Trump’s Nuclear Fallacy


Dangerous Nuclear Decisions
By Louis René Beres | Opinion Contributor
July 4, 2017, at 7:00 a.m.
Our national independence suggests more than an annual pretext for bluster, bravado and fireworks. It also expresses a complex legal and philosophical concept warranting continuous reassessment. In this connection, despite President Donald Trump’s vast efforts at public deflection via ad hominem attacks, it is high time for Americans to confront the most overriding danger of presidential debility.
This singular peril is the conspicuously growing threat of a president who is emotionally and intellectually incapable of rendering well-reasoned nuclear command decisions.
As I know personally from almost 50 years of scholarship on such matters, there are various structural protections built into any presidential order to use nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, virtually all of these mostly redundant safeguards would become operational only at lower command levels; plainly, they do not apply at the highest level of national decisional authority.
In essence, there exist no permissible or codified legal grounds to disobey a presidential order to use nuclear weapons. To be sure, in principle at least, individuals in the military chain of command could sometimes invoke pertinent Nuremberg obligations to resist crimes of state, but any such last-minute invocation would almost certainly yield to substantially more obvious manifestations of U.S. domestic law, both statutory and constitutional.
If an American president were ever to issue an irrational or seemingly irrational nuclear command, the only way for the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the national security advisor and several possible others to meaningfully obstruct this order would be illegal on its face. Conceivably, such informal safeguards might somehow manage to work, but we really still ought to inquire about implementing more suitably predictable and promising institutional impediments.
This inquiry should be immediate.
History may deserve pride of place. In candor, we Americans are navigating here in generally uncharted waters. While President John F. Kennedy did engage in personal nuclear brinkmanship with the Soviet Union back in October 1962, he had then calculated his own odds of a resultant nuclear war as “between one out of three and even.”
This troubling calculation, corroborated both by top JFK aide Theodore Sorensen and by my own private conversations with former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke, suggests that Kennedy was either genuinely irrational in imposing his Cuban “quarantine,” or instead that he was acting out completely untested (in a nuclear crisis context) principles of “pretended irrationality.”
There is more. For JFK, following his U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, the term “quarantine” was chosen because “blockade” was presumptively more belligerent, more of an incontestable casus belli, more patently legitimizing as a cause of possible war.
Today, Trump, without any hint of nuance or a scintilla of serious thought, has several-times heaped seat-of-the-pants praise upon pretending irrationality. This unreflective argument was advanced not because the president is in any way personally acquainted with U.S. nuclear strategy, but rather as a “common sense” metaphor drawn viscerally from commercial real estate negotiations. To successfully “play” such a dialectical strategy – to even pry into it interpretively – would call for a far greater depth of historical understanding and analytic subtlety than he could ever be expected to display.
In more expressly scientific terms, this means that Trump, in addition to any evident personal debilities he might bring to the delicate game, would have no credible way to determine the probable outcome of his planned or considered actions. None at all.
The reason for this uncertainty is straightforward and utterly non-political. It exists because all scientific judgments of probability must be based upon the determinable frequency of pertinent past events. By definition, unless we count JFK’s willingness to escalate in 1962, there simply are no pertinent past events.
Going forward, the most serious threat of a misconceived or irrational U.S. presidential order to use nuclear weapons flows not from any “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack – whether Russian, North Korean or American – but from an incoherent escalatory process that has run amok. Fortunately, in 1962, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked” early on in the game, and thereby avoided mutual and possibly irrecoverable nuclear harms. Looking ahead, however, especially to any expanding crises with North Korea, escalatory initiatives undertaken by Trump would plausibly express fully ad hoc decision-making.
Such initiatives might not meet with any reassuringly Khrushchev-type concession. Such initiatives could end with bitterly unforeseen and unacceptable costs.
In principle, at least, it is vital that Trump understand the very great risks of being locked into an escalatory dynamic from which there could be no release other than capitulation or nuclear war. Although the American president might be entirely well advised to seek “escalation dominance” in any upcoming crisis negotiations with the Russians or North Koreans, also required would be a corollary caution to avoid catastrophic miscalculations. Ominously, in this connection, the more numerous the participating national players, the more complicated and perilous any such negotiations would become.
Like it or not, at one time or another, nuclear strategy is a bewildering game that Trump will almost certainly have to play. To best ensure that this disinterested president’s calculated moves will be rational, purposeful and tactically cost-effective, it will first be necessary to enhance the formal decisional authority of his most senior military and defense subordinates. At a minimum, the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the national security advisor, and one or two others in pertinent nuclear command positions should prepare for undertaking more fully collaborative judgments in extremis atomicum.

The Cost of Babylon the Great’s Nukes


1,032 Weapons Tests Made America a Nuclear Superpower (But at a Crazy Cost)
U.S. nuclear testing ceased in 1992. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that virtually every American that has lived since 1951 has been exposed to nuclear fallout, and that the cumulative effects of all nuclear testing by all nations could ultimately be responsible for up to eleven thousand deaths in the United States alone. The United States did indeed learn much about how to construct safe and reliable nuclear weapons, and their effects on human life and the environment. In doing so, however, it paid a terrible and tragic price.
Nuclear weapons have a mysterious quality. Their power is measured in plainly visible blast pressure and thermal energy common to many weapons, but also invisible yet equally destructive radiation and electromagnetic pulse. Between 1945 and 1992, the United States conducted 1,032 nuclear tests seeking to get the measure of these enigmatic weapons. Many of these tests would be today be considered unnecessary, overly dangerous and just plain bizarre. These tests, undertaken on the atomic frontier, gathered much information about these weapons—enough to cease actual use testing—yet scarred the land and left many Americans with long-term health problems.
The majority of U.S. nuclear tests occurred in the middle of the Western desert, at the Nevada Test Site. The NTS hosted 699 nuclear tests, utilizing both above-ground and later underground nuclear devices. The average yield for these tests was 8.6 kilotons. Atmospheric tests could be seen from nearby Las Vegas, sixty-five miles southeast of the Nevada Test site, and even became a tourist draw until the Limited Test Ban Treaty banned them in 1963. Today the craters and pockmarks from underground tests are still visible in satellite map imagery.
The bulk of the remaining nuclear tests took place in Pacific, at the islands of Bikini, Enewetak, Johnson Island and Christmas Island. The second nuclear test, after 1945’s Trinity Test, took place at Bikini Atoll. The Pacific tests were notable not only for their stunning visuals, the most compelling imagery of nuclear weapons since Hiroshima, but also the forced relocation of native islanders. Others that were near tests were exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive fallout and forced to fleet. In 1954, the crew of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru accidentally sailed through fallout from the nearby fifteen-megaton Castle Bravo test. Contaminated with nuclear fallout, one crew member died, and the rest were sickened by radiation.
The first test of a thermonuclear, or fusion, bomb took place on November 1952 at Enewetak Island. Nicknamed Ivy Mike, the huge eighty-two-ton device was more of a building than a usable nuclear device. The device registered a yield of 10.4 megatons, or the equivalent of 10,400,000 tons of TNT. (Hiroshima, by contrast, was roughly eighteen thousand tons of TNT.) Ivy Mike was the biggest test by far, creating a fireball 1.8 miles wide and a mushroom cloud that rose to an altitude of 135,000 feet.
One of the strangest atmospheric tests occurred in 1962 at the NTS, with the testing of the Davy Crockett battlefield nuclear weapon. Davy Crockett was a cartoonish-looking recoilless rifle that lobbed a nuclear warhead with an explosive yield of just ten to twenty tons of TNT. The test, code-named Little Feller I, took place on July 17, 1962, with attorney general and presidential adviser Robert. F. Kennedy in attendance. Although hard to believe, Davy Crockett was issued at the battalion level in both Germany and North Korea.
Also in 1962, as part of a series of high-altitude nuclear experiments, a Thor rocket carried a W49 thermonuclear warhead approximately 250 miles into the exoatmosphere. The test, known as Starfish Prime, had an explosive yield of 1.4 megatons, or 1,400,000 tons of TNT, and resulted in a large amount of electromagnetic pulse being released over the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The test, conducted off Johnston Island, sent a man-made electrical surge as far Hawaii, more than eight hundred miles away. The surge knocked out three hundred streetlights and a telephone exchange, and caused burglar alarms to go off and garage doors to open by themselves.
Nuclear tests weren’t just restricted to the Pacific Ocean and Nevada. In October 1964, as part of Operation Whetstone, the U.S. government detonated a 5.3-kiloton device just twenty-eight miles southwest of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The test, nicknamed Salmon, was an experiment designed to determine if nuclear tests could be detected by seismometer. This was followed up in 1966 with the Sterling test, which had a yield of 380 tons.
In 1967, as part of a misguided attempt to use nuclear weapons for peaceful purposes, the United States detonated a nuclear device near Farmington, New Mexico. Project Gasbuggy was an early attempt at nuclear “fracking,” detonating a twenty-nine-kiloton nuke 4,227 feet underground just to see if the explosion would fracture surrounding rock and expose natural-gas reserves. The experiment was unsuccessful. Two similar tests, Rulison and Rio Blanco, took place in nearby Colorado. Although Rulison was a success in that it uncovered usable gas reserves, the gas was contaminated with radiation, leaving it unsuitable for practical commercial use.
A handful of nuclear tests were conducted in Alaska, or more specifically the Aleutian island of Amchitka. The first test, in October 1965, was designed to test nuclear detection techniques and had a yield of eighty kilotons. A second test occurred four years later, and had a yield of one megaton, or one thousand kilotons. The third and largest test, Cannikin, was a test of the Spartan anti-ballistic missile warhead and had a yield of less than five megatons.
During the early years of nuclear testing it was anticipated that nuclear weapons would be used on the battlefield, and that the Army and Marine Corps had better get used to operating on a “nuclear battlefield.” During the 1952 Big Shot test, 1,700 ground troops took shelter in trenches just seven thousand yards from the thirty-three-kiloton explosion. After the test, the troops conducted a simulated assault that took them to within 160 meters of ground zero. This test and others like them led to increases in leukemia, prostate and nasal cancers among those that participated.
U.S. nuclear testing ceased in 1992. In 2002, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that virtually every American that has lived since 1951 has been exposed to nuclear fallout, and that the cumulative effects of all nuclear testing by all nations could ultimately be responsible for up to eleven thousand deaths in the United States alone. The United States did indeed learn much about how to construct safe and reliable nuclear weapons, and their effects on human life and the environment. In doing so, however, it paid a terrible and tragic price.
Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Is Trump a Nuclear Madman?


‘Madman With Nuclear Weapons’

Mandel Ngan—AFP
Donald Trump lashes out at North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un during phone call with Philippine president
U.S. President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a telephone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of the conversation released by U.S. media on Tuesday.
A White House readout of the April 29 call characterized it as a “very friendly conversation.” Days after the conversation, Trump said publicly that he would be “honored” to meet with Kim. But in the call, Trump hinted at a possible dramatic escalation on the Korean Peninsula.
“We can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20—but we don’t want to use it,” the U.S. leader said, citing “two nuclear submarines” the Pentagon sent to the area last month.
Transcribed by the Philippine government, the conversation was released by The Washington Post and The Intercept.
Trump also queried Duterte about whether he believed Kim was “stable or not stable.” The Philippine leader responded that their North Korean counterpart’s “mind is not working and he might just go crazy one moment.” Kim has a “dangerous toy in his hands that could create so much agony and suffering for all mankind,” he added.
But Trump appeared reassured that North Korea’s recent missile tests had failed, saying that “all his rockets are crashing. That’s the good news.”
Turning to China and its ability to counter the nuclear threat, Trump pressed Duterte to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert pressure. “I hope China solves the problem. They really have the means because a great degree of their stuff come through China,” Trump said, adding: “But if China doesn’t do it, we will do it.” Duterte agreed, saying “at the end of the day, the last card, the ace, has to be with China.”
However, he also cautioned, starkly, that “the other option is a nuclear blast, which is not good for everybody.”
Trump closed the call by inviting Duterte to visit the White House “anytime you want to come,” and called him a “good man.”
“Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know. Just take care of yourself, and we will take care of North Korea,” he added. At the start of the call, Trump congratulated Duterte on doing a “great job” in his controversial drug war that has killed thousands of people.

