New Bush Policy Will Cause Spread of Nuclear Weapons Globally
Robert S. McNamara was secretary of defense from 1961-1967.
Thomas Graham Jr. was Special Representative of President Clinton on Arms
Control and Disarmament.
Washington-The Bush administration has made much
of its belief that the international arms control treaty regime is irrelevant.
As the recently leaked Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) reportedly states,
''that old process is incompatible with the flexibility United States
planning and forces now require.'' The US has decided to withdraw from
the ABM Treaty, put aside improvements in the Biological Weapons Convention,
and refused to continue the formal strategic arms reduction process. It
now seems that the Administration is prepared to add the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty (NPT) to its list of treaties to put aside.
Should this happen, and should this administration's practice continue,
nuclear weapons can be expected to spread around the world. We will then
live in a far, far more dangerous world and the US will be much, much
less secure. Given the stakes, we may be approaching some of the most
important decisions in decades.
During the Cold War, peace was supported by the doctrine of ''mutual assured
destruction,'' which simply meant that each side maintained forces and
observed the conditions required to retain a devastating second strike
capability, thereby deterring nuclear war. The Antiballistic Missile (ABM)
Treaty and the treaties limiting strategic offensive nuclear forces were
the underpinning of this doctrine and the basis for ending the nuclear
arms race and enhancing strategic stability.
While the US and Russia continue to maintain thousands of nuclear weapons-with
many remaining on hair-trigger alert-the Bush administration has unilaterally
declared mutual assured destruction to be outdated, and has decided to
withdraw from the ABM Treaty to underscore this point.
Now, according to reports describing the NPR, the administration has moved
to a new nuclear doctrine described by one commentator as ''unilateral
assured destruction.'' Russia is still targeted, but potentially by offensive
forces rather than second-strike nuclear forces. China is also targeted,
with a ''military confrontation over the status of Taiwan'' set forth
as a possible rationale for a nuclear strike.
The NPR goes even further. It explicitly lists Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran
and North Korea as potential targets for US nuclear forces, putting aside
the ambiguity employed in previous reports. One thing-perhaps the only
thing-that these five states have in common, however, is that all are
nonnuclear weapon states parties to the NPT. For 30 years, this treaty
has kept nuclear weapons from spreading all over the world, a development
that would be devastating to US security.
The problem is, however, that in 1978-in order to bolster the NPT-the
US, Great Britain and the Soviet Union formally pledged never to use nuclear
weapons against nonnuclear weapon states parties to the treaty except
in the case of an attack by any such a state in alliance with a nuclear
weapon state. (No exception was made for responding to chemical or biological
weapon attacks). And in 1995 the three states, with Russia replacing the
former Soviet Union, joined by France and China, reiterated this pledge
as a central element of the effort to make the NPT (which by its terms
had a 25-year duration) a permanent treaty.
In what could be the most reasonable request in the history of international
relations, in exchange for permanently agreeing to never acquire nuclear
weapons, 182 nonnuclear nations asked that the five nuclear weapon states
promise to never attack them with such weapons. This was done in April
1995 in connection with a UN Security Council Resolution. But the Pentagon
plan undermines the credibility of that pledge, which underpins the Nonproliferation
Treaty. To strike directly at this NPT pledge of nonuse is to strike at
the NPT itself.
Further, the basic implication of the NPR that the US reserves the right
to target any nation with nuclear weapons whenever it chooses to do so
is itself likely to increase the risk of the nuclear weapons proliferation.
If a country believes it is falling out of favor in Washington, what is
the first thing it is likely to do? While it is always difficult to predict
the actions of nations, perhaps a quote attributed to Indian Defense Minister
George Fernandez provides some insight: ''Before one challenges the United
States, one must first acquire nuclear weapons.''
Finally, the NPR also appears to set forth a 40-year plan for developing
and acquiring new nuclear weapons. It reportedly calls for new launch
platforms (air, sea and land) to be developed and deployed in 2020, 2030
and 2040, and it calls for new low-yield and variable-yield warheads that
very likely would require nuclear testing. Maintaining a permanent rationale
for a robust US nuclear arsenal and a resumption of nuclear testing would
both ?y in the face of vital US NPT commitments.
These matters are far too important for the administration to decide on
its own. There must be a full public debate on the future of our nuclear
deterrent and the nuclear nonproliferation regime.