Our Secretary of State announced today:

“Beginning today, the United States will make public the number of nuclear weapons in our stockpile and the number of weapons we have dismantled since 1991… So for those who doubt that the United States will do its part on disarmament, this is our record, these are our commitments and they send a clear unmistakable signal.”

There is considered opinion that our public proclamations of US Nuclear policy in order to clear up “ambiguity” has already jeopardized our second strike capabilities, and the “new” START initiatives have loopholes the Russians can drive a Topol launcher through.

We are making a strategic blunder of monumental proportions to think that “transparency” and “good faith” in revealing US nuclear secrets is going to make the US safer or the world more stable. Strategic deterrence has worked for six decades and then some. To trade it all in for a pipe dream of cooperation from nations themselves intent on possessing a nuclear deterrent (read: Pakistan, India) or an offensive capability of obvious bad intentions (Iran, North Korea) is a foolhardy and short-sighted act which will guarantee a lessening of US strategic capabilities. Not what we need in a multi-polar world with nuclear weapons in the hands of those whose ideology mandates our destruction. Not quite the “unmistakable signal” we intended.

There are wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs. When the sheepdogs act like the sheep, the wolves are bound to win.




Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Foreign Policy, History, Homeland Security, Uncategorized


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  • http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/ Solomon

    I noticed that this came out of the State Dept and not the Pentagon. Is that an indication of disagreement by Flag Officers to this? Either way you’re right on the mark. It appears that senior military leadership has been effectively neutered.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    I heard it told that the silence from senior military leadership on these issues has been deafening…

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    URR,

    I’m sorry; could you please specify your terms? According to the info releasee:

    As of September 30, 2009, the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons consisted of 5,113 warheads, a U.S. factsheet on the U.S. stockpile released by the Defense Department states.

    Iran has no nuclear weapons; North Korea by the most generous estimate has a dozen. Assuming you don’t think that war with Pakistan or India is likely, could you please explain in detail how revelation that the US has (at least) 484 times the number of nuclear warheads as the aggressor states that you mention represents “showing one’s throat to the wolf?”

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rob,

    You seem to be assuming ever-friendly relations with Russia and China, who are instead rivals and possible adversaries. Either is capable of weighing in on any potential conflicts between the US and North Korea (China) or Iran (Russia). Methinks that ratio is significantly less favorable than 484:1.

    The DoD release is not the true total of the US nuclear arsenal, and omits certain categories of weapons that have remained a state secret for many decades.

    Israel lives among nations that want to obliterate her from the map. I notice Israel is in no hurry to reveal to the world its nuclear arsenal nor every detail about its policy for use of nuclear weapons.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    URR,

    So… your argument is that revealing that the US has 5113 nukes will tempt North Korea (with 12), China (with about 300, according to estimates) and Russia (with, granted, a sizable number) to attack the US? That’s really your argument? Seriously? That Putin, Hu, and Kim Jong Il are going to get together, cackle a bit about the paltry 5113 available warheads, and fire away?

    And you presume to back this argument up by suggesting that the US has, in fact, more than 5113 warheads? You think this is evidence that the US is weak? Really?

    Israel, as is patently obvious to anyone who has studied nuclear affairs, keeps its nuclear program secret because of the crushing sanctions that would be legally mandated if it openly revealed its nuclear deterrent. There is not, I venture, a single human being in Israel stupid enough to think that if they revealed that their arsenal was “only” 300ish warheads, suddenly Israeli security would be at risk.

    Do better, please. This is the blog of the United States Naval Institute; it’s not your own private space to rant. Evidence, analysis, logical argument.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    Note to all; for an argument about the size of the US nuclear stockpile that actually employs evidence, see here:

    http://www.fas.org/blog/ssp/2010/05/stockpilenumber.php

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rob,

    Is the expression of any opinion you find disagreeable a “rant”? Incidentally, you did not paraphrase my discussion accurately, either.

    You seem to be neglecting the fact that a sizable and capable US nuclear arsenal was a successful deterrent for 60+ years, and the path taken recently is a significant departure from that deterrence.

    North Korea and Iran need no tempting. All they need is a belief that the US is unwilling to maintain deterrence, and that they have a strong enough proxy to frighten the US into inaction. Is it a correct perception? Will that perception cause either to act irrationally? Neither state or leader is known for their forbearance, quite the contrary.

    So please, waving away criticism of abandoning a decades-old successful policy of deterrence as a “rant” is beneath the level of discussion, which this post is meant to generate.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    >You seem to be neglecting the fact that a sizable and capable US >nuclear arsenal was a successful deterrent for 60+ years, and >the path taken recently is a significant departure from that >deterrence.

    Explain, please. Is the announcement of 5113 nuclear warheads a “significant departure” from deterrence? In what way? Show your work…

    >North Korea and Iran need no tempting. All they need is a belief >that the US is unwilling to maintain deterrence, and that they >have a strong enough proxy to frighten the US into inaction. Is >it a correct perception? Will that perception cause either to >act irrationally? Neither state or leader is known for their >forbearance, quite the contrary.

    Really? North Korea has, or is believed to have, nuclear weapons. Why haven’t they attacked? Is it perhaps because they fully understand that the United States holds presumptive nuclear and conventional superiority over North Korea and any possible combination of states that might support North Korea? More to the point, are you capable of actually making an argument, rather than asking rhetorical questions? Explain please; show your work…

    >So please, waving away criticism of abandoning a decades-old >successful policy of deterrence as a “rant” is beneath the level >of discussion, which this post is meant to generate.

    I’m familiar with your “discussion generating” posts; it’s very easy to generate discussion when you begin with a series of palpably absurd, empirically indefensible assertions. I submit again that this is unworthy of the blog of the United States Naval Institue; if you have an argument, make it. If you don’t, please present your rants elsewhere.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “Explain, please. Is the announcement of 5113 nuclear warheads a “significant departure” from deterrence? In what way? Show your work…”

    Announcing what had been a closely held state secret in the name of “transparency” is indeed a departure from previous deterrence policy.

    Why hasn’t North Korea attacked? Well, they did. In 1950. In 1968. In fact, as recently as the likely torpedoing of a South Korean corvette in April. Or don’t they count?

    The tipping of our hand as to nuclear retaliation strategy (clearing up “ambiguity”) was seen by many as a dangerous and naive move. There are those also who perceive big problems with the new START initiatives with the Russians. This is another step down what many believe is an unwise and imprudent path.

    But then again, maybe all those people are absurd and hold palpably indefensible positions. Tell them to call you. I am sure you can show them the errors of their ways.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    >Announcing what had been a closely held state secret in the name >of “transparency” is indeed a departure from previous deterrence >policy.

    You don’t seem to understand what “deterrence” means. Revealing whether we have 5113 or 8000 nuclear warheads doesn’t actually affect “deterrent” posture; one can “deter” with as few as a dozen warheads, provided that they’re secure from a disarming first strike. Acknowledging the existence of 5113 warheads does not, in fact, affect our deterrent capability in the slightest.

    >Why hasn’t North Korea attacked? Well, they did. In 1950. In >1968. In fact, as recently as the likely torpedoing of a South >Korean corvette in April. Or don’t they count?

    So, your point is that North Korea’s behavior has been unaffected by the recent “change” in our deterrent posture? That presumptive conventional and nuclear superiority in 1950, 1968, and today failed to alter North Korea’s behavior? For one, a sensible person would probably note that there’s rather a difference between 1950 and either 1968 or 2010; I obviously can’t quite count on that in this debate, so I’ll simply acknowledge that you’re making my argument for me…

    >The tipping of our hand as to nuclear retaliation strategy >(clearing up “ambiguity”) was seen by many as a dangerous and >naive move. There are those also who perceive big problems with >the new START initiatives with the Russians. This is another >step down what many believe is an unwise and imprudent path

    Oh, to be sure; I quite heartily disagree with those who argued such about the shift in terms of ambiguity, but they did in fact move one step farther than you: THEY MADE AN ARGUMENT. These arguments relied on the combination of empirical evidence with logical analysis. This is not, sadly, what you’ve done here. More to the point, I would still like you to actually cite someone making the case that revealing that the US has 5113 nuclear weapons undermines US second strike capability.