UK Nukes May Be Prone To Attack

Proposed budget cuts to a police force responsible for protecting the Trident nuclear base and other defence sites are “frightening” at a time of heightened security concerns, their representative Eamonn Keating is set to warn in a speech.
He will say that just last week, two sites on the south coast were threatened with withdrawal of all defence police force presence to make savings and that this “is frightening from a security perspective.”
Keating, national chairman of the Defence Police Federation, will say the Ministry of Defence was seeking £12.5m isavings from the MoD police, which he estimates would see the force drop from its nominal strength of around 2,600 to below 2,300.

The MoD police, which is separate from the military police responsible for maintaining discipline, is a separate civilian force armed and engaged mainly in the protection of sensitive sites. It was set up after an attack by the Provisional IRA on the Royal Marine barracks at Deal in 1989.
The force, like police forces throughout the country, has already had cuts imposed, dropping from 3,500 officers in 2010.
According to an advance copy of his speech on Thursday to the federation’s annual conference in Stansted, Keating is set to warn that the proposed budget savings will mean a reduction in real terms of around one in 10 firearms officers and a reduction or removal of police protection from MoD sites.
“If this reset goes forward in order to meet an arbitrarily imposed saving set by the department on our force, then security will be reduced, the risk to terrorist or criminal attack will be increased, and the safety of those we protect – both within the department and with the nation as a whole – will be put at risk,” he will say.
“In the current climate, where the threat levels are increasing and we have seen three terrorist attacks over the past 12 weeks, where response is limited and its sustainability – nationally – is under question, this type of decision is outrageous and cannot go unchecked.
“Why would the MoD look to put financial savings, that in the grand scheme of things are minute, over the safety of its people and country?”

The Nuclear Escalation Before The End

Opinion: what’s driving world back to MAD old days of nuclear weapons?
It can be hard not to lose heart these days after going through daily news headlines. Sometimes history seems to be moving backwards. The absurdity often makes one wonder if the world is going mad.
Among the crazy things that took place this week, here is one that is not getting much attention: the United Nations called for a meeting on Tuesday to continue negotiations for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, but nearly 40 countries – including the US, China, Russia, Britain and France – decided to skip it. None of the participants from the 100 countries attending the meeting belong to the group of states in possession of nuclear weapons.
US Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley said the US would not join negotiations concerning a United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty. Photo: AFP
US envoy Nikki Haley explained afterwards that national security concerns required Washington to keep its nuclear weapons because of “bad actors” who could not be trusted. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic,” she told reporters. “Is there anyone who believes that North Korea would agree to ban nuclear weapons?”
China, Russia, Britain and other nuclear powers did not even talk to the media.
If Kim Jong-un were watching the news, he would probably have a big smirk on his face. Yes, Kim is a cold-blooded power-hungry maniac. But judging from what happened on Tuesday, leaders of the world’s major capitals are probably just as callous.
While North Korea is aspiring to build a few nuclear bombs, the big five – US, China, Russia, France and Britain – are sitting on arsenals that between them could destroy this planet many times over. Still, none of them feel they have enough.
For those born in the 1980s or later, the threat of a nuclear war seems remote. But for older generations, such a threat was once very real. From the end of the second world war until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, fears of a nuclear Armageddon were widespread.
At the peak of the cold war, all major powers devoted precious national resources to building their nuclear capacities, with the US and the USSR leading the race. The atomic bombs the US dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war were powerful, but they were mere popguns compared to the thermonuclear weapons of the cold war era.
The cold war stand-off established the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine. According to MAD, major nuclear powers would refrain from direct conflict because a nuclear exchange would result in the complete annihilation of both sides. Some historians credited this balance of nuclear deterrence as an important factor behind the longest period of peace in modern history, with no war breaking out between major powers for almost 70 years.
Dread of a nuclear holocaust forced world leaders to cool the hysteria. The end of the cold war brought brief hopes of optimism. But today, the situation is getting more dangerous.
After a brief slump, spending on nuclear weapons by major powers has increased again. Meanwhile, many emerging powers are trying to get their hands on such weapons. It seems that a nation has to own some weapons of mass destruction before it can be truly sit at the “big boys’ table”.
India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have all joined the nuclear club, with Iran, Japan and even South Korea at various stages of acquiring membership.
Globally, annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is estimated at US$105 billion. In comparison, the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the principal UN body responsible for advancing a nuclear-weapon-free world, has an annual budget of US$10 million.
Two studies, one by the Brookings Institution and another by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently drew the same conclusion: governments around the world are going to spend a crazy amount of money on nuclear weapons in the next decade.
Together, nine major nuclear countries will spend a staggering US$1 trillion on new research, production and maintenance of nuclear arms over the next 10 years. At a time of economic crises and imposed austerity measures, world leaders led by US president Donald Trump have decided to cut investment on education, health care and climate change so that we can have more powerful weapons of mass destruction.
Opinion: what’s driving world back to MAD old days of nuclear weapons?
It can be hard not to lose heart these days after going through daily news headlines. Sometimes history seems to be moving backwards. The absurdity often makes one wonder if the world is going mad.
Among the crazy things that took place this week, here is one that is not getting much attention: the United Nations called for a meeting on Tuesday to continue negotiations for a legally binding ban on nuclear weapons, but nearly 40 countries – including the US, China, Russia, Britain and France – decided to skip it. None of the participants from the 100 countries attending the meeting belong to the group of states in possession of nuclear weapons.
US Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley said the US would not join negotiations concerning a United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty. Photo: AFP
US envoy Nikki Haley explained afterwards that national security concerns required Washington to keep its nuclear weapons because of “bad actors” who could not be trusted. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic,” she told reporters. “Is there anyone who believes that North Korea would agree to ban nuclear weapons?”
China, Russia, Britain and other nuclear powers did not even talk to the media.
If Kim Jong-un were watching the news, he would probably have a big smirk on his face. Yes, Kim is a cold-blooded power-hungry maniac. But judging from what happened on Tuesday, leaders of the world’s major capitals are probably just as callous.
While North Korea is aspiring to build a few nuclear bombs, the big five – US, China, Russia, France and Britain – are sitting on arsenals that between them could destroy this planet many times over. Still, none of them feel they have enough.
For those born in the 1980s or later, the threat of a nuclear war seems remote. But for older generations, such a threat was once very real. From the end of the second world war until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, fears of a nuclear Armageddon were widespread.
At the peak of the cold war, all major powers devoted precious national resources to building their nuclear capacities, with the US and the USSR leading the race. The atomic bombs the US dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war were powerful, but they were mere popguns compared to the thermonuclear weapons of the cold war era.
The cold war stand-off established the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine. According to MAD, major nuclear powers would refrain from direct conflict because a nuclear exchange would result in the complete annihilation of both sides. Some historians credited this balance of nuclear deterrence as an important factor behind the longest period of peace in modern history, with no war breaking out between major powers for almost 70 years.
Dread of a nuclear holocaust forced world leaders to cool the hysteria. The end of the cold war brought brief hopes of optimism. But today, the situation is getting more dangerous.
What China can learn from Trump, the Soviets and Kublai Khan
After a brief slump, spending on nuclear weapons by major powers has increased again. Meanwhile, many emerging powers are trying to get their hands on such weapons. It seems that a nation has to own some weapons of mass destruction before it can be truly sit at the “big boys’ table”.
India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have all joined the nuclear club, with Iran, Japan and even South Korea at various stages of acquiring membership.
Globally, annual expenditure on nuclear weapons is estimated at US$105 billion. In comparison, the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the principal UN body responsible for advancing a nuclear-weapon-free world, has an annual budget of US$10 million.
Two studies, one by the Brookings Institution and another by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, recently drew the same conclusion: governments around the world are going to spend a crazy amount of money on nuclear weapons in the next decade.
Together, nine major nuclear countries will spend a staggering US$1 trillion on new research, production and maintenance of nuclear arms over the next 10 years. At a time of economic crises and imposed austerity measures, world leaders led by US president Donald Trump have decided to cut investment on education, health care and climate change so that we can have more powerful weapons of mass destruction.
The plight of Chinese Indonesians: distrusted in Jakarta, forgotten in China
Last year, Washington gave the green light to a new generation of “smart” nuclear bombs – the B61-12s – which will be the most expensive ever produced. Moscow and Beijing both expressed concerns and hinted they would respond in kind. This year, Chinese scientists announced a theoretical breakthrough in developing the so-called “N2 bomb” – a new type of weapon of mass destruction that is as strong as a nuclear bomb but produces no radioactive fallout.
The chance of a hot nuclear war among major powers remains astronomically small. The only real reason for them to continue pouring precious resources into the arms race is because they cannot break out of their cold war mentalities.
Today, terrorism, climate change and contagious diseases are much bigger and more realistic threats to the world than invasion by Moscow or a nuclear war between Beijing and Washington.
The only real nightmare is for such weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists.
No matter how much major powers improve their nuclear arsenals, it will not deter terrorists – there is no such thing as nuclear retaliation against people who want to see the world blow up.
A World Bank study estimated that if governments cut their spending on nuclear weapons by half and used the money on poverty alleviation, it would have been possible to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.
It would be naïve to ask the major powers to give up their nuclear weapons, but if they could divert more resources to fighting poverty, terrorism and global warming, we would have a much safer, better world. ■
Chow Chung-yan is the executive editor of the South China Morning Post, overseeing daily print and digital operations

