The biggest nuclear threat we now face doesn't come from some “rogue” nation, but from the radical unilateralists within the Bush administration. John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, announced Friday that the US has officially dropped its pledge not to use a nuclear weapon against a non-nuclear state (“US Drops Pledge on Nukes,” The Washington Times, 2/22/02).
Mr. Bolton’s announcement is an extended version of the Clinton policy which also didn’t completely renounce the use of nuclear weapons. The pledge not to attack a non-nuclear state with a nuclear weapon had previously been maintained - by both Democrats and Republicans - since the Carter administration. Mr. Bolton justified dropping the pledge by explaining, “We are just not into theoretical assertions that other administrations have made.” Given the rhetoric coming from the administration lately, people who live in countries currently on the President’s long list of evil-doers may not see withdrawal from the pledge quite as theoretically.
In addition to implying that the US is to be the first nation to go nuclear in a conflict, the President plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. His plans, spelled out in the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), include development of “bunker busters:” earth-penetrating nuclear weapons designed for use in formerly conventional combat missions. Also in the works are new Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), submarine launched missiles, and a new nuclear capable bomber. The President intends an intense sweep of nuclear upgrades for land, sea, and air-based nuclear weapons. Additionally, the administration has allocated $15 million to prepare the Nevada Test Site for resumed nuclear testing.
The administration also plans to store, rather than reduce, retired stockpiles. President Bush and President Putin have an unenforceable agreement to reduce the US and Russian nuclear arsenals. This reduction agreement is belied by the fact that President Bush doesn’t intend to actually get rid of the majority of the retired warheads – he plans to put them in storage where they can be reactivated.
While the President speaks of preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction internationally, it is clear that his intentions don’t extend to his own backyard. This point is not lost on nations who are potential nuclear proliferators – Pakistan, India, China etc. The President’ s aggressive pursuit of new nukes, his withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and his quest to deploy an expensive and ineffective Star Wars missile system will likely result in a new and destabilizing arms race in Asia.
The President’s Cold War style emphasis on nukes will obliterate the 40 years of progress the US and the world have made to reduce, and eventually abolish, nuclear weapons.
For decades, the world has recognized that nuclear weapons are the problem, not the solution. The President’s designs counter the opinions of seventy-seven percent of Americans who favor eliminating all nuclear weapons. The administration’s nuclear weapons resurgence threatens to start a new arms race. It flies in the face of US commitments to pursue disarmament under the Nonproliferation Treaty. It increases the chance that nuclear weapons technology and materials will become accessible to terrorists. It expands the possibility that nuclear weapons will be used.
In his inaugural address, the President said, “We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.” Yet, the President’s plans for US nuclear weapons encourage their proliferation and use. It’s time for this country to move away from nuclear weapons, not re-embrace them.
Congress needs to step up to the plate and stop the US from moving forward on the disastrous decision to test, build and even use nuclear weapons. We need real, enforceable reductions in nuclear weapons. We need leadership to bolster national and global security by supporting arms control and prohibiting any funding for new nuclear weapons or nuclear testing.
Carrie Benzschawel is the Program Associate of the Peace Action Education Fund. The Peace Action Education Fund informs the public, media, and policy makers about alternatives in order to cut military spending, end global weapons trafficking, and abolish nuclear weapons. www.peace-action.org