    Can you do so? Would you make such an argument yourself? Your failure to do so thus far is beginning to indicate to me that you don’t really have much of a sense of how the revelation that the US has more nuclear weapons that any foe or potential combination of foes actually undermines US deterrence, or US second strike capability. If this is the case, I’d appreciate it if you would modify the language you used in the initial post.

  • Jay

    URR,

    I don’t get it — In one para, you say that the size and capability of our nuclear warheads was a successful deterrent for 60+ years, and then you follow it up by saying that North Korea attacked — twice (or three times…), so…then it wasn’t a successful deterrent, correct?

    I guess we can leave Vietnam out of this line of reasoning, as well?

    I’ll assume that 1968 was the attack on the USS PUEBLO.

    Either way — the attack on the PUEBLO or the recent ROK corvette surely don’t merit a nuclear response, do they?

    I don’t know many reasonable folks who don’t consider 5,000 (heck, even 1,000…) warheads as nothing but a hell of a lot of overkill.

    Your idea that we are becoming weaker just doesn’t hold up.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Jay,

    Deterrence was far more than size and capability. And you know it. It also involves the survivability after a first strike and the enemy’s knowledge that you will use your force if required. You also know good and well that a “more bang for the buck” all nuclear force was limited in its usefulness, and that a conventional presence, “flexible response”, has been the order of the day since the late 1950s.

    When we cut our conventional forces as we did in the 1990s and now reveal state secrets about our nuclear arsenal and policy, we are heading down a road that many consider dangerous and naive. And yes, a weakening of US strategic deterrence.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    “And you know it. It also involves the survivability after a first strike and the enemy’s knowledge that you will use your force if required. ”

    You have yet to provide even the faintest indication that the revelation that the US has 5113 nuclear weapons undermines survivability of a first strike. Moreover, you fail to actually answer Jay’s question; he pointed out that your narrative of deterrence and North Korea didn’t make any sense. If 1950, 1968, and 2010 are all the same, then variable deterrent strategies don’t actually affect North Korean behavior. Of course, they aren’t the same, but there’s no evidence presented thus far that you understand this…

    “we are heading down a road that many consider dangerous and naive.”

    You’re hurting the English language. Please stop.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rob,

    Suggest you look up “more bang for the buck” and “flexible response”, and how we evolved from one to the other. North Korea consistently shows itself to be an aggressive and belligerent problem. Which means that now that it has obtained nuclear weapons, makes it even more dangerous. A nuclear deterrent against such a danger has generally been considered a good idea.

    FYI, the statements made WRT the dangers of the current nuclear policy shift were made at a recent course under strict non-attribution rules. Which I am sure you would interpret as me having imagined them.

    If revealing so much about our nuclear policy and posture was such a good idea, how come we didn’t do so during the Cold War? How, then, does it suddenly become advisable to do so? Or do you not consider the polar opposite of previous policy to be a major shift?

  • milprof

    I was set to jump in on URR’s absurd post, but Rob Farley has covered most of the bases already.

    Let’s be clear, before today, that the US had more like 5,000 than like 3,000 or 10,000 was already well known and public; I suspect the error bars were far less than that. The number of operational warheads was even more clear; most uncertainties were around the number stored in active reserve. Even during most of the Cold War, rough numbers of operational warheads were fairly clear, certainly for the ones that mattered most, deliverable strategic warheads. It’s hardly like we let a well-hidden cat out of a bag today.

    So, as Farley has been asking, how does knowing a total of precisely 5113, as opposed to “4000 to 6000″, make Russians, Chinese, NORKs, or Martians less deterred than they were last week?

    Now on the claim that transparency might not gain us anything, sure that’s debatable. But seriously, knowing that the number of warheads the US has is just about what everyone knew it to be already is going to encourage attacks on us???

  • Al L.

    URR,

    An elephant cares less if he shows his throat to the wolf.
    Now his ankles are another thing.( reference Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam Korea, etc.)

  • SCOTTtheBADGER

    The argument is not so much the ratio between us and the other nuclear powers, as it is the revelation of what we have in our stockpile. This gives them not only the size of the threat, but how we deploy it, making the counter threat solution easier for them. While we seem to be offering true numbers as to our arsenal, I have severe doubts that the former Sovits Union and the PRC are letting out anywhere near the true number that they have. The Russians are also busy beavering away at updating thier missle systems, for example, the BOREI Class SSBNs/Bulava ICBM, while we still soldier away with our OHIOs and Tridents.

    There are still people and countries out there, who wish us harm, why make thier job any easier? I stand with URR on this one.

  • http://snafu-solomon.blogspot.com/ Solomon

    Robert,

    You’re looking at the decision to reveal the number of nuclear weapons in isolation. I don’t believe you can do that.

    Viewing it in the context of the policies that have been championed by our current President we have…
    1. An emboldened N. Korea that is hyper aggressive again (sinking of the S. Korean ship).
    2. An emboldened Iran that is bent on gaining nuclear weapons and diplomacy that has failed to stop it…diplomacy that has failed to gain support for sanctions and a timid response to saber rattling by that nation.
    3. An emboldened Karzai who, despite the sacrifices of those in the military chafes at any mention of reform in his corrupt country.
    4. A China that manipulates its currency to the detriment of our own.
    5. A fractured and bleeding Africa, the return of warlords to that continent (as if they ever left) and the systematic slaughter of Christians with no words of protest.
    6. A military that is strained by two continuing wars in the middle east.

    Taken in context the continued exhibition of weakness (and I contend that revealing our nuclear weapons number is fantasy over practicality) is deadly …its showing our neck to the wolves.

    But I have yet to hear what the benefits are to this action. To be transparent to the world? How is that helpful? To put Iran at ease? To mollify China?

    Why was this done and what program/strategy does it promote?

    Easy answer….Not one.

    Its just another “feel good display”. Peacocks are known to do the same before rampaging lions. Hopefully our outcome will be different.

  • YNSN

    Well, at the very least this is a step. My tiny little understanding of it all does not cause me any real concern over this lifting of our skirt. If anything 5,000+ Nukes is a sh** ton of obliteration. Even tracking the movement of those nukes and how we deploy them is only something that China and Russia will be capable of.

    However, what rings louder in my ears about this is that Obama said this was going to be his policy–to rid the world of nukes. By god, he’s doing it too.

    Bigger picture, I look at this as being the new beacon of democracy. In this, who in the world would you want to stick with, who would you look to for leadership in the world? Nations in an information age that hide their true intent, act ambiguously? Or, Nations that are forthright with their insertions? Australia and India are becoming perturbed at China’s silence, and they have only been at this for a decade (more or less).

    Granted, in terms of warfare and state competition Sun Tzu’s words on ambiguity of action and intent still apply. But, I’d argue that it is to a lesser extent since the availability–and expectation–of information has grown to such an extent. One now needs to do both in equal measure. I think we might be doing just that.

  • YNSN

    I apologize for the typo…

    *intentions

    Sorry. It has been a long deployment…

  • UltimaRatioReg

    From Ambassador Bolton:

    “It is hard to conclude anything except that the Obama administration is resigned to Iran possessing nuclear weapons.”

