Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Playing Chicken With Our Pants Down

Is there anyone outside of the White House who doesn't think this is one of the most stupid things that could possibly be done in terms of national security?

Yesterday, the Obama administration released the DoD's official nuclear stockpile figures. For decades, the size and shape of America's atomic arsenal have been deliberately kept secret, and for good reason. There's always been a calculated sense of ambiguity around our nuclear forces and our deterrence strategies, with the logic being that an enemy --if left to speculate about how, when, where, and if we'd use our nukes-- would err on the side of caution and keep his fangs tucked.

Releasing the stockpile tally, which comes in at slightly over 5k warheads, doesn't really endanger national security. But it does provide ample fodder to nuclear disarmament types, most of whom haven't breathed through their noses since yesterday afternoon's announcement. Joe Cirincione, head of the Ploughshares Fund, swiftly took to Twitter with a rather dubious claim: "Good News: US lifts nuclear secrecy. Bad News: We have 5,113 hydrogen bombs ready to use. 1 destroys a city."

When I challenged him on this, Cirincione -- likely unaware that I spent five years in the Air Force as a Minuteman III launch officer -- replied: "Of the 5113 weapons, about half are ready to use in minutes; about half could be used in hours, days, or for some, weeks."

Let's explore that claim. Half of those bombs are in an inactive state, either waiting to be destroyed or cannibalized to support the operational stockpile. Many of the components on our nuclear weapons haven't been built for two decades, which means that three of the four categories of nuclear warheads are dedicated to supporting the operational force.

And then there's the logistical and planning issues of the "ready to use" argument. Every launcher in our inventory would have to be alerted and fully armed with warheads, all 14 subs would have to be flushed out to launch boxes (we keep around 3-4 on alert), and all of our bombers would have to be fully swapped from conventional support roles, nuclear certified, and armed with a full complement of cruise missiles. Targeteers at U.S. Strategic Command would have to build an entire library of warplans to find aimpoints for the bombs, most of which haven't been operationally certified in years. Disposal plants and storage facilities would have to be emptied in the largest exodus of nuclear weapons in history, but not before thousands of warheads would need to be fitted with parts that no longer exist. Submarine and ground launched missiles would require new targeting data, additional fuel, and extra warheads. Thousands of pages of reference documents and target listings would have to be crafted, and all nuclear crews would have to be fully trained on the new procedures. And, if that string of miracles were to occur, we'd still come up short on launchers to actually deliver the bombs. That we have 5k nuclear warheads ready to be used, even in months, isn't just unlikely -- it's impossible. 

After the Cold War ended, the stockpile was kept classified for precisely this reason: politics. Transparency in this sense is not a threat to national security, but the ensuing disarmament fever -- fueled by an ill-informed anti-nuke movement -- certainly could. Our nuclear inventory consists of 5k --soon to be 4600-- bombs for good reason. It keeps the deployed operational force of approximately 800 warheads ticking. So Obama may have declassified the stockpile to build some extra political muscle for his various disarmament initiatives, but instead the president ended up making a superb case for nuclear modernization.

Hot Air adds this commentary:

The number of military assets has long been considered strategic information.  Giving out those numbers would give potential enemies an advantage, if for no other reason than to know how many to eradicate, if possible to do so.  Clearly the Obama administration thinks that the numbers are so massive as to be irrelevant.  That may be true, but it would also be equally true that releasing the number holds no strategic advantage for the US, either.  One can imagine that Iran will use that number to argue against any sanctions for its intransigence on its own development of nuclear weapons.

The question is what purpose does all of this shedding of strategic ambiguity serve.  It's as if Barack Obama's political consciousness has been stuck in amber since his college days in the 1980s.  The only real nuclear threat right now comes from Iran and non-state actors, neither of which has anything to do with the size or strategic planning of our stockpile.  The main threat against the US is the increasing numbers of terrorist attacks that seem to be getting through our counterterrorism efforts with regularity over the last six months or so.

The 1980s are over, as is the Cold War.  We should be focusing not on decades-old disarmament hobby horses but the real threats arrayed against us now.

Unfortunately, good liberals simply can't abide squarely facing a real threat if there's political correctness involved.  In this case, it's a matter of America's military superiority and ability to protect our interests, thus, good liberals must undermine it.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I genuinely fear that Barack Obama's radical Leftist foreign policies will result directly in American deaths before his term is over.  Things like this only support that fear.

If liberals have a suicidal wish to live in a perpetual state of fear and weakness, they should leave America; in fact, I'd love it if they all wandered over to Europe, which is apparently where they want to be because they keep trying to transform America into New Europe.  However, the rest of us much prefer a strong nation with both the will and the tools to obliterate anyone who would attack us.  Peace through strength...it actually works.

There's my two cents.

No comments: