Terrorists Probably Aren’t Going To Be Getting Their Nukes From Existing Stockpiles

Michael Van Winkle over at The Chicago Report disagrees with the rhetorical beating about the head and shoulders that I gave to Mohamed ElBaradei over his ridiculous comments about nuclear weapons. Here’s a sample of what Michael had to say…

“If the mission of the War on Terror, with respect to nukes, is ever to be accomplished, it seems necessary to seriously reduce the availability and use of the technology for weapons purposes. This is not to say that the US should unilaterally rid itself of nukes, becoming vulnerable to our enemies. Yet, why on earth should we oppose destroying stockpiles in exchange for other countries doing the same?

Ultimately, I disagree with a key assumption of Hawkins and many conservatives: that we can have a world safe for democracy, which also contains a significant number of nuclear weapons. Conservatives tend to reason that we can control proliferation of nukes in a way that’s harmonious with freedom and American interests. Yet, in a post Cold War world, where strength is often thought of in terms of stockpiles, every petty dictator and pathetic terrorist is dying to get his hands on weapons grade plutonium. The culprits are decentralized and determined and thus it seems, non-proliferation can only be accomplished with global support. But global support also requires some compromises and leadership by example on our part. For the conservative who wants to protect American stockpiles, this sort of international cooperation is virtually impossible.

The cost of an “America First” strategy in nuclear disarmament is the ultimate failure to regulate proliferation and eventually risking nuclear holocaust at the hands of some Bin Laden. Cooperation does not mean that America should be so naive as to expect the world to break into a chorus of 60’s music. We should be measured in our reduction and vigilant in pressuring other countries to follow our lead. If they don’t, obviously the process breaks down and we should stop disarming ourselves immediately.”

I’ll have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Van Winkle’s analysis here for several reasons.

First off, if you believe that we’re not going to “have a world safe for democracy, which also contains a significant number of nuclear weapons,” then you’re just going to have to live with the fact that the world isn’t going to be safe for Democracy for the forseeable future. We are not going to negotiate away nukes. To the contrary, the only way they’re going to disappear is if either we come up with a defensive weapon that makes them obsolete or if a cheaper, more destructive, weapon is created. Once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s not going back in.

Next, nuclear proliferation has occurred for the most part because France, China, & Russia helped make it happen for a price and everybody — including the US — looked the other way. If the civilized world was serious about stopping nukes from the beginning instead of just putting together a non-proliferation treaty that no one was willing to enforce, we would probably only have 6 nuclear powers (I think the Indians would have made it regardless).

Now let’s talk about stockpiles. We have already greatly reduced our stockpiles of nuclear weapons and are continuing to do so. A lot of people may have forgotten this already, but back in November Bush agreed to significant joint cuts in the American & Russian nuclear arsenals. So we’re already planning to drop from about 6k nukes to around 1,700 to 2,200 within the next decade. As far as terrorists stealing or buying a nuke out of an existing stockpile goes, the Russians are really the only country of concern and we’re already spending hundreds of millions of dollars per year to help them secure their arsenal. So this whole focus on reducing stockpiles is largely irrelevant to the problems of stopping proliferation or keeping terrorists from getting their hands on nukes. There aren’t going to be any members of Al-Qaeda driving a pick-up truck right up to a Chinese silo, loading a missile in the back, and then hopping on a slow boat from China headed for LA while screaming, “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad, ulululullululull” all the way.

So if we’re worried about nukes (and not just dirty bombs), the danger is mainly that some country like Iran, North Korea, or Pakistan if &/or when Musharraf gets shot or deposed in a coup will either sell or give nukes to terrorists. We can forget about getting nukes out of Pakistan as long India has nukes and the Indians aren’t disarming as long as China still has weapons. So unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to have to live with a Pakistani nuclear state unless they get into a nuclear war with India….and trust me, you’re probably better off not even thinking about that. On the other hand, I’m of the belief that we can negotiate the nukes out of North Korea and we can keep Iran from ever developing nukes if we’re willing to do whatever it takes to stop them…and I believe the Bush administration has the necessary will to do so.

Last but not least, having “global support” for these actions and to stop other nations from developing nukes would be nice, but as we have learned again and again since 9/11, we can’t count on it. If the choice is between giving up a lot to get the Europeans to wag their fingers at countries like North Korea or Iran or between threatening to launch missiles at Iran and North Korea if they don’t stop building nukes, I’ll take option #2 every because it may work whereas no nation is going to get rid of nukes because of nagging from UN toadies like Mohamed ElBaradei.

During the Cold War we may have been concerned about stockpiles of nukes, but today there is much more of a threat from rogue nations building nukes that they may use or share with terrorists. That’s what we should be concerned about, not the stockpiles that we have in the US…

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