Nuclear Weapons: Asked and Answered
James’s post on Sen. Barack Obama’s announced proposal for eliminating nuclear weapons certainly raised a number of questions in my mind. Below I’ll give you a sample of some of the questions that came to mind and my answers. Please provide your own answers in the comments.
Should we reduce the size of our nuclear stockpile?
My answer: yes. The estimates I’ve seen on the size of our arsenal is something around 10,000 or the low teens. That’s enough to satisfy the requirements of deterrence several times over. Storing them is costly, presents a security risk, and, as James noted, some are obsolete and won’t be used in any event.
Is deterrence still relevant?
My answer: sadly, yes. I even think that the Iranian and North Korean regimes are deterrable (including selling or giving nuclear weapons to third parties) but it will take more steel than we’ve shown lately to do. As I’ve said repeatedly over at my place, I think that the current crop of politicians is recklessly undermining deterrence as a strategy.
Should we eliminate our nuclear weapons, either unilaterally or multilaterally?
My answer: sadly, no. See above for the reasons.
Is Russia likely to eliminate its nuclear arsenal whether we do or not?
My answer: frankly, I doubt it. The nationalistic and nostalgic direction in which the Russians seem to be moving would appear to preclude that alternative.
Which nuclear weapons present the greatest security risk?
My answer: Pakistan’s.
Is there anything that can be done about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons?
My answer: probably not. I do think we need something along the lines of the doctrine that Kennedy pronounced during the Cuban missile crisis.
Don’t our present policies just encourage rogue states to pursue nuclear weapons?
My answer: they’d do it without our encouragement. It’s not just our nuclear weapons that encourages other states to pursue nuclear weapons. They want nuclear weapons to deter our conventional forces, too. Since total unilateral disarmament is probably not on, they’ll keep right on pursuing them.