Zbigniew Mazurak's Blog

A blog dedicated to defense issues

Rebuttal of Robert Burns’ and other leftists’ anti-nuclear lies

Posted by zbigniewmazurak on February 5, 2013


On January 30th, the leftist Associated Press published yet another irredeemably biased, utterly ridiculous litany of blatant lies by its “National Security Writer” Robert Burns, a strident leftist biased against the military and against nuclear weapons in particular. As is typical of a leftist media “journalist”, Burns has written yet another garbage screed which is so biased and filled with so many lies as to brainwash the public into supporting leftist policies and presenting Republicans in a negative light.

In this case, Burns wants to mislead the public into supporting deep unilateral cuts to America’s nuclear deterrent (and its eventual elimination) and portray nuclear weapons as dangerous relics of the past and Republicans as dinosaurs supporting an orthodox and outdated policy.

To that end, he makes a litany of false claims and quotes three leftist “national security thinkers” while not quoting a single dissenting (i.e. conservative) expert.

But his claims, and those of the stridently leftist “thinkers” he quotes, are all blatant lies. Here’s why.

Burns starts by gleeing over the fact that Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee for SECDEF, backs deep, unilateral cuts to America’s nuclear arsenal and:

“That puts him outside the orthodoxy embraced by many of his fellow Republicans but inside a widening circle of national security thinkers — including President Barack Obama — who believe nuclear weapons are becoming more a liability than an asset, less relevant to 21st century security threats like terrorism. (…)

The customary stance of defense secretaries in the nuclear age has been that the weapons are a necessary evil, a required ingredient in American defense strategy that can be discarded only at the nation’s peril.

Hagel, 66, takes a subtly different view — one shared by Obama but opposed by those in Congress who believe disarmament is weakness and that an outsized American nuclear arsenal must be maintained indefinitely as a counterweight to the nuclear ambitions of anti-Western countries like North Korea and Iran.

In a letter to Obama two months after his former Senate colleague entered the White House in 2009, Hagel wrote that Global Zero was developing a step-by-step plan for achieving “the total elimination of all nuclear weapons,” but with a “clear, realistic and pragmatic appreciation” for the difficulty of realizing that goal. (…)

“Getting to global zero will take years,” Hagel wrote in the March 2009 letter to Obama on behalf of Global Zero. “So it is important that we set our course toward a world withoutnuclear weapons now to ensure that our children do not live under the nuclear shadow of the last century.”

Hagel stands out in this regard in part because history — first the demise of the Soviet Union, then the rise of terrorism as a global threat — has changed how many people think about the deterrent value of nuclear weapons. For decades after the birth of the atomic age in the 1940s the chief concern was controlling the growth, and later managing the shrinkage, of nuclear arsenals without upsetting the balance of power.

Today the thinking by many national security experts has shifted as the threat of all-out nuclear war has faded and terrorist organizations with potentially global reach, like al-Qaida, are trying to get their hands on a nuclear device.

“Hagel’s views reflect the growing bipartisan consensus in the U.S. security establishment that whatever benefits nuclear weapons may have had during the Cold War are now outweighed by the threat they present,” said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, which supports efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.

Hagel was co-author of a Global Zero report last May that proposed, as an interim step, reducing the U.S. arsenal to 900 weapons within a decade, with half deployed and the other half in reserve. That compares with a current U.S. stockpile of 5,000, of which 1,700 are deployed and capable of striking targets around the globe.

The report said these cuts could be taken unilaterally if not negotiated with the Russians or carried out through reciprocal U.S. and Russian presidential directives.”

What’s wrong with Burns’ claims?

To start with, EVERYTHING.

Firstly, contrary to the image that Burns and the three leftists (Steven Pifer of Brookings, Joseph Cirincione of Ploughshares, and Bruce Blair of Global Zero) attempt to project, nuclear weapons are anything but relics of a bygone era, and the need for nuclear weapons today is as greater as, if not greater than, during the Cold War.

