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Mr President, Building Up the Nuclear Weapons Complex Is NOT Nuclear Disarmament

David C. Hall

I have been a hearty supporter of President Obama's vision of ending the Damocles terror of nuclear weapons, but with his 2011 budget for nuclear weapons he has backtracked on that vision. In his call for rebuilding America's capacity to build new nuclear weapons he has caved in to the nuclear defense industries and the Republican Party beholden to them.

Where is the promise to the rest of the world that the United States will lead in dismantling these weapons of terror? Remember, one single W-88 warhead from our local Trident submarine fleet on Hood Canal can incinerate an entire city the size of Seattle.

All the reviews of the safety and reliability of our current nuclear weapons conclude that they are safe enough and reliable enough to provide the deterrence of terror the doctrine on nuclear deterrence requires. Our adversaries know that even a fractionally reliable retaliation will be the end of them.

Our greatest threats come from Russia with whom we are in active negotiations for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II) and China, whose nuclear forces are driven by our US arsenal and that of our allies in India and Japan.[i] The world's greatest threats may well come from India and Pakistan, who have followed the example of the US and USSR in their local cold war, and put the entire Asian subcontinent at risk for millions of deaths in the event of a nuclear exchange.[ii]

In his recent article in the Wall Street Journal Vice-President Joe Biden on behalf of President Obama tried to convince us that we must have new nuclear weapons and a rebuilt system of weapons development laboratories to assure our safety. This flies in the face of the obligation in Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and resembles all the justifications the US has used since 1945 for escalating the nuclear arms race. The new budget calls for a 22 percent increase in funds for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where a new facility for manufacturing plutonium pits for nuclear weapons will be sited.

Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund commented on the tightrope President Obama is walking in an effort to win Republican votes, "There is no question that some counties, friends and foes, will see the increased spending as a sign of U.S. hypocrisy."

President Obama's inspired promises to eliminate nuclear weapons, "the greatest threat to America," for now at least are giving way to the vestigial Cold War doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, that is, the notion that threatening to annihilate someone else somehow keeps us safe.

This alleged "need" to build up our nuclear weapons capabilities (which is a huge financial boon to some) is the same argument used by every other administration to justify increasing our commitment to nuclear terror as our means of global control.  We have over 700 military bases within the territorial Unites States and more than 700 bases scattered around the world. That's how we become the source for over 40 percent of the world's annual military expenditures. And because so much of our foreign aid is military aid for other countries to buy US weaponry, our fraction of global military expenditures is even greater.

In 2008 the total world expenditures on military was $1464 billion ($1.465 trillion). Of that the US spent $607 billion (41.5%). Next highest expenditure was by China at just under $90 billion (less than 6% of world expenditures). France, the United Kingdom and Russia followed.[iii]

The Obama administration's military budget for fiscal year 2011 is $733 billion[iv] at a time when one in ten employable Americans can't find work, jobs are being outsourced, a record number of homes are being foreclosed, our state budget is seriously unfunded, and our core educational investments are all being short-changed. This transfer of wealth away from investments in our human capacity to work creatively and productively corrodes the very fabric of our society's ability to remain strong economically in competition with China, the European Union, and the rest of Asia.  At last count China was graduating six times as many PhDs in science as was the United States, and holds $800 billion of our national debt.

These military increases are particularly disturbing when viewed next to our still much too meager investments in global climate recovery and education for future generations.

We have become a national security state that professes democracy and funds institutions of threat and coercion. This is not CHANGE, Mr. President. And this is certainly not HOPE. This is our American corporate-run empire calling the shots. Sadly, this may well be the best you can do right now. 


[i] Japan does not currently manufacture nuclear weapons, but could do so within six months, if they choose to do so.




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Dr. Hall is a Child Psychiatrist in private practice in Seattle, and Past president, Physicians for Social Responsibility and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility

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