The Impending Nuclear War (Revelation 15)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
AlterNet
As if you didn’t have other things to worry about, add “think about the threat of nuclear war” to your to-do list.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says we are, metaphorically speaking, only two and half minutes away from nuclear doomsday — the Bulletin’s closest Armageddon estimate since the early 1980s. Former Defense Secretary William Perry says he is “terrified.” Novelist Philip Roth says what is most frightening about President Donald Trump “is that he makes any and everything possible, including, of course, the nuclear catastrophe.”
And the hell of our predicament, experts say, is that Trump’s emotional instability is only part of the problem. The 45th president sits atop a command and control system that is already aging, prone to accidents and vulnerable to hacking, according to Eric Schlosser, author of “Command and Control,” a gripping history of the U.S. nuclear complex.
And the American political economy offers vast incentives to those who want to expand and modernize America’s nuclear arsenal, instead of reducing and restraining it, as policymakers across the political spectrum recommend.
Before the 2016 election, Schlosser said the notion of Trump “with the launch codes, capable of devastating cities and countries, is extraordinary. It’s like the plot out of a science-fiction film.”
Now that film is reality, and the opening scenes are already scary.
Cold War to Gold War
The early hopes that Trump’s admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin might translate into a new nuclear arms agreement went a-glimmering on Feb. 24 when Trump told Reuters that he thought the existing U.S. Russia accord, known as New START, was “one-sided.”
In fact, the New START treaty limits both countries to the same number of deployed nuclear warheads — 1,550 — by Feb. 2018. And, in any case, Gen. James Cartwright, former vice chair of Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the United States could reduce its nuclear arsenal by a third without harm to U.S. security.
“Discarding New START would irresponsibly free Russia of any limits on its strategic nuclear arsenal and would terminate the inspections that provide the United States with significant additional transparency about Russian strategic nuclear forces,” Kimball wrote.
The United States is going from “Cold War to Gold War,” said Tom Collina, director of policy at Ploughshares Fund, a global security group in Washington, D.C. He noted that when Trump recently announced plans to seek an additional $54 billion in defense spending, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said that a key priority would be “restoring our nuclear capabilities,” meaning more money for nuclear weapons.
What can be done?
Perry, a scientist who served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, is hoping for a meeting with Trump and/or his national security team, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has said some sensible things about reducing nuclear weapons.
Perry’s message for the Trump administration is stark.
We are starting a new Cold War,” he told Politico. “We seem to be sleepwalking into this new nuclear arms race. . . . We and the Russians and others don’t understand what we are doing.”
To get a grip on nuclear reality, you could do worse than take Perry’s online course on “Living at the Nuclear Brink.”
Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Ted Lieu of California, both Democrats, have proposed legislation to prohibit any president from launching a first-strike nuclear weapon without a declaration of war from Congress.
You can sign a petition supporting the Markey-Lieu bill; more than 139,000 people already have.
You can join GlobalZero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Yet, the Pentagon is actually pressing for more nuclear weapons. In a recent report, the Defense Science Board recommended “a more flexible nuclear enterprise” that could include a “tailored nuclear option for limited use” and “lower yield, primary-only options.”
“With Trump’s call to ‘expand’ the U.S. nuclear arsenal, there is a growing possibility that these recommendations could turn into reality,” write Philip E. Coyle and James McKeon, analysts at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, in Politico.
“This is terrifying,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in the Washington Post, “and deserves a swift, full-throated rebuke.”
Antidote to dread
The only antidote to dread, said Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, is action.
“Objectively speaking, the risk of nuclear weapons use is greater now than it has been at any time [since the end of the Cold War], though it is not as severe [as] during the worst crises of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War,” Kimball, a 27-year veteran of disarmament work, told AlterNet in an email.
“It is not just the uncertainty about Trump’s impulses about nuclear weapons and his temperament, but the growing regional tensions on the Korean Peninsula, in South Asia and with Russia that could lead to nuclear consequences,” he wrote.
“Now, as in the past, there are practical solutions that can steer us away from the precipice and we must all look for way to work together to effectively engage our elected leaders to take the actions that reduce the nuclear dangers. As the old saying goes, ‘don’t mourn, organize!’”