Russia currently has 1,500 deployed and 1,300 nondeployed strategic nuclear warheads (a total of 2,800) and untold thousands (probably around 4,000) deployed and nondeployed tactical nuclear warheads – all of which are deliverable anytime.

To deliver the strategic ones, Russia has 434 ICBMs (mostly multi-warhead missiles) which can collectively deliver 1,684 warheads, 13-14 ballistic missile subs which can deliver over 2,000 warheads on their 220 SLBMs; and over 250 strategic Tu-95, Tu-160, and Tu-22M bombers.

To deliver its tactical nukes, Russia has a very wide range of systems including aircraft (e.g. the Su-25, Su-25, the Su-27/30/33/34/35 Flanker family), artillery pieces, surface warships, submarines  armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes, and short-range ballistic missiles.

It is now working on modernizing all three legs of its nuclear triad, including two new ICBMs, a new long-range bomber, and a new SSBN class.

China has at least 1,800 and up to 3,000 nuclear weapons (not the mere 240-400 often claimed by US disarmament supporters) and many systems with which to deliver them: over 60 DF-5, DF-31, and DF-41 ICBMs; six ballistic missile subs; over 120 DF-3, DF-4, and DF-21 MRBMs; 440 bombers and strike aircraft; and around 2,000 SRBMs and Land Attack Cruise Missiles.

(In another sign of Burns’ bias, his screed does not mention Russia’s and China’s large nuclear arsenals, and barely mentions in passing that Russia and China have nukes in general. This is a deliberate tactic by Burns to mislead people into thinking that the US doesn’t need to deter Russia nor China.)

On top of that, the US has to deter North Korea (which has ca. 12 nuclear warheads and intends to test one soon) and Iran, which is racing towards nuclear weapons. Moreover, while Russia and China are threats to many and protectors to nobody, the US has to provide an effective nuclear umbrella not just for itself, but also to over 30 allies.

If the US makes further cuts in its arsenal, it will become too small to deter enemies and reassure friends, and consequently, these allies will have no choice but to develop their own nuclear weapons, thus making the proliferation problem much worse. But these allies cannot bet their security, and indeed, their very existence on ridiculous “nuclear weapons are relics of a bygone era” and “nuclear disarmament will make us safer” kumbayah beliefs – or on America breaking free of such ridiculous notions and of Democrat-led government by 2017.

The fact is that nuclear weapons are not relics of a bygone era, nor are they “liabilities”. They are indispensable assets in protecting America against the gravest security threats it is facing: Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Terrorism is a threat, but not even close to being as severe as that of Russia’s and China’s large nuclear arsenals and military buildups, North Korea’s smaller but deadly one, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions and quest for regional hegemony.

No amount of shouting the tired “we’re in the 21st century!” and “they’re liabilities and relics of the Cold War!” slogan will change these facts.

Moreover, if nuclear weapons are “liabilities”, a huge threat to those who hold them, and relics of yesteryear, why are more and more countries interested in acquiring them, and why are Russia, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel all growing their nuclear arsenals?

Answer: because they recognize the inherent value of nuclear weapons, which are NOT relics of the Cold War nor “liabilities”.

The cost of maintaining the entire US nuclear arsenal and its related infrastructure is estimated by the Stimson Center to be about $35.2 bn per year – just 6% of the entire military budget, and a bargain price to keep America safe.

And contrary to what Burns and Cirincione claim, there is zero risk of American nuclear weapons (let alone their delivery systems) being stolen by terrorists. These weapons are well-guarded and secure, and Al Qaeda is not even trying to steal them. So doing away with America’s nuclear weapons will do NOTHING to stop Al-Qaeda from obtaining nuclear weapons elsewhere.

The real risk is that AQ may steal Pakistani nuclear warheads – but scrapping America’s own arsenal will do nothing to prevent that. It will not cause Pakistan’s arsenal to magically go away or encourage Pakistan to dismantle its weapons.

America’s nuclear weapons pose no threat to anyone – except, of course, those who wish to attack the US or its allies.

