America’s nuclear arsenal is key to our force projection and national defense guidelines and for the first time in his administration President Obama is set to decide just how we employ our nuclear arsenal. He will be deciding what our strategy will be in the event of a nuclear war, where we should aim our nuclear tipped ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) and how many nuclear submarines we keep at sea. Obama has been set on reducing America’s incredibly large and Earth ending nuclear arsenal but will he choose a path that will no doubt label him as ‘weak on national security’ in an election year?
“It is possible that our deterrence goals can be achieved with a smaller nuclear force,” Obama said, “which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons in our inventory as well as their role in U.S. national security strategy.” Reducing our nuclear arsenal would force the Pentagon to reshape our deterrence options considering most of our military strategy to prevent a war on American soil rests in the tubes of American submarines deployed around the world in secret. Reducing our national nuclear arsenal presents us with the opportunity to develop a 21st century deterrence method with the nuclear arsenal taking a back seat while saving the tax payer billions.
According to Mother Jones the United States Navy argues that it needs a total of 12 nuclear-missile submarines just to be able to keep five in the water at all times, ready to launch their missiles. The extra seven come at an added cost of $350 billion. Those submarines can carry 16 missiles apiece and up to eight nuclear warheads and that is just the submarine fleet. Current deterrence policy dictates that we are able to launch 1,000 nuclear missiles against multiple targets within a 20 minute window (yes you read that right) after the launch order is given. As some of the submarines, missiles and bombers reach their age limits Obama has a very interesting choice to make.
If the President were to just scale back the submarine fleet to 8 subs he could save over $100 billion dollars and he could save hundreds of billions more by delaying the purchase of new bombers and missiles. Both political parties have demanded budget cuts and many turned to controversial expenditures such as Medicare to reduce the budget but Obama now has the opportunity to save even more money that isn’t apart of the current budget cuts. While saving money sounds awesome jeopardizing national security doesn’t and there will be calls for his head if he chooses the path of fiscal security.
Every nuclear nation other than the United States and Russia deploys less than 300 nuclear weapons. Current guidelines for the U.S dictate that we are able to hit every factory in every factory city within enemy territory that has a population of 250,000 or more. As a result we have over 5,000 nuclear warheads on tap which is more than enough to destroy the world. Russia has a similar policy and also has several thousand warheads on tap and China is gaining ground. Nuclear bombs have become so powerful that it becomes horrifying to think of just a few dropped not to mention 1,000 or 5,000 which is why the deterrence has worked. No one wants to end the world. However if we were to reduce our nuclear arsenal to 300 we would still be in position to obliterate any hostile country without the costs of maintaining 5,000 warheads and delivery vehicles.
Nuclear weapons are an aging deterrence as is proven by the 1970s era rules that dictate the targeting of enemy cities. Reducing the nuclear arsenal would not affect national security and most experts feel that our nuclear arsenal has surpassed our national security needs for a long time. Threats such as terrorism cannot be defeated by dropping a nuclear bomb and for the large conventional armies that have a nuclear arsenal, 300 is more than enough to ruin them. Why aren’t we shutting the doors to the silos then? A nasty Presidential election looms on the horizon with virtually every candidate painting Obama as weak on defense.
Can Obama reduce the nuclear arsenal? He certainly can and he’s certainly said that he wants to see a nuclear free world but Obama tends to meet resistance to his policies, with the exception of health care, with a white flag. The nuclear strategy comes up for review every 4 years so this might be Obama’s last chance to act but it could also be the nail in his campaigns coffin. This would be the one area where they could paint Obama as weak on national defense without going against what the rest of the country feels. I believe he should take the risk and reduce the amount of nukes we have on standby and save us all a little money. Remember it took 2 nuclear bombs which are very weak in comparison to today’s bomb to end WWII; not 5,000. We need to start taking a realistic approach to defense rather than an outdated bluff.