The Deteriorating US Nuclear Horn

by Robbie Gramer
President Donald Trump wants the United States to be at the “top of the pack” with nuclear weapons. But his goal has already hit a snag: The infrastructure that supports the country’s nuclear weapons is crumbling to “alarming” levels, a Congressional panel warned on Thursday.
Much of the infrastructure that supports the US nuclear weapons programs, including labs, production facilities and weapons storage complexes were built six decades ago.
The ageing buildings require constant upgrades and renovations to ensure the safety of the government employees handling the weapons – and secure the weapons themselves. But it’s not happening.
There’s a $3.7 billion backlog in deferred essential repairs to the US nuclear weapons infrastructure, overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous arm of the Department of Energy. The maintenance problems are “quite alarming” and “pose the risk of a dangerous nuclear accident”, said Democrat Congressman Tom O’Halleran during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on infrastructure needs of the nuclear security enterprise.
The warnings come as the US government begins to pour more than $1 trillion into modernising its nuclear weapons stockpile over the next 30 years. It’s a top priority for Energy Secretary Rick Perry – who once ran a presidential campaign that called for abolishing the Department of Energy entirely – but the sorry state of NNSA facilities may bog down modernisation efforts from the start.
Alarm bell
Much of the NNSA’s facilities “date to the Eisenhower Administration and, in some cases, the Manhattan Project era,” said Frank Klotz, administrator of the NNSA and under secretary of the Energy Department. “I can think of no greater threat to the nuclear security enterprise than the state of NNSA’s infrastructure.”
As they maintain or research nuclear weapons, NNSA employees are subject to leaky roofs, faulty ventilation and even “routine encounters” with snakes and rodents, according to Michelle Reichart, a top managing contractor for nuclear weapons sites.
The NNSA has sounded the alarm bell on its ageing infrastructure before, and in previous years Congress set aside funds to curb the ballooning deferred-maintenance issues. But it wasn’t until last year that the NNSA halted the growth of the problem.
Congressional members on the panel appeared willing to earmark further funds, but the NNSA ran into a roadblock of its own making. Congressman Mike Rogers asked Perry and the NNSA in January for a list of specific infrastructure projects that in the “intermediate-range” could use stopgap funding. As of Thursday’s panel, the NNSA still hadn’t provided the list to Congress. “That is disappointing,” Rogers told Klotz at the hearing. The NNSA didn’t immediately respond to Foreign Policy’s request for comment.
Beyond the crumbling infrastructure, security experts worry the weapons themselves could be at risk. History’s proved them right in the past.
In 2012, three anti-nuclear activists including an octogenarian nun broke into one of the country’s most secure nuclear weapons facilities, the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In an embarrassing lapse in security, they spent two hours in the facility painting protest signs on buildings that processed weapons-grade uranium inside. The incident sparked immediate rebuke from Congress and the Department of Energy pledged to take action.
Meanwhile, that trillion-dollar nuclear-weapons modernisation program will require thousands of warheads to be shipped across the country. But the office in charge of shipping those weapons is mired with problems that put the security of those weapons at risk, as a new Los Angeles Times investigation revealed. The energy department’s Office of Secure Transportation grappled with “widespread alcohol problems” from its workers, who are responsible for driving nuclear bombs in ageing semi-trucks across the country.
Foreign Policy
Robbie Gramer is a staff writer at FP
Foreign Policy distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

Preparing For Nuclear War (Revelation 15)

Nuclear-war-forcetoknow.com_Is there a nuclear war in our future?