    Doesn’t sound like ridding the world to me.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    URR,

    I am quite familiar with “more bang for the buck” and “flexible response”; neither term has anything to do with an argument about how revealing that the US has 5113 nuclear weapons rather than 6113 nuclear weapons prevents us from dealing with North Korea. Non-attribution rules prevent you from associating particular arguments with particular participants at conference events; they don’t prevent you from identifying and setting forth the arguments themselves. Thus far, you STILL haven’t explained why revealing that the US has 5113 weapons poses a key security threat; it is becoming clear that you simply cannot do so. I submit again that posters at the USNI blog should be held to a standard that requires the presentation of evidence and a step-by-step causal argument; none appears in this post or thread.

    Regarding the question of why we didn’t reveal the number of nuclear weapons we had during the Cold War, the answer is simple; the threat environment was radically different, and the US did not possess presumptive nuclear and conventional superiority over any opponent or possible combination of opponents. Changed threat environment requires changed policies.

    Solomon,

    I defy you to explain how the revelation that the US has merely 5113 nuclear weapons will affect the nuclear policy of Iran, the ship-sinking policy of North Korea, the currency policy of China, the corruption policy of (our proxy) Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, ongoing ethnic strife in Afghanistan, or the continued presence of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Again, please make an argument; it’s not enough simply to assert that there’s a bunch of stuff, and maybe it’s something we should be worried about.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    Badger,

    We’ll set aside the fact that Russia is bankrupting its Navy through pursuit of the broken Bulava, and focus a on this:
    “This gives them not only the size of the threat, but how we deploy it, making the counter threat solution easier for them.”
    Revealing that we have 5113 nuclear weapons, rather than 6113, makes it easier for the Russians to find our Ohio class SSBNs? Makes it easier for them to intercept our bombers? Suddenly makes their own nuclear submarines operational (the Russian Navy rarely maintains a genuine alert nuclear patrol anymore)? Again, present evidence; it’s not enough simply to declare that we’re more vulnerable because of 5113 vs 6113 or 7113 or 4113.

  • http://steeljawscribe.com steeljawscribe

    one can “deter” with as few as a dozen warheads, provided that they’re secure from a disarming first strike. Acknowledging the existence of 5113 warheads does not, in fact, affect our deterrent capability in the slightest.
    Indeed – this is the “lesson,” if you will, that North Korea and Iran have learned while watching US conventional action on the Korean Penninsula, in and over Vietnam and most recently, in/over Iraq and Afghanistan. The lesson? The US will not attack a country possessing nuclear weapons. Suppose, for example, that Iraq had managed, through one form or another, to acquire a dozen nukes and, following the Israeli NCND policy, deployed them in a manner that would have frustrated US intelligence gathering on location, etc. (remember how well we did SCUD-hunting during DESERT STORM?) And that was with complete air dominance. Now consider an Iran with a dozen nukes, backed up with over 1,000 short- and medium-ranged conventional ballistic missiles. Think they believe they’d need an inventory of 5,000+ nukes to go along with those missiles to deter the US? I don’t. That is the Reader’s Digest version of minimal deterrence and it will increasingly characterize the post-Cold War, multi-polar nuclear world.
    w/r, SJS

  • UltimaRatioReg

    milprof,

    You use the word “absurd” and then make the statement “Now on the claim that transparency might not gain us anything, sure that’s debatable.”

    Aside from the insult, you go on to make the very argument you belittle. How, in isolation, does revealing a state secret reduce security? Probably not much. But as part of a pattern of security policy that is relying on ‘transparency” as a means of bringing about a fantasy goal of nuclear disarmament while our sworn enemies are obtaining and developing such weapons and delivery systems with all possible dispatch? Well, that’s a problem.

    If tipping our cards was such an advisable course, why didn’t Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, either of the Bushes, or Clinton do so?

    Like your friend Rob, you are choosing to focus on the individual event rather than the pattern. We are making a strategic blunder of monumental proportions to think that “transparency” and “good faith” in revealing US nuclear secrets is going to make the US safer or the world more stable. Not just that we have 5,000 vs 3,000 vs 10,000 warheads. The entire line of thinking.

    Perhaps instead of using terms like “absurd” you could present an argument that shows how such ideas will be helpful and effective against the adversaries we face. Feel free to include historical examples.

    Critical analysis failure. -2.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    Shorter URR: What I’ve been arguing about with regard to the number of weapons that the United States has or doesn’t have isn’t really the issue; it’s all, like, a rich tapestry of weakness. Or soemthing.

    Or, more specifically:

    “How, in isolation, does revealing a state secret reduce security? Probably not much.”

    Thank you. That’s all I needed.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rob,

    You could ask the question, “How does losing a codebook reduce security?” The answer would also be “not much”. Until you mix it with other enemy collection efforts. So we guarded our codebooks.

    Or was “transparency” a better idea?

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    I could ask the question “how does losing a codebook reduce security?”, but the answer to that question is obvious. The answer to the question “How does revealing we have 5113 nuclear warheads reduce security?” is rather less obvious, as we’ve found today…

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Obvious?

    If tipping our cards was such an advisable course, why didn’t Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, either of the Bushes, or Clinton do so?

    Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?

  • Pat

    UltimaRatioReg: congrats! I’d been wavering about keeping USNI blog in my feed list. You convinced me that quality had slipped past the point where it was worth keeping. I’ll be seeking insightful analysis — hell, simple analysis — elsewhere.

    Rob Farley, good luck! You have more patience than me…

  • http://cdrsalamander.blogspot.com CDR Salamander

    Perhaps a few questions are worth asking;
    – What is the military value of ambiguity?
    – Where have we seen in the past that fully transparent disclosure of your military capabilities, inventory, and readiness status to potential adversaries been advantageous to deterrence and the prevention of conflict?

    One last note to Pat: one of the best uses of a blog is discourse. If you disagree with an idea, then as Rob Farley does – refute it.

    URR does not have the right answer. Rob Farley does not have the right answer. I don’t. Neither do you. Only through the process of creative friction and the intellectual free market will we come to a better understanding of our challenges.

    You may not like or agree with URR; that isn’t the point. A lot of people do. One of the advantages of reading and pondering other’s ideas is that if they are wrong, you have a chance to demonstrate why, and as a result of that process, if you succeed you can perhaps enlighten their view – or at a minimum, prevent others from joint their “wrong” view. If you are incorrect and are persuaded by their argument to change your opinion – then they have done a service to you so you don’t continue to be wrong. If neither side changes their mind, then at least both parties have benefited by honing and refining their arguments.

    Pat, don’t go. Join the discussion; be challenged; educate yourself and others. Free thinking people in the military of a Representative Republic should not look for spoon fed ideas and opinions – they should challenge and seek challenge.

    Stay in the fight, don’t be the Elector of Bavaria at Blemheim.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Salamander is spot on. I don’t have the answer. But, with a fair bit of history on my side, I am pretty sure the current approach is not the answer. And there are many who agree.

    If you think this approach IS the answer, tell me why, and provide historical examples to show the approach has been successful.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Oh, and nice War of the Spanish Succession reference.

  • RickWilmes

    I took note of the following in the link that Rob Farley provided.

    “For a national secret, we’re pleased that the stockpile number is only 87 warheads off the estimate we made in February 2009. By now, the stockpile is probably down to just above 5,000 warheads.”

    If a blog can be 87 warheads off, it is probable that our enemies know how many warheads we have.  It is also probable that we know that they know and they know that we know that they know so making the actual number “officialy known” does not seem to be to big of a deal.

    However, I can see how you might want to let the world know that you have reduced your nukes by half.  It may reduce fears when an upcoming offensive occurs in Afghanistan.

    Historical example???

    From “The Chief Culprit: Stalin’s Grand Design to Start World War II,” written by Viktor Suvorov.

