U.S. ‘ex­tended de­ter­rence’ and Team Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

North Korea cel­e­brated Memo­rial Day with an un­der­ground test of a nu­clear weapon re­port­edly the size of the bomb that de­stroyed Hiroshima.

With that and a se­ries of mis­sile launches that day and sub­se­quently, the regime in Py­ongyang has sent an un­mis­tak­able sig­nal: The Her­mit King­dom has noth­ing but con­tempt for the so-called “in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity” and the empty rhetoric and diplo­matic pos­tur­ing that usu­ally pre­cede new re­wards for the North’s bad be­hav­ior. The seis­mic waves from the lat­est det­o­na­tion seem likely to rat­tle more than the win­dows and mem­bers of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Even as that body huffs and puffs about Kim Jong-il’s bel­liger­ence, Ja­pan and South Korea are com­ing to grips with an un­happy re­al­ity: They in­creas­ingly are on their own in con­tend­ing with a nu­clear-armed North Korea.

Un­til now, both coun­tries have nes­tled un­der the U.S. nu­clear um­brella. This pos­ture has been made pos­si­ble by what is known in the na­tional-se­cu­rity com­mu­nity as “ex­tended de­ter­rence.” Thanks to the cred­i­bil­ity of U.S. se­cu­rity guar­an­tees backed by Amer­ica’s mas­sive arse­nal, both coun­tries have been able safely to forgo the op­tion their re­spec- tive nu­clear-power pro­grams long af­forded them, namely be­com­ing nu­clear-weapon states in their own right.

A bi­par­ti­san blue-rib­bon panel re­cently warned the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion that ex­tended de­ter­rence can­not be taken for granted. In its fi­nal re­port, the Con­gres­sional Com­mis­sion on the Strate­gic Pos­ture of the United States unan­i­mously con­cluded: “Our mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties, both nu­clear and con­ven­tional, un­der­write U.S. se­cu­rity guar­an­tees to our al­lies, without which many of them would feel enor­mous pres­sures to cre­ate their own nu­clear ar­se­nals. [. . .] The U.S. de­ter­rent must be both vis­i­ble and cred­i­ble, not only to our pos­si­ble ad­ver­saries, but to our al­lies as well.”

Un­for­tu­nately, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing in ex­actly the op­po­site di­rec­tion. Far from tak­ing the myr­iad steps needed to as­sure both the vis­i­bil­ity and cred­i­bil­ity of the U.S. de­ter­rent, Mr. Obama has em­braced the idea of elim­i­nat­ing that arse­nal as part of a bid for “a nu­cle­ar­free world.”

The prac­ti­cal ef­fect of such a pol­icy di­rec­tion is to es­chew the steps called for by the Strate­gic Pos­ture Com­mis­sion and, in­deed, the rec­om­men­da­tions of De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, the com­man­der of U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand; and Thomas D’Agostino, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Each has rec­og­nized the need for mod­ern­iza­tion of the U.S. nu­clear stock­pile, en­hanced “stew­ard­ship” of the ob­so­les­cent weapons that likely will con­tinue to make up the bulk of the arse­nal for years to come, and sus­tained in­vest­ment in the in­fra­struc­ture — both hu­man and in­dus­trial — needed to per­form such tasks.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is, none­the­less, seek­ing no funds for re­plac­ing ex­ist­ing weapons with de­signs that in­clude mod­ern safety fea­tures, let alone ones more suited to the de­ter­rent mis­sions of to­day — against states such as North Korea and Iran rather than the hard­ened si­los of the Soviet Union. It is al­low­ing the steady at­ro­phy­ing of the work force and fa­cil­i­ties of the Depart­ment of En­ergy’s nu­cle­ar­weapons com­plex.

Ar­guably worst of all, Team Obama is pur­su­ing an arms-con­trol agenda that risks mak­ing mat­ters sub­stan­tially worse. Us­ing the pre­text of the year’send ex­pi­ra­tion of the U.S.-Soviet Strate­gic Arms Re­duc­tion Treaty (START), the pres­i­dent has dis­patched an in­vet­er­ate de­nu­cle­arizer, As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Rose Got­te­moeller, to ne­go­ti­ate in haste a new bi­lat­eral agree­ment with the Rus­sians. By all ac­counts, she is seek­ing a deal that would: re­duce by per­haps as much as a third what is left of our arse­nal (leav­ing as few as 1,500 nu­clear weapons), pre­serve the Krem­lin’s uni­lat­eral and vast ad­van­tage in mod­ern tac­ti­cal and the­ater nu­clear weapons, and limit U.S. bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fenses.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion is equally fix­ated on an­other non-so­lu­tion to to­day’s threats: rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Com­pre­hen­sive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), re­jected by a ma­jor­ity of the U.S. Se­nate a decade ago. That ac­cord would per­ma­nently pre­clude this coun­try from as­sur­ing the vi­a­bil­ity of its arse­nal through the one means ab­so­lutely proven to be ef­fec­tive — un­der­ground nu­clear test­ing. Mean­while, non­party North Korea and its part­ner in nu­clear crime, Iran (which has signed but not rat­i­fied the treaty), would not be hin­dered from de­vel­op­ing their ar­se­nals. In ad­di­tion, Repub­li­can mem­bers of the Strate­gic Pos­ture Com­mis­sion, who all op­posed CTBT rat­i­fi­ca­tion, think the Rus­sians are con­tin­u­ing to do valu­able un­der­ground test­ing as well.

The Obama agenda will not make the United States safer. If any­thing, it will in­crease in­ter­na­tional per­cep­tions of an Amer- ica that is ever less will­ing to pro­vide for its own se­cu­rity. States such as Rus­sia and China that are ac­tual or prospec­tive “peer com­peti­tors” are build­ing up their nu­clear ar­se­nals. They and even smaller pow­ers such as North Korea and Iran in­creas­ingly feel they can as­sert them­selves with im­punity.

In such a strate­gic en­vi­ron­ment, Amer­ica’s al­lies will go their own way. Some may seek a more in­de­pen­dent stance or try to strike a sep­a­rate peace with emerg­ing pow­ers such as China. Oth­ers may ex­er­cise their op­tion to “go nu­clear,” con­tribut­ing to re­gional arms buildups and pro­lif­er­a­tion.

If Mr. Obama wishes to avoid such out­comes, he would be well ad­vised to heed the ad­vice of the Strate­gic Pos­ture Com­mis­sion: “The con­di­tions that might make the elim­i­na­tion of nu­clear weapons pos­si­ble are not present to­day and es­tab­lish­ing such con­di­tions would re­quire a fun­da­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion of the world po­lit­i­cal or­der.” Un­til then, we had bet­ter do all that is needed to main­tain a safe, re­li­able, ef­fec­tive and, yes, ex­tended de­ter­rent.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Se­cu­rity Pol­icy and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.