  • By Jack Stevenson
  • Mar 24, 2017
A nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia began in the 1960s. At one time, the world had about 30,000 nuclear weapons, and most of those weapons were Russian or American.
The explosive force of a nuclear weapon is measured in megatons. A megaton is equivalent to the explosive force of a million tons of dynamite. A one megaton weapon would be about 50 times more powerful than the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of the nuclear weapons tested by the United States were in the 5 megaton to 15 megaton range. The Russians once test fired a 50 megaton nuclear weapon. They had to use a fast, high altitude bomber and drop the bomb on a parachute to allow the airplane to fly several miles before the bomb detonated. An unprotected person in line-of-sight exposure at a distance of 60 miles would have been burned by the heat from the blast.
Eventually, both the Americans and the Russians realized that large scale use of nuclear weapons would return vast areas of the earth to a stone age existence. Efforts were initiated to control, reduce or even eliminate nuclear weapons.
The current nuclear relationship between Russia and the United States is governed by the “New START” treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). That agreement imposes a specified limit on the number of deployed launchers and a maximum of 1550 deployed nuclear warheads for each country. The word “deployed” is important. Deployed weapons are ready to fire. Each side will have additional nuclear weapons in storage. Old nuclear rockets, submarines, and bombers can be destroyed, but there is no way to convert the radioactive bomb material from a “weapon to a plowshare.” It has to be stored and guarded for thousands of years. Anything that we can do to lessen the possibility of nuclear war would be a great blessing for humanity.
The United States has a long-term plan to upgrade our nuclear weapons at a cost of one trillion dollars.
The Reuters news agency reported on Feb. 9, 2017, that, in a phone call between Russia and the U.S., Russia’s President Putin asked about extending the New START agreement. The President of the United States responded unfavorably to that suggestion. In the 1960s, a nuclear non-proliferation treaty was signed by most of the world’s countries. Only India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan have failed to sign the agreement. North Korea withdrew in 2003.
Currently, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, England and the United States possess strategic nuclear weapons. Iraq, Libya, South Africa and the Ukraine voluntarily agreed to give up their nuclear weapons. Subsequently, Russia invaded the Ukraine (Crimea), and the U.S. invaded both Iraq and Libya. That is not reassuring to countries that do not possess nuclear weapons. As a result of a high-pressure negotiation, Iran has agreed to a 15-year moratorium on nuclear weapons development.
Strategic nuclear weapons present a strange quandary. So long as sanity prevails and accidents are avoided, possession of nuclear weapons seems to prevent attack by an adversary. But the actual use of strategic nuclear weapons would likely be an unparallelled human-caused catastrophe with no winners and a lot of losers.
(A retiree who served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee, as well as in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America — RCA, Stevenson reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.)

Trump Prepares the US for Nuclear War

Despite Campaign Promises, Trump Set To Outdo Obama On Military Adventurism
Donald Trump tours the nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford, at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., Thursday, March 2, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON — For some, Donald Trump’s campaign trail claim that he had always been against the Iraq war – a claim that he would also use as a jibe aimed at Hillary Clinton – seemed to signal that he would refrain from sending the United States spiraling into another armed conflict.
“I’m the only one on this stage that said, ‘Do not go into Iraq, do not attack Iraq.’ Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong,” he said in February 2016 during one of several Republican debates. Months later, in June, Trump would use this argument to blame Hillary Clinton for the rise of ISIS.
“It all started with her bad judgment in supporting the war in Iraq in the first place. Though I was not in government service, I was among the earliest to criticize the rush to war, and yes, even before the war ever started,” he claimed.
The only problem? Trump was no dove prior to or after the invasion and occupation of Iraq. And since the destruction of Iraq – and his inauguration – Trump has sent the U.S. into a number of military conflicts and his administration is looking to promote even greater military interventionism in a region already steeped in violence.
When asked about Trump attitudes toward war, MIT professor and renowned linguist and political analyst Noam Chomsky told MintPress News that the idea that he was an anti-war candidate “was based on his criticisms of the Iraq and Libya attacks (which, contrary to his lies, he supported) and his ambiguous statements about reducing tensions with Russia – a good thing, if he meant it. But his actual policies are extremely dangerous.
“[This includes] the sharp increase in the military budget, the weakening of restrictions on drone strikes, and the wild charges about Iran,” Chomsky said, adding that what really worries those who pay attention to these issues “is his megalomania and unpredictability…we know how someone who goes berserk over minor slights might react in a moment of crisis.”
Despite what some have claimed, Trump has never given a “loud and strong” argument against invading Iraq. According to a report from PolitiFact, during an interview with Howard Stern in 2002, Trump was asked whether or not he supported the U.S. invasion, to which he responded “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.” In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, he wrote:
“We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons…if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”
There’s no evidence of genuine opposition on Trump’s part regarding the invasion and occupation of Iraq. His few mealy-mouthed anti-war statements are meaningless in light of what he has said previously. And now, with the U.S. military under his command, Trump has already begun exercising armed force and is actively suggesting that his administration will engage in further military action, including putting more troops on the ground in Syria to combat ISIS.
According a report from the Washington Post, marines that have already been deployed there are establishing an outpost in Raqqa so they can fire on ISIS combatants. The report argues that the deployment “marks a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle.” The marines will soon be accompanied by special operations troops and attack helicopters.
Syria is certainly not the only country that will suffer from more U.S.-sanctioned violence. Nearly 19 million people in Yemen are now in need of aid, with more than seven million “not knowing where their next meal will come from,” according to the United Nations. Despite the UN having described Yemen as being “on the brink of famine,” the Trump administration has not been afraid to inflict further harm on the country’s vulnerable population. As millions of Yemenis are on death’s door, the U.S. government is escalating a horrific war in Yemen.
On March 3, the U.S. launched a second round of airstrikes that government officials alleged was part of a larger campaign meant “to roll back territorial gains [an Al Qaeda affiliated group] has made in the past two years.”
The U.S. launched over 30 strikes against alleged combatants and their safehouses between March 2 and 3. This escalation came only a few months after the notorious January raid during which at least two dozen civilians, including 10 children, were reported to have been killed. The media’s pointed focus on the commando raid came after it was revealed that a member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 was also killed.
The Trump administration has also been escalating tensions with Iran, a country that has faced tremendous pressure from previous administrations for its use of nuclear energy. After ballistic missile tests in February, former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn officially “put Iran on notice.” Donald Trump would later threaten Iran via Twitter: “Iran is playing with fire—they don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!”.
In February, James Mattis, who is currently serving as the U.S. Secretary of Defense, described Iran as being “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” Mattis has held an obsessive hatred towards Iran for decades, with Politico author Mark Perry describing him as having an “anti-Iran animus [that] is so intense that it led President Barack Obama to replace him as Centcom commander.”
Douglas Williams, a contributor for The Guardian and PhD student in political science at Wayne State University, told MintPress News that Trump never genuinely campaigned on being anti-war “aside from a brief moment after he clinched the Republican nomination for president.”
Williams argues, “he always beat that drum about ISIS, and then there was the talk of the ban on Muslims entering the United States.” That said, Williams believes that the anti-war movement has a chance of beating Trump “if they play the ball and not the man.” This would mean responding to Trump’s militarism by “connecting the already-outsized military budget to the things that they care about — health care and the economy.”
There is a demonstrable and significant difference between what Trump says and what his administration actually does. It is clear that his alleged anti-war sentiment is entirely imagined.

