By Chadwick Ciocci
This past summer I had the opportunity to participate in an interview on US nuclear weapons policy with a public broadcasting company based out of Nagasaki, Japan (essentially the Japanese equivalent of PBS). My Japanese friends sought to understand American reasoning and opinion on its current nuclear weapons policy in this new age of global terrorism and moving threats.
They had a difficult time understanding why I would support maintaining a top tier nuclear weapons arsenal when I readily acknowledged that nuclear weapons are not a deterrent to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. I admitted that at first this may seem like a contradiction in threat and response, but that in fact one has nothing to do with the other.
You see, nuclear weapons are a deterrent to rational, normal governments- not radical, Islamic, and state-less jihadists. They are a deterrent to nations like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, not al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad or any of the other terrorist groups who seek to destroy the lives of innocent civilians.
Why maintain a nuclear arsenal then when terrorism is the main existential threat against the USA? Because terrorism isn’t the only threat against the USA.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed into Russia and China is becoming increasingly capitalistic, these two nations pose a very real threat to the USA, especially in the long term. Russia is not only dramatically rebounding economically but is becoming more and more aggressive on the world stage, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin and his successor Dmitry Medvedev. Likewise, China is becoming a major economic powerhouse which will eventually translate into a major military powerhouse.
But Russia and China are not the only two long-term potential adversaries we face. In the shorter term, North Korea, Iran and Syria pose serious potential nuclear threats. Emotions in the Middle East continue to be (?)aflame as the USA gallops around nation building.(?)Unfortunately it may come to the point where sultans and Muslims alike feel the only way to get on equal footing with the USA will be to develop nuclear weapons of their own.
A cursory overview of the United States’ current and future threats (all which involve nations that currently possess nuclear weapons or ones which are actively seeking them) makes it abundantly clear that it would be quite foolish for the US, in any way, to make itself vulnerable to these nations by weakening its own nuclear arsenal.
Why then do some people advocate the abolition of the United States’ nuclear weapons cache? I believe such advocacy is powered by several factors:
1. A lack of understanding of the threats against our nation.
2. An unrealistic and blinding (but very respectable) idealism.
In the case of my Japanese friends, it seemed as if these were the two most prevalent reasons they supported American abolition (when considering the fact that they are from Nagasaki, it is easy to understand their short-sided impracticality.)
One will note that I label such blinding idealism as respectable, and I do not do so facetiously. I truly believe such idealism is respectable, as I share in the belief that the end goal of American and international policy should be the total abolition of nuclear weaponry- I merely want to pursue this goal in a way that ensures the safety and security of the USA.
If we contend that the primary responsibility of government is to protect its citizens against threats foreign and domestic, then to disarm ourselves in a way that would give Russia, China or some other nation a nuclear tactical superiority would be not only foolish but irresponsible, and represent a failure of American government.