No “No Nukes”

There’s a fascinating interview with former Defense Secretary/Energy Secretary/Director CIA James Schlesinger in the Wall Street Journal. In the interview Mr. Schlesinger rejects the policy goal that’s been articulated both by Ronald Reagan and by Barack Obama of complete abolition of nuclear weapons:

Are we heading toward a nuclear-free world anytime soon? He shoots back a one-word answer: “No.” I keep silent, hoping he will go on. “We will need a strong deterrent,” he finally says, “and that is measured at least in decades — in my judgment, in fact, more or less in perpetuity. The notion that we can abolish nuclear weapons reflects on a combination of American utopianism and American parochialism. . . . It’s like the [1929] Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy . . . . It’s not based upon an understanding of reality.”

In other words: Go ahead and wish for a nuclear-free world, but pray that you don’t get what you wish for. A world without nukes would be even more dangerous than a world with them, Mr. Schlesinger argues.

Prior to the advent of nuclear weapons great power war occurred roughly every generation. Since nuclear weapons have entered the equation we haven’t had war between great powers at all—a period of more than 60 years. Abolish nuclear weapons? You feel lucky?

There’s lots more in the interview. RTWT.

FILED UNDER: General,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Brett says:

    Prior to the advent of nuclear weapons great power war occurred roughly every generation. Since nuclear weapons have entered the equation we haven’t had war between great powers at all—a period of more than 60 years. Abolish nuclear weapons? You feel lucky?

    Exactly. Arguably, nukes are the only way we’ll ever realistically get to a draw down of conventional military forces, since they change the calculus between states when deciding on whether or not to engage in direct conflict.

    Then again, maybe the fact that nukes make it increasingly dangerous for states to engage in warfare with each other is creating a biased situation towards “unconventional” warfare, with all of its nasty implications.

  2. modulo_myself says:

    Spoken like a true member of the failed American establishment. Sixty years of waging proxy wars in Third-World countries, supporting dictators, death squads, and ethnic cleansing equals peace to the spineless bureaucrat.

    Strip away the surfeit of bs in this article–RAND, commissions, titles, and foreign policy jargon–and you are left with a sad white nothing talking to other sad nothings.

  3. Davebo says:

    Let’s keep in mind that for the vast majority of those sixty years only the super powers had nukes.

  4. I assume all the talk of zero nukes is diplomatic posturing.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    I think so, Michael. At least I hope so.

    Mind you, I’m completely in favor of reducing our nuclear arsenal in exchange for the Russians reducing theirs in kind. Our mutual stockpiles are completely out of order.

    Just not to zero.

  6. Ben says:

    I’ve always thought it was obvious that we would never reduce down to zero. If we did that, then any rogue state that managed to create one would immediately become the foremost military power on earth. But you don’t need 1500 nuclear weapons for deterrence. You need a couple dozen. There is no situation I can conceive of where we would need more than that without our entire population facing annihilation.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Let’s keep in mind that for the vast majority of those sixty years only the super powers had nukes.

    Not true, Davebo. Britain, France, and China have all had nuclear weapons for at least 40 years. It is believed that Israel has had nuclear weapons for roughly that long.

    India has had nuclear weapons for at least 30 years. Indeed, most of the non-superpower nuclear powers have had nuclear weapons for half or more of the post-war period.

  8. […] UPDATE #2: Dave Schuler […]

  9. DavidL says:

    The nuclear weapons era has not been conflict free. Then what era ever has been. The point is not the nuclear weapons have ended war. They have not, and will not.

    Rather the nuclear weapons era has been free of major conficts between world powers. Some retards may pine for a return to August of 1939. I do not. Do you?

  10. Davebo says:

    Yes Dave, but you don’t consider Britain or France to be among the group of super powers?

    I guess it’s subjective. But there’s certainly a big difference between say Britain and Pakistan or Iran.

    No one freaked out about France getting a nuclear weapons.

  11. Brett says:

    But you don’t need 1500 nuclear weapons for deterrence. You need a couple dozen.

    Only if you need deterrent solely against a single, rather small state nearby. The reason why we have thousands of warheads is because of redundancy:

    1. Not every warhead is going to find its target, and

    2. The enemy will probably be targeting your warheads, in the hope of wiping out as many of them as possible in a first-strike.

    In fact, with the increasingly high possibility that a number of new states will be joining the Nuclear Weapons Club (or at least have the capacity to make them in six months), I’d argue that we need more warheads (although not in the form of ICBMs – bombers and SSBNs are better), not less.

    Rather the nuclear weapons era has been free of major conficts between world powers. Some retards may pine for a return to August of 1939. I do not. Do you?

    Definitely not. I shudder to think of what the 1950s might have been like in Europe between the US and the Western Europeans vis a vis the significantly larger and more powerful Soviet Army. Highly expensive, I imagine, both in human and financial costs.

    Spoken like a true member of the failed American establishment. Sixty years of waging proxy wars in Third-World countries, supporting dictators, death squads, and ethnic cleansing equals peace to the spineless bureaucrat.

    They were already doing that, plus killing each other in the thousands and millions on open battlefields, before the advent of nukes.