Get Ready For Nuclear War (Revelation 15)

Emma Sarran WebsterMAR 22, 2017 1:09PM
In late January, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the “Doomsday Clock” 30 seconds closer to midnight. The clock is symbolic, with midnight representing the end of the world; the group moves the minute and second hands based on its analysis of various threats to humanity. Now, at two and a half minutes to midnight, the Doomsday Clock’s minute hand is closer to the catastrophic hour than it’s been since 1953. The decision to move it was in part because of Trump’s recent comments on nuclear arms, as well as nuclear tests by North Korea and new ballistics missiles being built by Russia.
Right now, nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are estimated to exist in the world (that’s down from the 70,000-plus that existed in the Cold War era), with the U.S. and Russia owning approximately 93% of those. The remaining 7% is owned by six other countries: France, China, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, and Israel.
Here’s what you need to know about nuclear weapons.
What are nuclear weapons and proliferation?
Nuclear weapons are explosive devices that derive their destructive force from a combination of chemical explosives and nuclear reactions. They can be fired using airplanes, submarines, or missiles launched from silos. They can destroy entire cities, wipe out millions of people, and cause long-term, devastating effects to the environment and to human health.
The first nuclear weapons were developed during World War II, and they’ve only been used in warfare twice, when the United States bombed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Since then, other countries have acquired nuclear weapons, and more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted.
Under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the term “nuclear proliferation” refers to the spread of nuclear weapons (including weapon material, information, and technology) to states that don’t already have them, while nonproliferation refers to preventing such a spread.
What is the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and why is it important?
The Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is an international agreement covering three pillars: disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The core of the NPT states that “countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament; countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear technology.”
The NPT was developed in the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (when the U.S. and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of nuclear war following the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba) and has been in effect since 1970. There are 190 countries that are signatories to the NPT, including five nuclear states: the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, and China. North Korea signed the NPT in 1985 but withdrew in 2003. India, Israel, and Pakistan have never signed the agreement.
“This treaty is just a piece of paper, but it has done a great deal in terms of limiting the creation of new nuclear capable states and fostering international cooperation,” Angelica Gheen, a radiation-health physicist at a large research university, tells Teen Vogue. Along with nonproliferation, “this has led to an environment of global cooperation on nuclear security…and it allowed for [South Africa] to successfully disarm with international resources,” a process that took place from 1989 to 1991, culminating in South Africa joining the NPT in ’91.
Some believe that nuclear proliferation can actually prevent war, with the dangerous weapons acting as deterrents to countries considering attacks. However, some studies state otherwise. Research has also shown that the closer a country is to acquiring nuclear weapons, the more likely it is to be attacked.
What are the main concerns with nuclear weapons?
Despite treaties and presumptions of deterrence, the fear that nuclear weapons could end up in the wrong hands or that existing nuclear states could choose to attack is real. “Terrorists are working every day to try to get their hands on weapons-grade materials that they could use in a bomb,” John Tierney, executive director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization “dedicated to enhancing peace and security” through policy analysis and research, tells Teen Vogue.
There are also concerns associated with nuclear states that aren’t bound by the NPT, like North Korea, which has conducted several nuclear weapons tests over the years, as well as India and Pakistan, which have both conducted nuclear tests and are pursuing new nuclear delivery systems.
Though Syria and Iran don’t currently have nuclear weapons, both are believed to have taken steps toward proliferation, in violation of the treaty’s terms. (The 2015 Iran nuclear deal among Iran, the U.S., and five other countries was developed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.) And then there are China and Russia. A Chinese state-run newspaper, Global Times, recently called for an increase in nuclear capabilities, and U.S. officials believe that China — North Korea’s only major ally — has supplied nuclear technology and materials to other countries. Russia has also caused concern recently: In 2014, U.S. officials said Russia violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The treaty bans missiles capable of traveling between 310 miles and 3,400 miles, and experts believed the weapon Russia tested had that capability. And in December 2016, Russian president Vladimir Putin said the country needed to “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces.”
And though in 2010 the U.S. and Russia signed the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) to further limit nuclear arsenals (requiring each state to limit its number of deployed warheads to 1,550 by February 5, 2018), both countries (as well as China) are undergoing modernization of their nuclear arsenals. But if the goal is to eliminate nuclear weapons, what’s the point of updating them? From the looks of it, some people believe Russia’s modernization is a sign that they’re working on a new bomb and that America’s modernization is in response to that. Then again, the Center for Arms Control states that the U.S. modernization plans are based on maintaining the amount of nuclear weapons (as deterrents) agreed upon under the New START Treaty — and those goals may be necessary, considering some systems still currently exist on floppy disks. “I don’t think anybody would have an objection [to modernization] as long as [the weapons are] serving the purpose of deterrent, and if we’re committed to eventually reducing the numbers and eliminating them, you want them to be safe and secure,” Tierney says. “But if people are using this modernization process as a guise to proliferate [and] to create more dangerous and risky weapons, then that just escalates the risk of a nuclear mistake or a nuclear incident.”
What is the risk of a nuclear mistake or incident?
Which brings us to another important point: Aside from acts of aggression, there’s the very real concern about simple mistakes that could have catastrophic effects. Between 1950 and 2013, there were 32 nuclear weapon accidents, or “broken arrows,” in which weapons were accidentally launched, fired, detonated, stolen, or lost; six lost weapons were never found. Fortunately, those accidents haven’t resulted in a nuclear explosion, but there have been close calls. In 1980, a missile technician dropped a socket from a socket wrench, which fell 70 feet and pierced the side of the underground Titan II missile, causing it to explode, killing one person. But had the incident caused the missile’s nuclear warhead to detonate, it would have wiped out all of Arkansas.
And then there are the close calls that come with making the decision to detonate a nuclear weapon. In 1983, the Soviet Union’s missile-detection systems mistakenly detected an incoming strike from the U.S. that was triggered by the sun’s reflection off of cloud tops. Instead of registering the supposed nuclear attack, the Soviet duty officer, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, acted on a gut feeling and instead registered it as a false alarm, avoiding a nuclear disaster. There have been other close calls with similar outcomes: narrowly avoided catastrophes based on human decisions.
And making that decision is something that has to be done in an incredibly short time frame, given that if a nuclear weapon is on its way, it’s only a matter of minutes before it hits. Thus, the U.S. has weapons that are on “hair-trigger alert,” which enables them to be launched within minutes, but it also means an increased likelihood of accidental launches or launches in response to false alarms.
When an alert happens, the military chain of command has less than 30 minutes to go through the process of assessing the threat, communicating with the president, and launching a retaliation if the president gives the go-ahead. “One of the reasons why these weapons are so dangerous is that unlike sending people to war and having a little bit of process and hopefully a congressional debate, and then a vote about whether or not to go into war, this is a decision that one person is making and in such a short time frame,” Tierney says.
Why is there concern surrounding Donald Trump and nuclear weaponry?
The U.S. has a “first strike” nuclear weapon policy, meaning America can activate weapons against another country without being attacked first. And President Donald Trump has the final say. Though national security advisors can brief him, it’s ultimately up to the president whether or not to attack, a point that came up during the presidential campaign when Hillary Clinton called out Trump’s impulsivity and how it could affect his decisions with the nuclear codes.
And though Trump said that receiving the nuclear codes was “sobering,” his various statements on the topic are cause for concern. Just one month before his inauguration, Trump tweeted that the U.S. should “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” a statement in direct contrast with Obama’s stated policy of nonproliferation. When asked about the tweet, Trump told MSNBC in a statement, “Let it be an arms race.” He seemingly reinforced those views just a few weeks ago, telling Reuters that the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be at the “top of the pack.”
“When Donald Trump tweets casually about the U.S.’s need to ‘strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,’ it drastically undermines all of these efforts and years of work to denormalize the escalation of nuclear weapon proliferation,” Gheen says. She notes that the NPT was already weakened by the loss of North Korea, and if the U.S., one of the two remaining major nuclear powers in the agreement, were to ever withdraw, the NPT would likely be dissolved.
On the campaign trail, Trump vowed to do away with the Iran nuclear deal, though his more recent lack of comments on the deal give the impression that he may keep the agreement intact. Even if he does try to renegotiate or withdraw from the deal — which, Tierney says, has already been a success — he’ll likely face pushback from U.S. officials and other countries that support it. “The fact of the matter is … [the deal] has worked,” Tierney says. “It’s done what it was intended to do: It’s put us in a much less risky situation, and the other [nations] that were partners in negotiating this…they want it to stay.”
Not long after that tweet, Trump took to Twitter again, in response to North Korea’s recent missile test, dismissing the country’s claims that it is developing a weapon capable of hitting the U.S. Some experts, however, believe it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops such a weapon. “With an unpredictable Kim Jong Un [North Korea’s leader]…it is time for a very delicate diplomacy,” Gheen says. “With Donald Trump tweeting without thought for consequence, you have a scenario with two prideful, impulsive, nuclear-armed leaders. Add China into the mix, which is pretty much DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]’s only ally and [a nation that] has nuclear capabilities, and [there’s] a growing anxiety over Donald Trump.”
Part of that also has to do with Trump’s hiring — and firing — decisions. The president nominated former Texas governor Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees the country’s nuclear programs. But unlike his predecessors, like MIT nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, Perry — who once advocated for abolishing the DOE — has minimal education or experience in the field. During his confirmation hearings, Perry gave vague responses to questions about the U.S. nuclear warheads program, and it turns out he may not have been clear on what his role would be when he accepted the offer. Tierney noted that between Trump and Perry, “there’s concern that there’s a lack of technical knowledge [and] a lack of appreciation for the complexity and for the risk involved.”
And those concerns are heightened when you consider the fact that aside from his one-off tweets and eyebrow-raising statements, Trump hasn’t really shared a clear vision for the future of nuclear arms. “Effective nuclear and radiological emergency response, detection, and prevention requires a well-coordinated national effort,” Gheen says. “A unified national message is essential to maintain funding and efficacy of these programs…. The Trump transition team [showed] little interest in making the continuation of these programs a priority.”
What’s next?
Clearly, the issue of nuclear weaponry and proliferation is a sensitive and dangerous one. To maintain safety and avoid large-scale destruction, Tierney believes Trump needs to continue President Obama’s efforts in nonproliferation, and that he and Perry need to hire experts in the DOE and the administration who have significant knowledge and understanding of nuclear weapons necessary to advise the president and the secretary of energy.
As for the weapons themselves, Tierney and others believe the U.S. needs to take weapons off high alert and work with Russia to do the same. “No matter who’s the president, it’s almost too huge a task to expect anybody to encumber and have 100% accuracy all the time,” Tierney says. “If you’ve only got about 30 to 45 minutes to make a decision as monumental as that, that clearly isn’t enough time in most instances for somebody to have a full appreciation of all the facts that are going on and to make good judgment.” Multiple leaders as well as scientists have called for weapons to be taken off high alert.
And in January, Democratic senator Ed Markey and congressman Ted Lieu introduced legislation to restrict the “first use” policy and prohibit Trump from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war from Congress.
Ultimately, Gheen says, Trump and the U.S. need to continue to partner with other countries, particularly nuclear states, to help avoid a disaster. “There is a great tradition of international nuclear cooperation, especially within organizations like the International Atomic Energy Agency, an international organization that promotes “safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology,” she says. “Together we can propose creative solutions for [nuclear] issues.”
Tierney notes, though, that this is something that may also require a grassroots effort. “We need to get a public movement in gear again to understand that these risks are out there, and as frightful as they are, they can be dealt with,” he says. “We’ve had success in the past and we need to get people together, but it’s [going to] take a voice of people, a movement, to get people to speak up loudly enough that the people who make these decisions in the capitals of various countries react as they did in the ’80s and start taking action to stop the proliferation of these weapons and eventually keep on decreasing them, and put us in a safer environment.”