Obama Plans "Dramatic Reductions" In Nuclear Weapons Arsenal
Agence France-Presse has the dramatic news on what may be President Obama's signature issue:
US President Barack Obama plans "dramatic reductions" in the country's arsenal of nuclear weapons as part of a sweeping policy review, a senior administration official told AFP on Monday.
The review, due to be completed this month, "will point to dramatic reductions in the stockpile, while maintaining a strong and reliable deterrent through the investments that have been made in the budget," the official said.
It will also "point to a greater role for conventional weapons in deterrence" and rule out the need to develop low-yield "bunker-buster" nuclear weapons for penetrating underground targets, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The New York Times elaborates:
As President Obama begins making final decisions on a broad new nuclear strategy for the United States, senior aides say he will permanently reduce America’s arsenal by thousands of weapons.
But the aides say the president won't declare that the U.S. won't ever be the first to use nuclear weapons.
Mr. Obama’s new strategy — which would annul or reverse several initiatives by the Bush administration — will be contained in a nearly completed document called the Nuclear Posture Review, which all presidents undertake.
Defense Secretary Gates will give the president several options, today, and the report says the issue is being "hotly debated" by the Obama team. Which is good. It should be, and many different viewpoints should be voiced and heard. The anonymously sourced aides say one of the most contentious issues is whether or not the U.S. should commit to not being the first to use nuclear weapons, even if attacked by other forms of WMDs. The president has not yet decided on that, but much of the rest of the new strategy has been completed.
As described by those officials, the new strategy commits the United States to developing no new nuclear weapons, including the nuclear bunker-busters advocated by the Bush administration.
The president will spend billions to update weapons labs, with the intention being that the new arsenal will be much smaller, but reliable. In other words, part of the plan is to eliminate waste.
“It will be clear in the document that there will be very dramatic reductions — in the thousands — as relates to the stockpile,” according to one senior administration official whom the White House authorized to discuss the issue this weekend.
The chickenhawks may squawk, but many of these weapons are now merely kept in storage. More waste with little or no tactical purpose.
Other Times sources say the administration also has been engaged in discussions with our allies about possibly withdrawing tactical nuclear weapons from Europe. Those weapons, too, are seen as providing more of a symbolic than a tactical purpose. In other words, even more waste. Let's hope that agreements can be made to eliminate such waste.
The new document will make clear that U.S. defenses will become more focused on non-nuclear options. That is reported to include "missile defense," but what that means is unclear. The president already has rolled back "missile defense" in Central Europe, and the unproven but mind-bogglingly expensive technology appears to be but another budget sinkhole. It also bears repeating that while the Bush Administration was so distracted by this high tech fantasy, a bunch of extremist fanatics armed with mere boxcutters launched the worst ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The new plan not only will take a more realistic approach to combating terrorism, it also might allow inspections of new non-nuclear weapons sites, so any possible launches won't be misinterpreted by Russia and China. That, too, sounds like a very sound idea.
The president already cut development of a new nuclear warhead, and ending an arms race seems to be part of the motivation. The president already has been engaged in serious arms limitations and non-proliferation talks, and this report is yet another indication that when it comes to the global threat of nuclear weapons, this is one president who understands the urgency and is trying to do something about it.