The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.
A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon By Neil Sheehan (Random House, 534 pp., $35) In late March 1953, a colonel named Bernard Schriever sat in a briefing room at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, listening as John von Neumann, the brilliant mathematician, and Edward Teller, the physicist, discussed the future of the hydrogen bomb, the far more powerful follow-on to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki eight years earlier.
Richard’s post nicely highlighted a tension in last night’s speech that struck me as well, but I think that the pull toward realism was far, far greater than the pull in the other direction. I was most forcefully struck by this sentence: “As president, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.” That is perhaps the most starkly expressed realist sentiment that I can remember hearing from a president since … well, I’m honestly not sure when.
As Mike points out, the uranium enrichment facility at Qom is not, apparently, intended to produce fuel for a civilian power reactor. Besides which, Iran’s covert construction of the facility is decidedly suspicious. However, via Laura Rozen, I see that a Q&A with the Intelligence Community, put out by the White House, contains this exchange: Does this mean that the IC’s judgments in the 2007 NIE were wrong? • No, in and of itself the information on this facility does not contradict our 2007 assessment of Iran’s nuclear program.
Today's missile defense decision seems like absolutely the right move to me on both hawkish and dovish grounds. Deploying the sea-based Aegis system will give us a capability that is both more reliable and more appropriate than the questionable coverage that would have been provided by the ground-based interceptors President Bush wanted to place in Poland. The Polish missile defense would have used an untested booster rocket to launch an interceptor that is intended to destroy ICBMs.
In the latest issue of Newsweek, Jonathan Tepperman has a very confused piece arguing that nuclear disarmament is a bad idea because “[t]he bomb may actually make us safer.” Taking a stand against Washington’s allegedly overwhelming “nuclear phobia,” he writes, “Knowing the truth about nukes would have a profound impact on government policy.” I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone suggest that they know “the truth” about nuclear weapons, but I’m quite certain that Tepperman hasn’t found it. The thrust of the article is that nuclear-armed states won’t fight each other because “all states are rati
This afternoon, Hillary Clinton gave what I thought was an excellent speech laying out the Obama administration's approach to the world. A sizeable portion of the Washington foreign policy establishment packed the Council on Foreign Relations to hear her remarks, and the secretary was accompanied by a gaggle of lieutenants, including (from my view of the room) special envoys Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell, Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, and a number of assistant secretaries, including Rose Gottemoeller, Andrew Shapiro, and P.J. Crowley.
Nestled in the Joint Understanding that Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev issued last week was a line that outraged some conservatives. It notes that the nuclear arms-reduction treaty to be signed later this year will contain a provision on "the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms," by which they meant the link between nuclear weapons and missile defenses. As Charles Krauthammer wrote:Obama's hunger for a diplomatic success, such as it is, allowed the Russians to exact a price: linkage between offensive and defensive nuclear weapons.
As one would expect, coverage of Robert McNamara's death has focused on his management of the Vietnam war and his later reappraisal of its necessity, but the former secretary of defense left an equally important--and far more positive--legacy regarding U.S. nuclear policy. When McNamara joined the Kennedy administration in 1961, American nuclear "strategy" called for launching the entire nuclear arsenal--nearly 3,500 weapons--at the communist bloc if the Soviets made any move against Western Europe. This approach had severe flaws.