    “At the beginning of the war, the Soviet Union had more than one million trained parachutists, according to the official Communist Party newspaper, Pravda, on August 18, 1940.  In light of declassified documents it is clear that this was a deliberate underestimation of the real number, which arguably was closer to two million parachutists.  Never before had the world seen such large-scale preparations for offensive war.  To calm fears of Soviet aggression, Pravda lowered the number of Russian paratroopers to one million. (p.  73)”

  • PropterHoc

    The argument that we have never before revealed details of our nuclear deterrent, therefore deterrence has worked simply doesn’t hold water. G.H.W. Bush announced in September 1991 that he had ordered the removal of tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea. Does history show that deterrence has failed with respect to North Korea? If anything, it shows that previous Administrations have revealed information on numbers of deployed warheads, in probably a much more useful way than was stated today.

    The argument posited that “all other presidents have done it this way, therefore it is correct” is a textbook example of a fallacious argument, argumentum ad antiquitatem; as is the “many people agree with me and they can’t all be wrong,” aka argumentum ad populum. These are the types of arguments that ought to have been expunged from any undergraduate’s quiver of arguments well before graduation.

    Is this how the noble goal of generating discussion is to be carried out? By making ill-conceived, unexplained, and unsourced arguments, and daring others to refute them? That’s not intelligent discussion, that’s shouting.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “The argument posited that “all other presidents have done it this way, therefore it is correct” is a textbook example of a fallacious argument, argumentum ad antiquitatem; as is the “many people agree with me and they can’t all be wrong,” aka argumentum ad populum.”

    While the Latin makes it sound really cool, the thrust of the assertion is incorrect. To dismiss six decades of successful nuclear deterrence policy as “argumentum ad antiquitatem” ignores the fundamentals of how the world works.

    There have been other times and places where previous administrations have revealed certain facts and figures prudently for various reasons. But that is NOT equivalent of a push toward “transparency”, nor an unprecedented public discussion of both US capability and nuclear policy.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming,
    They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons,
    that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us
    and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
    “Stick to the Devil you know.”

    But then, what did Kipling know?

  • Old Salt

    “Revealing that we have 5113 nuclear weapons, rather than 6113, makes it easier for the Russians to find our Ohio class SSBNs? Makes it easier for them to intercept our bombers? Suddenly makes their own nuclear submarines operational (the Russian Navy rarely maintains a genuine alert nuclear patrol anymore)? Again, present evidence; it’s not enough simply to declare that we’re more vulnerable because of 5113 vs 6113 or 7113 or 4113.”

    In a word – yes. Yes, knowing “the number” makes it easier for adversaries to understand how many weapons they must find. You know as well as I do that our strength lies in our ambiguity as well as in our willingness to employ those weapons when and if needed.

    I’ll speak directly to the ambiguity. You are confusing the issue, perhaps deliberately so, when you conflate finding weapons with finding platforms. In fully one third of the force, of course, the SSBN platform is the weapons. So, too, are our manned bombers. Our enemies track every detail of our forces. Telling them that they need not worry about the percentage of the manned bomber force that is in depot-level maintenance helps them to focus on that small percentage that is strike-ready thus reducing the number of weapons they must find.

    It is ridiculous to believe that any part of our force is invulnerable; surely the enemy must have divined flight patterns and locations and stumbled across a few in the vast reaches of the sky. If that can be done routinely, in peacetime, then it might be better done by an enemy intensely focused on doing so. See my pattern? No, an enemy will never find them =all=, but given certain actions acceptable during hostilities, much of the force could be effectively neutralized, and the number of weapons that must be confronted made to be a much smaller number. Add in a few mis-fires and inoperative weapons (they’re getting older, press reports tell us), ancient aircraft falling out of the sky (the B-52 force is older than Methuselah), satellite defense, our enemie’s ability to use commercial sources of data, the known -Russian- propensity for ringing cities with ABM’s – you get my point. Bottom line – the number of weapons that must be defended against is a much smaller subset of what is actually available. Why show our enemies our a$$?

    Now, the Democrat administration in power in the late 90’s peopled the Pentagon with a lot of staffers that used to tell me that our enemies would never be able to work together and in concert to achieve their goals. Yet, Iranian efforts are being supported by the Russians as well as others even more hostile to the norms of civilized society. This effectively puts the lie to such puerile fantasies. It takes little imagination to see that such enemies as we had -then- are more capable -now-. How many destroyers have the North Koreans sunk in the past, say, 50 years, anyway? And when have they sunk them?

    Now that I’ve effectively demolished your argument, lets see what you can muster up. You tell me why you think that publically announcing the size of our nuclear arsenal is supposed to make the world safe for democracy. In turn, I’ll point you to Winston Churchill’s book – “The Gathering Storm”, and William Manchester’s “Alone”, in his trilogy of Churchill . We’ve been through all this before, and it always ends in the same way. Except, this time, all Americans have “skin” in the game, and now, it’s much more naked skin. Feeling a breeze?

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    Old Salt,

    We disagree on many points, but I’ll focus on this:

    “. It takes little imagination to see that such enemies as we had -then- are more capable -now-.”

    Actually, I think it takes a LOT of imagination to believe that the enemies we have now are more capable than the Soviet Union. But then you’re imagining a lot; inventing Russian capability to track and detect SSBNs, inventing a series of Russian ABM system capable of destroying incoming SLBMs and ICBMs, inventing an air defense system far in excess of what the Russian or Chinese ever dreamed of… but what I don’t understand is this: Even in your exceedingly imaginary world where all of our enemies are vastly more powerful than they are in reality, how is it different that the Russians believe 5113 rather than simply use the FAS estimate of 5200? Indeed, with the hyper capable Russians and Chinese that your imagination has conjured, I’m duly surprised that you think the 5113 number is a secret at all; if their ABMs can destroy our ICBMs, their attack subs can kill our SSBNs, and their air defense network can shoot down all of our bombers, it would seem the absolute pinnacle of silliness to assume that they would somehow be unaware of the precise number of nuclear weapons that the United States possessed.

    But then this is what we’re dealing with; pure fantasy. All yours; I prefer the real world.

  • http://www.informationdissemination.net/ Rob Farley

    URR,

    This is becoming tiresome…

    Far from maintaining precisely the same nuclear policy over the last six decades, the United States has engaged in considerable variance. You’ve repeatedly mentioned “flexible response”; this was not a characteristic of the Eisenhower nuclear policy, but rather an innovation that a Presidential administration developed in response to changes in the international environment. The decision of the Reagan administration to pursue multiple arms control agreements with the Soviet Union represented another innovation in US nuclear policy, and another example of an administration reconceptualizing nuclear policy in the context of a changed environment.

    Thus, far from six decades of stasis, US nuclear policy has changed radically over the years, in response to changing circumstances. In short, “history” is not on your side, largely because you don’t understand it; quoting all the Kipling in the world won’t change that. When dealing with amateurs who are not familiar with the history of US nuclear policy, such rhetorical tricks might work. The audience of the USNI blog, however, are not amateurs; they know of what they speak.

    Accordingly, when you say that you have six decades of history on your side, you simply reveal a contempt for your audience, which is by and large familiar with the actual history of US nuclear policy, and which doesn’t require random Kipling quotes in order to think responsibly about US nuclear policy.

    Please stop.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Yes, tiresome.

    The Kipling quote was hardly random. It references the folly of trusting that “good faith” disarmament efforts will make you more secure.

    You mentioned reality. You might get reacquainted with it.

  • Old Salt

    Rob – you say “But then this is what we’re dealing with; pure fantasy. All yours; I prefer the real world.”

