of nuclear war truly worrying.

  • bubba4

    Well, this is another total misrepresentation.

    What this guys calls “Reliable Replacement Warhead program” was the Bush Administration's attempts to develop newer smaller nukes, so we could use them like they do in Starship Troopers. This of course was against all the proliferation treaties we had with Russia….and in general a very bad idea.

    Then Matt tries to make the point that our current missiles are aging from 9 months of complete neglect by Obama. He cites an article on how the YEARLY upgrade program is behind atm.

    “The refurbishment program is aimed at replacing thousands of parts that have aged since the bombs left the factory 20 and 30 years ago.

    The $200-million-a-year program is a cornerstone of America's nuclear deterrent strategy, and the Energy Department has been under growing pressure from the military and Congress to meet tough deadlines to get the weapons ready.”

    So a program to upgrade them is already in place and has been working diligently for years. Sorry Matt…your a hack.

  • Proxywar

    Whatever happen to the Gay-bomb?

  • fporretto

    Altogether too many persons of every political stripe regard American military superiority, long held as close to invincible, as a permanent state of grace. It simply isn't so — and anyone who understands the significance of radioactive half-life will know it.

    If we want this nation to remain indefeasible in battle, we must be willing to spend on military goods — not just on the salaries of non-uniformed bureaucrats who infest the corridors of the Pentagon. That includes nuclear weapons, which defend not just America but its allies against larger, more numerous, and utterly amoral foes. On the other hand, if we don't care whether the world goes to Hell in a handbasket, and possibly takes us along for the ride, well…just keep going as we're going.

  • CowboyUp

    Hussein is doing the same thing with our nuke stockpiles that wild bill did with our remaining conventional forces after the cuts. Let them wither on the vine and die by attrition.

    Has hussein shut down the cruise missile production lines, and M1A2 upgrade lines yet? Like wild bill, I bet he does if he hasn't already.

    Hussein is by far the 'best' President our mortal enemies ever had.

  • USMCSniper

    The Russians are selling the Iranians several SA-20-S300PMU-1 systems. The SA-20- S300PMU-1 system is capable of engaging targets from altitudes as low as 30 feet to as high as 90,000 feet, against incoming targets travelling at a velocity of 9,000 feet per second, according to the Web site of the Almaz Scientific Industrial Corporation, the Russian company that builds the weapon. TheRussians and the Chinese already have upgraded operational SA-20-S300PMU-1 systems in every major city.

    Its horizontal range allows the S-300PMU-1 to attack targets as close in as 3 miles to as far out as 95 miles. In addition, the missile system is capable of destroying incoming intermediate-range ballistic missiles up to 25 miles out.

    The SA-20/S-300 does all this while attacking six targets simultaneously, with two missile launchers each firing at a rate of one missile every 3 to 5 seconds. The system is totally mobile and can be networked into an air battle management system to provide even more lethal coverage and to ensure that the weapon is much more protected.

    Hawley, a former Marine fighter and test pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours and 438 combat missions flown over Vietnam, said the prospects for any conventional strike aircraft that is non-stealth would be very grim when faced with the SA-20.

    And guess what. President Obama has had his Defense Department cancel the F-22 raptor stealth fighter. The F-22 Raptor, developed by Lockheed Martin at Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the stealth replacement for the F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighter and is now in production.

    This aircraft combines stealth design with the supersonic, highly maneuverable, dual-engine, long-range requirements of an air-to-air fighter and will have an inherent air-to-ground capability. The F-22’s integrated avionics gives it first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability that will guarantee U.S. air dominance for the next 40 years.

    Air dominance is mandatory for future success. Since World War II, air dominance has carried the day in all conflicts. When air dominance has not been absolute, as in the Vietnam War, the result has been extensive loss of aircraft and loss of strategic advantage.

    Air dominance minimizes U.S. casualties and losses. Air dominance, provided by the F-22, guarantees freedom of maneuverability for ground, air and naval forces. It protects militarily important infrastructures, such as command and control facilities, power grids and factories, while increasing the efficiency of other military operations

  • bubba4

    “The F-22’s integrated avionics gives it first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability that will guarantee U.S. air dominance for the next 40 years.”

    As long as it's not raining.

    Besides the incredibly expensive F-22 with the most expensive per fighter upkeep expenses ever…was a fighter plane. We already have an effective stealth bomber.

    And we already have some F-22s…just not the last order.

  • Bellerophon

    And I suppose that it was tested in San Francisco?

  • Bellerophon

    Nuclear weapons are more vital than any military action in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Before there were nuclear weapons there was total war with battles that killed tens of thousands in single day. There haven't been wars like that since 1945 because for the first time in human history leaders of countries face annihilation themselves. Whoever pushes the button can be assured that it will be the last button that he ever pushes.

    It was the capacity for massive overkill and the certainty of complete annihilation that has prevented wars between major powers. For years Mutual Assured Destruction was condemned by the supposed “intelligentsia” thereby displaying either extraordinary stupidity or an insane desire to return to the “good ol' days” when battlefield body counts sounded like ballpark attendance figures.

    If you long for desperate battles between massive armies with entire cities being bombed into dust then by all means get rid of nuclear weapons.