President Trump’s wise decisions to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, because of Russian violations, and the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action — JCPOA) are condemned by Democrats, the press, academia, European allies, Russia, and Iran.
Nuclear arms control’s record is one of failure, constraining U.S. programs while adversaries gain advantage through noncompliance.
The West’s commitment to arms control is not based on rational objective cost-benefit calculations, but is deeply rooted in political and ideological factors unique to Western strategic culture.
Politically, nuclear weapons are unpopular with many, if not most Americans. Nuclear weapons are antithetical to a constitutional republic that derives its legitimacy from, and values most highly, the people — whose existence is threatened by such weapons.
Arms control provides “political cover” for supporting nuclear deterrent modernization by signaling to the people their political leaders are trying to limit nuclear arms and calm international tensions through negotiation. Winton Churchill’s admonition, “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war” is an oft quoted justification for arms control. (However, Churchill did not subscribe to this view as regards Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy or Adolph Hitler’s territorial predations that led to World War II).
Arms control is deeply embedded in U.S. strategic culture.
The State Department, Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and academia mostly believe arms control really does constrain the nuclear threat by: limiting forces, building confidence through verification, and lessening suspicion and hostility (“convergence”) through negotiations and the arms control process.
Unique to U.S. strategic culture is the “science” of arms control with its own lexicon and theories about “strategic stability” developed over decades in entire libraries of books and journals, and believed by many adherents with something like religious fervor (see the Arms Control Association).
Negotiating differences and compromise is deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian culture, antedating Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and his Medieval ruminations over “Just War” doctrine.
Modern nuclear arms control began in 1946 with the U.S. Baruch Plan, proposed by Bernard Baruch to the United Nations, originating from Dean Acheson’s State Department, influential scientists, and academics. (Baruch was the U.S. representative to the UN Atomic Energy Commission.)
The Baruch Plan proposed the U.S. and all nations ban atomic weapons, enforced by the UN, and that the UN oversee development of peaceful atomic energy.
Beginning with the Baruch Plan, modern nuclear arms control is championed most vociferously by the State Department, academics, internationalists, globalists, and political Left, who see nuclear weapons as an evil that must be controlled — not evil nations. Since these groups have influence only in the West, their focus overwhelmingly is on “controlling” U.S. nuclear weapons.
Consequently, arms controllers tend overwhelmingly to blame the U.S. for provoking nuclear arms racing. They value so highly the “arms control process” that promises “convergence” that the State Department and its allies in academia and the press are very resistant and slow to acknowledge arms control violations by adversary nations. Indeed, arms controllers often go to great lengths to deny violations, usually blaming the U.S. for failures of arms control.
Nuclear arms control began with failure, the USSR rejecting the 1946 Baruch Plan to ban atomic weapons, detonating its first A-bomb in 1949.
Unfortunately, principles of negotiation, compromise, legality, and “win-win” outcomes are alien to totalitarian and authoritarian states. These are led by ruthless elites who have often murdered their way to the top, believe that “power comes from the barrel of a gun” (to quote Mao), and the lives of men and nations is a “zero-sum” game of victors and defeated, of the living and the dead.
Consequently, the presumed benefits of arms control are more fictional than real.
Arms control agreements can limit arms only if the agreements are obeyed, which has generally not been the case for example with Russia, the USSR, or North Korea.
Verification provisions for arms control agreements that are supposedly “confidence building measures” for growing trust between nations typically are woefully inadequate.
Verification provisions for New START, the Presidential Nuclear Initiative, or for any nuclear arms control agreements between Washington and Moscow have never been adequate to confirm with high-confidence the number of Russian (or, during the Cold War, Soviet) nuclear weapons deployed operationally or stockpiled. Russia could have thousands of nuclear weapons operationally deployed over New START limits — and we would not know.
Another notorious example of verification inadequacy is the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA), allowing inspections of Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities only — not military facilities, where a clandestine nuclear weapons program almost certainly continues.
The Iran nuclear deal epitomizes almost everything wrong with arms control. Iran can be in technical compliance with JCPOA, but according to highly competent U.S. and Israeli experts probably already has nuclear weapons (see “Underestimating Nuclear Missile Threats From North Korea And Iran” National Review February 12, 2016)
The JCPOA, like arms control generally, provides the false illusion of security.
This article is Part 1 of a series.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served on the Congressional EMP Commission as chief of staff, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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