    Ah, yes – attack the argument instead of addessing the facts. I didn’t impute capabilities our enemies don’t have. Fine, taking your lead – assume the enemy is only, what – 30 percent effective? 25 percent? They understand. They’ll layer their defenses, add hostile capabilities along our way in to further decrement our capabilities – it all adds up to the same point: the enemy starts with a known number, and proceeds to better understand how to decrement our known capabilities. Feel a breeze yet?

    Btw, if you really believe some of what you wrote – you’re the one living in a fantasy. This isn’t 1965 anymore. Our forces =are not=invulnerable.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Old Salt,

    Don’t think we are gonna get through. The “alternative world view” is a religion.

  • Cody

    “Strategic deterrence has worked for six decades and then some.  To trade it all in for a pipe dream of cooperation from nations themselves intent on possessing a nuclear deterrent (read: Pakistan, India) or an offensive capability of obvious bad intentions (Iran, North Korea) is a foolhardy and short-sighted act which will guarantee a lessening of US strategic capabilities.”

    This is where I see the difficulty in your argument arising. The Obama administration is decidedly not doing what you say they are. The US maintains a highly undetectable, highly efficient, highly reliable strategic deterrent capability. Your claim that this revelation threatens deterrence or consists of an abandonment of deterrence simply does not follow from any line of argumentation I can see.

    Please clarify the connection you are attempting to draw between the public revelation of this number and decreased deterrence. You may think the link is clear but I assure you it is not. It is not sufficient to rely on simple characterizations of the current administration as “weak.”

    We have two policy options before us. Option one entails maintaining a policy of nondisclosure regarding this specific number. Option two entails revealing the specific number in a very public manner. Why should we pursue option one? You say it effects deterrent capability but don’t justify the claim. You have yet to make this argument, and without advancing an argument I don’t see the point of your post.

    Whoever is in charge of this blog should take note and give Rob Farley a contributorship. The author of this particular post is engaging in incredibly lazy punditry and not thoughtful discussion, while Rob Farley is engaging in reasoned debate.

  • Cody

    I didn’t realize Rob Farley was a contributor at Information Dissemination! Thanks for doing your best to keep the debate over here within the realm of reasoned discourse.

  • SCOTTtheBADGER

    I can’t find where Old Salt claimed superior capablities for any potential foes.

  • RickWilmes

    URR,

    actually the method you have used to present your argument(rationalism) is how theologians and religionists defend their intrinsic dogmas.

    The premise that revealing how many nukes you have is a threat to national security must be tied to reality and the present context. Before the State Department made this annoucement it was probable that our enemies knew how many nukes we have in our arsenal. Now it is certain that they know.

    So what? How does that make the United States less safe? How does this compare with the fact that we are mired in two wars(Irag and Afghanistan)?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rick,

    Please. Tipping national secrets in the name of “transparency” is a highly dubious course of action. Whether you think the enemy already knows or not is irrelevant, if it is secret, you keep it that way unless you have a specific objective for having the enemy know. If you’d gotten to handle any kind of classified information in your life, you would know that or be in handcuffs. And “transparency” for the world to know our capabilities and intent so they bargain in “good faith” is not an objective. So save the religious zealot stuff. Nations will act, in the end, in their own self interest, even if we think they don’t. Realpolitik. To countenance anything else, or worse, to set policy based on that naive and fallacious assumption, is the height of folly.

  • RickWilmes

    URR,

    Classified information is declassified all the time and if a blog can reasonably be only 87 warheads off the actual number than it is safe to say that our nuclear warhead count is no longer a secret.

    As I pointed out before, it was probable that our enemies knew the actual count but now it is certain that they know.

    So what? How does this change from probability to certainty change our national security status?

  • Cody

    Self-interest is a slippery concept. Obviously state policy is determined by an assessment of threats and challenges, and of what responses are possible within constraints. However, invoking self-interest the way you do requires us to view it as a rationally determined, objectively analyzable and ideal truth across all cultures and for all individuals who think “correctly.” At the very least, you need to identify what self-interest of the United States is violated by this action, or how it advances the self-interest of other states. Beyond that and on a more theoretical level, it might be helpful to point out why the two are mutually exclusive.

    There are arguments you could be making, but your refusal to do so is infuriating and intellectually bankrupt.

  • Wharf Rat

    There’s a point here that I think is missed: The fact that the Obama administration specifically states that if we are transparent, and be that example, then others will likely, or at least hopefully follow that example.

    That’s the problem there. I don’t like in the least that we gave out the exact number, regardless of whether ‘experts’ knew what we had. Keep them guessing.

    But the fact that liberal wishful thinking was the motive behind this is why liberals shouldn’t ever be in charge of the military. Deterence is all about keeping them guessing – which means security. You don’t unzip your fly.

    Here’s a problem quote: The Obama administration disclosed the size of its atomic stockpile going back to 1962 as part of a campaign to get other nuclear nations to be more forthcoming, and to improve its bargaining position against the prospect of a nuclear Iran. (how does this accomplish this?)

    “We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters at the United Nations, where she addressed a conference on containing the spread of atomic weapons.

    Here’s another problem quote: The import of the announcement is the precedent it sets, Kristensen said.

    “The important part is that the U.S. is no longer going to keep other countries in the dark,” he said.

    Clinton said the disclosure of numbers the general public has never seen “builds confidence” that the Obama administration is serious about stopping the spread of atomic weapons and reducing their numbers. (so if we unzip, others will follow?)

    Another problem quote: “You can’t get anywhere toward disarmament unless you’re going to be transparent about how many weapons you have,” said Sharon Squassoni, a nuclear policy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (bull……it) If I was other countries, knowing that the US would completely turn it to glass would be a good motive for disarmament. And being under our security umbrella is motive for reduced military spending.

  • Wharf Rat

    To me this is similar, or analagous to what Gates said a couple of days ago – do we need 11 carrier battle groups if other countries have a max of 1?

    Uh – yes, yes we do. We need overwhelming, crushing power to always guarentee our security. Wishful thinking about disarmanment only makes our enemy bolder, thinking we are weak.

    Same goes here. Our nuclear arsenal should give other countries pause, because there’s no way to keep up with us. That’s how Reagan won the cold war. That’s the only way to win – YOU DON’T WIN BY UNZIPPING YOUR FLY. This won’t dramitically affect our security, but again, are we going to cut carrier battle groups hoping the Chinese won’t build them? Same thought process. It’s bull, bull, bull. Are we stopping F-35’s, F-18’s, so others won’t build something comparable?

  • Jay

    Oh, the “Reagan won the Cold War” theme…again…

    Pretty darn silly, every time I hear it bandied about… Pres Reagan deserves 1/9th of the credit for “winning” the Cold War — sharing it with every single President who served before him — Truman to Carter, and to G.H.W. Bush.

    And we may owe a great deal more than we’d like to think to Mikhail Gorbachev on this count as well.

  • Cody

    >Deterence is all about keeping them guessing – which means security. You don’t unzip your fly.

    I’m not sure this is really the case. Deterrence is about creating as much of one particular certainty as possible: certainty that an action or behavior will result in unacceptable consequences. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the major powers we hope to strategically deter were unaware of the size of our stockpile within any reasonable measure of certainty. How does the revelation of the exact size of our stockpile reduce deterrence? If anything, admitting that we still have enough nukes to obliterate the offensive capabilities of any conceivable enemy or coalition of enemies creates greater certainty of raw destructive capacity.

    >To me this is similar, or analagous to what Gates said a couple of days ago – do we need 11 carrier battle groups if other countries have a max of 1?…
    >Same goes here. Our nuclear arsenal should give other countries pause, because there’s no way to keep up with us. That’s how Reagan won the cold war. That’s the only way to win – YOU DON’T WIN BY UNZIPPING YOUR FLY. This won’t dramitically affect our security, but again, are we going to cut carrier battle groups hoping the Chinese won’t build them? Same thought process. It’s bull, bull, bull. Are we stopping F-35’s, F-18’s, so others won’t build something comparable?