So the benefits of America’s nuclear arsenal greatly outweigh the costs – not the other way around.

So, by pushing for America’s nuclear disarmament, Burns, Obama, Hagel, Cirincione, and Blair are advocating a ridiculous policy which will gravely weaken the US and its military, jeopardize US national security, invite a nuclear first strike by Russia or even China, leave America’s allies fending for themselves (and thus encourage further nuclear proliferation), and embolden America’s enemies around the world, while completely failing to prevent (or even slow down) nuclear proliferation or nuclear weapons falling into terrorists’ hands.

In other words, nuclear disarmament would make America (and the whole world) dramatically less secure and less peaceful.

And yes, disarmament IS weakness – by its definition, it means laying down all arms, i.e. the state of being disarmed (unarmed). Yet, without weapons (including nuclear ones), the US will have nothing to defend itself with. That would be a state of terrible weakness – and weakness ALWAYS invites aggression.

“But Hagel wants to eliminate all nuclear weapons globally, not just in the US”, you might say. But there will never again be a “world without nuclear weapons” – not even in the next 100 years – Obama’s, Hagel’s, and others leftist’ fantasies notwithstanding. China, North Korea, Pakistan, and India will never give up their nuclear weapons (China refuses to even talk to the US about them). This genie cannot be put back into the bottle.

A world without nuclear weapons is not only utterly unrealistic, it’s also undesirable. For all human history prior to 1945, we did actually have such a world. The result? There was nothing to restrain the world’s great powers – so all human history before 1945 is one of huge, bloody wars between the great powers of the time, including the two bloodiest, most barbaric wars the world has ever seen: the two World Wars, with a combined body count of 100 million people – mostly innocent civilians.

Since 1945, we have not had another world war or any conflict between the world’s great powers – and that is at least in large part, if not wholly, due to nuclear deterrence.

Burns claims that there is “a widening circle of national security thinkers”, whom he also wrongly calls “experts”, who believe that “who believe nuclear weapons are becoming more a liability than an asset”. Yet, he cites no serious “national security thinkers” or “experts” sharing that view – only three stridently liberal anti-nuclear hacks: Joseph Cirincione, Steven Pifer, and Bruce Blair, plus America’s most leftist president ever, Barack Obama.

But they’re strident liberal ideologues, not “thinkers” or “experts”. Cirincione is the president of the Ploughshares Fund, which supports deep unilateral cuts to America’s nuclear deterrent and routinely lies about the subject while staunchly opposing any military action against Iran. Blair is Hagel’s fellow Global Zero member. Pifer is with the George-Soros-funded Brookings Institution, a liberal think-tank.

Meanwhile, I can cite many genuine nuclear deterrence experts who believe further cuts to America’s arsenal, especially unilateral or deep ones, are wrong and foolish: e.g. Heritage Foundation experts Rebeccah HeinrichsBaker Spring, and Michaela Bendikova; USAF nuclear deterrence affairs chief MGEN William Chambers; former SECDEFs Harold Brown and James Schlesinger; and the nation’s foremost nuclear deterrence expert, Dr. Keith B. Payne.

Indeed, when Global Zero issued its “report” calling for deep, unilateral cuts to America’s nuclear deterrent, STRATCOM commander Gen. Bob Kehler and then USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz rejected it and Dr. Payne testified before the Senate against that report’s proposals, showing how dangerous and suicidal they are.

Moreover, consensus does not determine the truth. Discovering facts does. And the FACTS are that the need for American nuclear weapons today is as great as (if not greater than) it was during the Cold War.

For that reason alone, Hagel’s and Global Zero’s proposals of deep unilateral cuts are absolutely unacceptable and disqualifying.

Please call both of yours Senators, Dear Readers, and please tell them you will never vote for them again if they vote to confirm Chuck Hagel.

There is a group called Americans for a Strong Defense which, as the name suggests, advocates a strong national defense, opposes Hagel’s nomination, and is working to warn Senators to vote against Hagel – or to unseat them if they disregard that warning. Another group opposing Hagel is the American Future Fund.

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