Peace Through Nu­clear Strength

Sign­ing Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty still a bad idea

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Vice Adm. Robert R. Mon­roe

On March 30, a Na­tional Academy of Sci­ences com­mit­tee will re­lease a re­port with im­pli­ca­tions for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hopes to gain Se­nate rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Rat­i­fi­ca­tion was roundly de­feated by the Se­nate in 1999, and the strong ar­gu­ments that pre­vented rat­i­fi­ca­tion then still ap­ply, aug­mented by new ones. No re­port can change the fact that rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the CTBT is not in the United States’ in­ter­ests.

First, rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the CTBT would not help pre­vent pro­lif­er­a­tion. U.S. test­ing has never con­trib­uted to a sin­gle case of pro­lif­er­a­tion, nor will it in the fu­ture. Bel­liger­ent, ir­re­spon­si­ble states ac­quire nu­clear weapons to serve their ag­gres­sive ends. This stim­u­lates neigh­bor­ing states to ac­quire nu­clear weapons in re­sponse. To­day, be­cause of our fail­ure to stop Iran and North Korea, pro­lif­er­a­tion threat­ens to be­come a cas­cade. But U.S. test­ing has noth­ing to do with it. Lit­tle pro­lif­er­a­tion oc­curred dur­ing the four decades of U.S. test­ing. Much more has oc­curred dur­ing the past 20 years, dur­ing which the U.S. has not tested.

In fact, rat­i­fi­ca­tion would stim­u­late pro­lif­er­a­tion. Ad­ver­saries and rogue states would see our re­straint as weak­ness and ac­cel­er­ate their ac­qui­si­tion of nu­clear weapons. The many al­lies who de­pend on our “nu­clear um­brella” would rec­og­nize our weak­ness and go nu­clear them­selves. Other na­tions, see­ing that Amer­ica’s nu­clear guardian­ship had lapsed, would pro­lif­er­ate in self-de­fense. U.S. rat­i­fi­ca­tion brings no ben­e­fits to the world.

Nor would rat­i­fi­ca­tion be a step to­ward “a world with­out nu­clear weapons.” This no­ble ob­jec­tive is un­achiev­able. Nu­clear weapons tech­nol­ogy is known through­out the world, and global growth of nu­clear power makes fis­sile ma­te­rial avail­able. If large, re­spon­si­ble states did not have ef­fec­tive nu­clear weapons for de­ter­rence, the world would de­scend into nu­clear hor­ror and chaos — at the mercy of ev­ery ag­gres­sor, rogue na­tion, failed or fail­ing state, fa­natic, proxy, ter­ror­ist, crim­i­nal, ex­tor­tion­ist or dis­af­fected in­di­vid­ual.

Sec­ond, rat­i­fi­ca­tion would se­ri­ously un­der­mine our na­tional se­cu­rity. Nu­clear de­ter­rence is the cor­ner­stone that keeps us safe in a highly dan­ger­ous world. How­ever, our ex­ist­ing nu­clear weapons — de­signed for a to­tally dif­fer­ent threat — are vir­tu­ally ir­rel­e­vant in deter­ring to­day’s prin­ci­pal ad­ver­saries. More states have nu­clear weapons than ever be­fore, and each of them — ex­cept the U.S. — is mod­ern­iz­ing, with Rus­sia and China in the lead. Fourth-gen­er­a­tion weapons are be­ing de­vel­oped. Rogue states and ter­ror­ists ur­gently seek nu­clear weapons. U.S. nu­clear test­ing is re­quired to de­velop new-de­sign weapons to de­ter these new threats. New weapons (for ex­am­ple, those with high se­cu­rity, low-yield, earth-pen­e­trat­ing ca­pa­bil­ity; abil­ity to neu­tral­ize bi­o­log­i­cal and chem­i­cal agents; and re­duced resid­ual ra­di­a­tion) are needed ur­gently to re­gain a cred­i­ble de­ter­rent — one that our ad­ver­saries know we have the ca­pa­bil­ity and the will to use. CTBT rat­i­fi­ca­tion would deny this.

Our ex­ist­ing nu­clear weapons — over­age and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing — also will soon re­quire test­ing. They must carry us safely through the decades it will take to pro­duce our new stock­pile. At any mo­ment, we may dis­cover a crit­i­cal fault dis­abling many hun­dreds of weapons. Most crit­i­cally, our ex­pe­ri­enced hu­man re­sources are vir­tu­ally gone. Nu­clear test­ing is es­sen­tial in train­ing re­place­ment sci­en­tists, de­sign­ers and engineers.

Rat­i­fi­ca­tion also would se­ri­ously un­der­mine Amer­i­can sci­ence. Mankind’s ad­vances have, for cen­turies, been the re­sult of em­ploy­ing the “sci­en­tific method.” Test­ing is its cen­tral el­e­ment. Many new tech­nolo­gies and ap­proaches must be tested to see if they can solve the fresh chal­lenges we face. The CTBT would not al­low this. Amer­ica’s fu­ture se­cu­rity de­pends upon our nu­clear tech­nol­ogy be­ing su­pe­rior to that of any­one else in the world. Our sci­en­tists must not be de­nied use of the sci­en­tific method.

Third, the treaty it­self is fa­tally de­fec­tive in crit­i­cal ar­eas. The CTBT bans nu­clear tests, but it does not de­fine them. Each sig­na­tory is free to cre­ate its own def­i­ni­tion. Our U.S. def­i­ni­tion is “ze­royield,” deny­ing all test­ing. Other na­tions are free to adopt def­i­ni­tions al­low­ing them to test new nu­clear weapons. Rat­i­fi­ca­tion would put the U.S. at an im­mense dis­ad­van­tage in a field where we must be No. 1.

The treaty is un­ver­i­fi­able. Lowyield tests, de­cou­pled tests, con­tained tests and tests hid­den in seis­mic ac­tiv­ity en­able other na­tions to gain a huge ad­van­tage over us in nu­clear tech­nol­ogy and weapons. This can­not be per­mit­ted.

Rat­i­fi­ca­tion would be a hope­less “feel-good” gesture, car­ry­ing a huge penalty. The CTBT can never en­ter into force. This re­quires North Korea, Iran, Pak­istan, In­dia, Is­rael, Egypt, China and the U.S. to rat­ify it. Each of these states has pow­er­ful rea­sons for not rat­i­fy­ing, and very few would be swayed by U.S. ac­tion. Our rat­i­fi­ca­tion, how­ever, would carry an im­mense penalty for us. If we rat­i­fied the CTBT, we would be bound by in­ter­na­tional law to ob­serve its pro­vi­sions, decade af­ter decade, even though it had not en­tered into force. This does not ap­ply to­day.

In sum­mary, the na­tional se­cu­rity costs of CTBT rat­i­fi­ca­tion are im­mense, while the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ben­e­fits are il­lu­sory.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY JOHN CAMEJO

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