    It is, in fact, not analogous. Gates’ speech called for different thinking in the Navy that contributes to a coherent national security strategy that takes into account enemy capabilities, allied capabilities, likely threats, and the constraints of domestic policy.

    The revelation of nuclear stockpiles, on the other hand, represented essentially a PR move to gain the trust of our allies, prove our commitment to nonproliferation, demonstrate our honest broker-hood and isolate countries who refuse to make good-faith efforts at nuclear stockpile reductions. You could argue with the premises of this strategy and say that none of these factors ultimately matters. You would be disagreeing with your friend Reagan’s pursuit of arms reduction treaties, though.

    Really, though, what you are trying to do is somehow paint all of these policies into a picture of characteristically “liberal” weakness by chalking up any decrease in defense spending or reshaping of the naval force as a misguided attempt to cause everyone to get along, and any efforts toward nonproliferation as naivete. This is far from the reality, and Robert Gates is far from a liberal. If you want to say that we should just continue to build carriers forever regardless of cost or the nature of the threat, I’d love to hear it.

    For extra credit, if you want to explain why the Chinese or any potential military foe would not be perfectly happy to see us continue to build $20 billion dollar floating islands while they create weapons to sink them, feel free. There are ways to build a Navy that don’t involve simply building more and more of our most expensive ships in hopes of scaring the PLAN back into Beijing.

    We both agree that we need overwhelming power to guarantee our security. Luckily for the American people, we have that level and then some. Unfortunately, what we do not have is a balanced budget or any sense of fiscal responsibility. In the long term, this is something that will need to be corrected if we hope to guarantee a broadly-defined national security.

  • Susan

    How does anyone know we’re going to tell the truth? I just assumed the number wouldn’t be accurate.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Cody,

    There has been much discussion and agreement here on the “mix” of Navy shipbuilding, and doing far more with current or even slightly reduced budgets. This includes discussion of numbers of CVNs and other high-end units. “Tiffany” ships are mentioned (LCS, DDG-1000) quite often. I don’t think that was WR’s point, and I know it wasn’t mine.

    The goal of “transparency”, the latest step being Hillary Clinton’s revelations, the previous being CINC clearing up “ambiguity”, is what those who agree with my premise have the problem with. This was in no way, shape, or form Reagan’s approach to arms reduction talks.

    Also, if we are looking at fiscal responsibility to reign in uncontrolled spending, targeting the Defense Budget is like trying to bail out the Titanic with a gravy ladel. It’s something, but not nearly what is needed. Entitlement spending is fourfold that of Defense spending.

  • Cody

    The goal is not transparency in itself, but the effects of transparency on non-proliferation efforts. You can argue about the relative usefulness of that strategy, but your original post did not do that, nor did any of the posts you made afterward.

    WharfRat’s confusion of the points in the SecDef’s speech and the issue at hand is indicative of the confusion you have brought to this discussion. There has still been no effort to connect the specific policies you brought up in this post with specific detrimental effects on U.S. security. We are not “trading it all in,” (the ‘it’ being our strategic deterrent force). We released a peace of information which was probably already known by any conceivable opponent.

    Arguably, this move has benefits outside the immediate realm of realist power considerations. We get to champion a cause that is viewed as a net positive around the globe, and we provide coverage and attention to and leadership for a very real security threat that requires international cooperation by its very nature. If there is ANY upside and no downside, it makes sense to act as we have. You may disagree with the notion that the soft power benefits matter in the final analysis, but if you can’t point to a drawback in revealing the data that was revealed, it still makes sense to pursue the policy of releasing this information.

  • Wharf Rat

    Cody:

    I agree w/you on the deterence definition. The Soviet Union knew for sure what was going to happen if they did the unthinkable. I also believe what I said is still true – you still keep them guessing on a number of issues that were, ie., top secret, capabilities of weapons systems, etc. I believe there is truth in both definitions of deterence.

    That said – the motive of the Obama administration in releasing our numbers of nuclear weapons is what I oppose, and has me worried. Transperancy is just weakness. How exactly does this help the Iranian situation? It doesn’t – because it says look at us – we’re nice and transparent. But the Iranians don’t think that way. They eventually want to see the demise of the United States. You can’t play nice with them, transperancy will be seen as a sign of weakness. That – politicially – is liberalism.

    The only way to ‘negotiate’ with Iran, and North Korea for that matter is to give them one option – and that option is they will not have nuclear weapons. And you have to be ready to back it up with military power. You don’t do that – you lose credibility.

    I admit I took Gate’s recent speach at the Navy League’s convention in an incomplete direction, but the fact remains is that the carrier has been written off before, and it will never outlive its usefulness. Is the Chinese building weapons to sink them? Sure, so did the Soviet Union. Again, if the Soviets made a move against one of them, they knew what was coming. Do we need to outlast the Chinese like the Soviets? Maybe. We need a balanced fleet, and we need to counter those weapons. But balance will always include carriers, and I’d buy more, not less. But I’d buy more Virginia class boats as well, LCS’s, Burke’s, Super Hornets, etc. That’s the proper role of government.

    As for your comment on Reagan – I would argue, and you know this, (you were baiting me here), that you trying to draw comparisons with what Obama is doing here, and what Reagan was doing as similar, is quite simply a crock.

    They’ll be no carrier named after President Obama – with a motto of ‘Peace Through Strength’. I looked at USS Ronald Reagan CVN 76 from the deck of USS Makin Island LHD 8 in October. You want to know how Reagan negotiated – look at CVN 76. That’s the exact manifestation how Ronald Wilson Reagan negotiated.

    The Obama administration is negotiating peace through weakness. They feel bad we are a super power, and we all have to play nice w/the world. Remember is ‘apology tour’? This is just another example of it. That is his motivation. Now go play on a liberal blog where you belong dude.

  • Wharf Rat

    Cody:

    This is a beautiful quote: ‘We get to champion a cause that is viewed as a net positive around the globe, and we provide coverage and attention to and leadership for a very real security threat that requires international cooperation by its very nature.’

    This quote is also – a crock.

    We get to ‘champion’ a cause. This doesn’t require international cooperation as much as it requires leadership. Your ‘dear leader’ has no leadership skills. Leadership means cooperating with friends, sure, but providing direction and decisions – something our friends need to count on. He’s been voting ‘present’ his whole life, and holding your enemies accountable. Right now, our allies can’t count on President Obama – England and Israel have been treated poorly at best by your dear leader. But our enemies (Chavez), gets hugs by Obama. Good times.

  • Wharf Rat

    ‘For extra credit, if you want to explain why the Chinese or any potential military foe would not be perfectly happy to see us continue to build $20 billion dollar floating islands while they create weapons to sink them, feel free.’

    Cody – another great quote drippng in liberalism.

    You disguise the argument in a smokescreen. The Chinese government doesn’t want us to continue to build them. Why – because they are effective. When the most powerful weapons system (non-nuclear) on earth shows up – it affects the military balance in that part of the world. And if anything happens to one of them – again – you have to know the hammer comes down. So yeah, even with weapons designed to sink them, I’m going out on a limb here and say the Chinese are going to think long and hard about using those weapons. Because it wouldn’t go well for them.

    But let’s agree on this – let’s build more cruise missle subs, and Virginia class subs. But lets not be ‘transparent’ about there movements. Let’s keep them guessing.

  • Cody

    >It doesn’t – because it says look at us – we’re nice and transparent. But the Iranians don’t think that way. They eventually want to see the demise of the United States. You can’t play nice with them, transperancy will be seen as a sign of weakness.

    Transparency will be seen as a sign of weakness by Iran? Why would that be the case?

    Ronald Reagan spoke time and time again about the moral imperative of nuclear arms reduction. Every president since him has continued the project of nuclear arms reduction. If you fail to see the necessity of negotiations to bring the international community on board with non-proliferation, then that’s unfortunate. At the very least what we are talking about is securing nuclear material to prevent it getting into the hands of terrorists, but that kind of cooperation requires good-faith efforts from all parties involved, and this is one step, although it may be mostly symbolic.

    On a side note, frankly I’m a little taken aback by your tone. You are talking about my Commander in Chief, not my “dear leader.” Please be respectful.

    If you insist on framing this debate around ideological lines rather than a level-headed analysis of choices, then it doesn’t really benefit us to continue it. It’s unfortunate, because there are a lot of interesting angles we could discuss nuclear policy from. Tired slogans of the left and the right aside, there is a real security threat out there in the form of unsecured nuclear material and uncontrolled proliferation. We can choose to ignore it or we can discuss options to stem it. Clearly you have chosen the former.

  • RickWilmes

    URR writes,(caps mine)

    “The goal of “transparency”, the latest step being Hillary Clinton’s revelations, the previous being CINC clearing up “ambiguity”, is what those who agree with my premise have the problem with. This was in no way, shape, or form Reagan’s APPROACE TO ARMS REDUCTION TALKS.” 

    This is the root of our foreign policy problems, Democrat and Republican.

    Why should we negotiate arms reduction with our enemies?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Rick,

    “Why should we negotiate arms reduction with our enemies?”

    Much larger discussion outside the scope of this post, IMHO.

  • http://steeljawscribe.com steeljawscribe

    (Off we go into that land where angels fear to tred…)

    So…deterrence.

    Volumes can (and have been) written on what consitutes deterrence – be it nuclear or conventional, and for the most part, they were written in and for a bi-polar world.

    We aren’t there anymore.

    One of, if not *the* signatory lines in the 2007 maritime Stratgy, right up front there on the first page of the Introduction is “We believe preventing wars is as important as winning wars.” How do we prevent wars? In this context, what is deterrence? How does deterrence work in a world characterized by regional nuclear powers with their own interests and agendas (which may be at cross purposes with our own), non-state actors that are able to lay hands on increasingly sophisticated weapons that once were the sole province of nation-states (viz., Hanit) in an environment marked by increased proliferation of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them? In the pursuit of said deterrence, how does the US exercise “leadership” in fora that no longer split roughly along the fault line between US-led and Soviet-led blocks with the non-aligned nations chattering from the back of the station wagon? What is transparency in a world awash in the minutae of information which includes what was once considered classified from a strategic intelligence standpoint–Google Earth anyone?

    We can’t apply 1980’s logic or planning here anymore. If, for example, we are serious about nuclear non-proliferation, we absolutely need the cooperation and buy-in of nations like India, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa, France, Germany, Ukraine as well as Russia and China to clamp down on the state- and non-state networks utlized by proliferators like A.Q.Kahn. To lock down and exercise air-tight control of fissionable material and other building blocks for WMD. Want to have some real nightmares? Go read Frank Hoffman’s “The Dead Hand.”

    Part and parcel of this process is understanding what the other party is up to. Continually cloaked means, methods and actions foster a climate of mistrust and begets correspondingly cloaked reactions, leading to local and regional tensions and crises which can readily spill into the global domain these days. Advocating and supporting a climate characterized by degrees of transparency can aid in mitigating burgeoning mistrust — but how can we demand transparency of China or even Iran (both, incidently parties to the NNPT), for example, if we don’t lead by showing the example. Isn’t that a quality of leadership, be it an LPO or nation-state — lead by example? How is it considered leadership if we demand of the rest of the world what we won’t do ourselves? Rather, if we demonstrate over time the benefits of certain actions, like transparency in strategic nuclear arms, we can get others onboard. We and the Russians have one such example that is entering it’s eighth year — Open Skies. An idea that began with a Republican president, Eisenhower, and supported by succeeding Republican and Democrat administrations and finally negotiated and entered into force in 2002. Thirty-four other nations have signed onboard (notables missing: China, DPRK and Iran). For eight years US aircaft have overflown Russian installations and Russians over American – unmolested. Additionally, the intrusive inspection and verification regime instituted beginning with the INF treaty and extended to the strategic nuclear arms process has had beneficial results for both parties as well.
    Trust but verify – a good Russian proverb quoted by an American president on more than one occasion.
    Transparency, in and of itself, isn’t a goal — it is a means to a goal. Just as ambiguity is a tool and has a place and time for employment. Both may be (and are) employed in a various scenarios. Having a stockpile number aired publically is not the same as having unfettered access to the SIOP anymore than knowing there are 11 carriers in the Navy necessarily guarnatees one knows exactly where they are and what they are up to – unless we choose to reveal the same.
    TR’s cautionary aphorism of “speak softly but carry a big stick” often has too much emphasis placed on the stick and not enough on the speaking. Yes, we still carry a big stick – for now, but that’s not always going to be the case.
    Deterrence comes in many forms — from big sticks to quiet diplomacy. Each is dependant on the other and none can stand alone. Maybe, however, the time is right for a bit more emphasis on the diplomatic side of the house.

    Доверяй, но проверить…

    w/r, SJS

  • Cody

    A very concise and excellent argument. BZ, sjs.

  • RickWilmes

    URR,

    Thank you for proving my point. You would much rather discuss which Administration’s policies are more practical than consider whether or not negotiating arms reduction with our enemies is a proper course of action.

    As I wrap things up on this post I want to address the following.

    URR writes, (Caps mine)

    ” NATIONS WILL ACT, IN THE END, IN THEIR OWN SELF INTEREST, EVEN IF WE THINK THEY DON’T. Realpolitik. To countenance anything else, or worse, to set policy based on that naive and fallacious assumption, is the height of folly.”

    You will have a hard time finding where I hold the view that nations should not act in their self-interest. The question is whether or not their actions are moral.

    The best summation that I know of, concerning this issue can be found in Peter Schwartz’ book, “The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America (p. 54 – 56).

    ” It is appalling that we allow Iran, the primary promoter of Islamic totalitarianism, to go untouched by us; it is unconscionable that we may be allowing Iraq-the country we invaded in order to make us more secure-to become another Iran.

    This inability to defend our self-interest, in word and deed, is reinforced by Washington’s pragmatist mentality, which scorns
    principles and morality. It is a mentality which insists that foreign policy concern itself not with abstract theory but with hardheaded”practicalities.”. There are no firm truths, the pragmatists maintain, only the expediencies of the moment; issues cannot be framed in black and white, only in shades of gray; our self-interest has no fixed definition-it ebbs and flows with the unpredictable tide of offers and counteroffers that sway our foreign policy.

    Our leaders are thus constantly searching for some acceptable “middle ground” between America’s value of liberty and Iran’s( or Syria’s or Saudi Arabia’s or North Korea’s) desire to destroy liberty. To the pragmatist, political conflicts are essentially the same as the differences between the buyer and seller of a car; the parties start out far apart, they entertain a variety of proposals, they haggle over the terms, but eventually each makes painful concessions and the sale is consummated to everyone’s benefit. In disputes among nations, too, everything should be “on the table,” because making a deal is the overriding goal. “Flexibility” is the pragmatist’s supreme virtue, integrity the supreme vice. He rejects all absolutes-except the need to compromise.

    This is why our government’s actions are so exasperatingly inconsistent. This is why, for example, George W. Bush can resolutely declare to the world, “If you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you are just as guilty as the terrorist”- yet be able, just a few days later, to waive the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 and to assert that allowing Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to operate in this country “is important to the national security interests of the United States.”. Only pragmatism’s view that principles are useless burdens-that consistency is “the hobgoblin of little minds” and that there is no difference between compromising on the price of a car and compromising on the commitment to fight terrorism-makes such incomprehensible contradictions comprehensible.

    It is true that under the Bush administration, for the first time in more than half a century, America actually overthrew a foreign government because it participated in the use of force against us. President Bush’s foreign policy is certainly preferable to what is advocated by many of today’s politicians, particularly the typical hand-wringing, America-blaming, U.N.-worshiping liberal. However, if the current policies are seen by the public as the best that the pro-capitalist right can fashion-if President Bush has in effect set the outer limits on what is acceptable in foreign policy, and the political debate is then between the left’s position of subordinating our interests to the international community and President Bush’s position of semi-subordinating-what does that imply about the possibility of ever instituting a foreign policy that will genuinely defend us?

    A pragmatic, shifting, seat-of-the pants attempt to uphold America’s self-interest is impractical. It cannot work. It cannot keep us safe and free. Only fidelity to the principle of self-interest can. For America to prevail against its enemies, we must adopt a conviction quite incompatible with the bromides of pragmatism: THE CONVICTION THAT WE ARE RIGHT AND THEY ARE WRONG. Not that we are partially right, not that we have to see things from their perspective, not that we need to be “tolerant” of other cultures, not that we should be willing to give away something to our enemies in order to get something we want from them-but simply that we are right and they are wrong on the non-negotiable issue of whether we are entitled to live in freedom. America’s self-interest can be protected only by those who understand what it consists of, why it is morally proper and what means of protection need to be employed-i.e., the means on non-appeasement, non-compromise, non-sacrifice.”

  • Paul M Hupf

    This is a decision which will only work to our disadvantage. They know what we have because we have told them. We won’t know what they have because either: 1) They won’t tell us, or 2) They will lie to us. Worst of all, if the latter is the case, we will believe them. This may best be described as utter folly.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    SJS,

    “If, for example, we are serious about nuclear non-proliferation, we absolutely need the cooperation and buy-in of nations like India, Pakistan, Brazil, South Africa, France, Germany, Ukraine as well as Russia and China to clamp down on the state- and non-state networks utlized by proliferators like A.Q.Kahn.”

    Nuclear non-proliferation and ridding the world of nuclear weapons are two very different things. The latter is the administration’s goal, and it is highly unrealistic. The former ship has sailed. North Korea likely has a number of weapons and continues testing. Iran will soon, if not already. Both are looking for delivery systems for what will shortly be warhead-sized weapons. Note that neither goal is truly the same as arms reduction, which is not an attempt to “put the genie back in the bottle”.

    Your assertion that we must not think like the 1980s is curiously worded. I would submit that unilateral tipping of secrets in the hope of “good faith” is not 1980s but 1970s thinking. Reminiscent of one James Earl Carter, Jr. His view of the world and how it worked was just as flawed as this Administration’s. And the results will be similar.

    Buy-in of India, Pakistan, Russia, and China? (You didn’t mention Israel, by the way.) Pakistan will tell you they need nukes because India has nukes. India needs them because China has them. China has had them much more because of Russia and India than because of the United States, though their emphasis is shifting. Russia has them because China and the US have them, and because that is the way to maintain a semblance of say in world affairs absent the massive military force of the Cold War. And one must admit, if you look through their respective lenses, each nation has a point. And there is the rub. Little of why they possess their arsenals has much to do directly with the US stockpile. Instead, it is much more a result of traditional regional, cultural, and ethnic rivalries that go back centuries.

    US “transparency” helps that not a bit. In fact, there is far more worry between those mentioned above because of stated intentions and actions of their adversaries than over any kind of covert or secret plans. Those who believe otherwise should pick up their mail at a Tel Aviv post office for a while.

    This is NOT a bi-polar world any longer, it is true. Deterrence isn’t necessarily what it used to be. And our approach cannot be precisely the same. What is the new approach? I don’t know. But it should be sound, fundamentally, and not consist of ideological wishful thinking that paints our adversaries and enemies seeing their best interest the way we do.

    One would think we would have learned that by now.

  • Cody

    “There is only one way safely and legitimately to reduce the cost of national security, and that is to reduce the need for it. And this we are trying to do in negotiations with the Soviet Union. We are not just discussing limits on a further increase of nuclear weapons. We seek, instead, to reduce their number. We seek the total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”

    I guess you’re right. This quote is clearly the work of a weak-kneed liberal.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Nope. I watched him say it.

    But I also noticed that RWR was sensible enough to bargain from a position of strength and stayed well away from the unilateral gesture nonsense of his predecessor.

  • Cody

    Explain to me how our current position is one of weakness.

  • RickWilmes

    Cody it is real simple.

    We are negotiating arms reduction deals with countries that do not recoginize individuals rights and are anti-capitalist. That is a sign of weakness. Now, I don’t agree with URR on revealing how many nuclear weapons we have since that information was probably already known but I do agree that the current administration’s approach is wrong.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Unilateral gestures of tipping our hand to the world about our nuclear capability and especially our policy on the hopes that our enemies will be appreciative is a weakening of our position.

    You will likely fundamentally disagree, I am sure. Tell you what. Show up with a pile of cash to my poker table. I will only bring a little. Five card draw. Since I only have a little cash, let’s have a rule where you show me all you discard and two of your keepers every hand. Watch how quickly your pile shrinks and mine grows. And watch how many people wanna get in the game.

  • SubIconoclast

    Transparency need not be necessarily strength or weakness . My concern about a policy like this isn’t so much the present (where we are strong), but rather the future – which holds no guarantees.

    As we reduce our stockpiles to the point where we no longer hold overwhelming advantage, information about our exact capabilities vis-a-vis potential adversaries becomes important to understanding relative power between states. For adversaries to have a firm understanding of that balance, while we must make do with approximations and guesses, cedes an important advantage to those who hold the power of knowledge.

    It may be that the process of nuclear arms reduction could not proceed without transparency by all sides. Even so, I’m far from convinced that unilateral concessions are the most effective way to arrive at multilateral obligations.

  • Cody

    I will concede that if our fundamental goal is to amass as much of an advantage in strategic (read: nuclear) arms as possible to ensure to ourselves that we will be able to destroy entirely any plausible alliance against us, then revealing the exact number of active warheads to the global public offers no benefit.

    I submit, however, that even in this idealized situation it offers no drawbacks. Granted, if we were revealing a number that was significantly lower than anyone expected, the situation would be entirely different. This is decidedly not the case, however. I again ask for you to explain how you can connect this underwhelming revelation to any strategic weakening, without resorting to the (for lack of a better term) weak-sauce argument that looking like a “liberal” on the international stage is a strategic blunder in itself.

    Do you really believe that any nation, even any individual, with enough concern about these matters wouldn’t already know the number within a reasonable margin of error? If not, I fail to see how this leads to any strategic drawbacks at all. I’m still waiting for you to educate me.

  • RickWilmes

    I have to admit this is going to be my all time favorite sentence while reading blogs and making comments.

    “I’m still waiting for you to educate me.”

    Hmmm??? let’s see, educated liberal is to liberal education as intelligent military is to military intelligence.

    I just couldn’t resist.

  • Jack Seymour

    Today’s circumstances are far different, in some ways more complex than during the Cold War. Potential enemies are varied and political requirements much changed. Not wise to apply the strictly military and Cold War thinking to the situation, as many of the readers imply.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Jack,

    I would caution that the thinking of not letting the enemy know your strength, secrets, or intent go a lot further back than 1946. Sun Tzu opines extensively on the matter.

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