Sunday, August 22, 2010

American Nuclear Deterrence in the Second Nuclear Age

Many foreign policy experts have dismissed Obama's START treaty with Russia and his prattle about a world without nuclear weapons as a post-cold war sideshow, a way to register something resembling a foreign policy accomplishment, 20 years after this kind of thing was relevant. And while that's not entirely inaccurate, it ignores the real need for nuclear deterrence.

To those who grew up during the Cold War, nuclear weapons were part of a balance of power between the US and the USSR, creating the Mutually Assured Destruction checkmate that prevented WW3 from becoming anything more than a book and TV miniseries. But the need for nuclear deterrence did not end when the Soviet Union collapsed. The truth is that the need for nuclear deterrence never went away.

Any basic defensive strategy begins with at least weapons parity. That is if the other side has a gun, you had better also have a gun or a really reliable bulletproof vest. During the Cold War, America stocked up on ICBM caliber guns. Reagan tried to buy America a bulletproof vest with SDI, only to get shellacked for it by the same liberals who claimed they hated nuclear weapons. Apparently they hated a defense against nuclear weapons even more.

In a world with nuclear weapons and no reliable defense that covers everything from an ICBM to a suitcase bomb, America will need nuclear weapons. It will need them as a credible deterrent, so that its cities and its civilization will not be wiped off the face of the earth. If the Cold War standoff was fairly straightforward, we are entering an era in which nuclear weapons will be widely available throughout the world for the first time. Within a generation, it is likely that every country which really wants a nuclear bomb will be able to have one.

Iran is the beginning of a new chapter in history, in which a collapsing oligarchy that can hardly control its own country, can still buy nuclear technology from a declining former superpower and even with mass unemployment, can still spend countless billions to deploy it in hopes of martyrdom. Iran today, everyone tomorrow. By failing to turn off the nuclear tap on North Korea and Pakistan, we are swiftly entering an era in which a nuclear weapon, like a fleet of jet planes, will be available to any dictatorship with enough money to buy it. And that makes nuclear deterrence more vital than ever.

If in the Cold War, nuclear deterrence was a fairly straightforward matter of pointing our nukes at Moscow and parts beyond, while they pointed theirs at D.C. and Disneyland, the future of American nuclear deterrence will be less about a generational showdown, and more about making it clear that a nuclear attack on America will be answered with overwhelming devastating-- regardless of its source.

In 25 years, we may well be living in a world in which everyone from Zaire to Al Queda, or whatever Muslim terrorist group may be filling its shoes then, has access to nuclear weapons. And only nuclear deterrence can prevent an attack from so many possible vectors. A deterrence that is not dependent on a hotline to Moscow, but on a decisive readiness to use nuclear weapons against any country that launches a nuclear attack, or finances and arms a terrorist group that launches a nuclear attack. Living in a nuclear world, we will no longer have the luxury to engage in the same nation building exercises that are being played out in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead we will be up against the sharp end of the blade. Either our enemies will know beforehand that if they harm us, their cities will burn. Or our own cities will burn, over and over again.

Because that deterrence can only work if we demonstrate a decisive willingness to use force, and a high comfort level with nuclear weapons. And that will be an uphill battle in a country that culturally terrorized into viewing nuclear weapons as armageddon in a box, first by Nazi sympathizers, and then by Communist sympathizers who claimed to be fighting for world peace. Obama is the latest entry in that great endless fight for peace. Which mainly consists of convincing the countries who actually do want peace to feel badly for defending themselves, until they are ripe for the plucking.

The mania against nuclear weapons is fed by a rich vein of hypocrisy. There are Japan's annual Hiroshima commemorations, in which the octogenarian and nonagenarian Hiroshima "survivors" are trotted out for the floating paper lantern ceremonies to promote peace. Ceremonies that never acknowledge that the bombing of Hiroshima was the climax to a war began by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, which managed to kill countless millions of civilians without the use of nuclear weapons. Nazi sympathizers and later Communist sympathizers in the United States helped out by promoting the claim that the bombs were dropped "unnecessarily" because America was power-mad or racist. A claim that no one familiar with the Battle of Okinawa could take seriously.

The Battle of Okinawa made it quite obvious that had the United States not used nuclear weapons, America after WW2, would have looked like Britain after WW1, robbed of a generation of its young men. There would have been no "Baby Boom", no explosion of technology and industry. The decline of America would have begun when the war ended. And Western Europe might have shared the fate of Eastern Europe. (It is of course no coincidence, that the biggest American and European critics of the use of the bomb, would have preferred such an outcome.)

Like the anti-war propaganda before WW2, the anti-war propaganda afterward, consisted largely of the red and black, Communist and Nazi sympathizers. The latter were aggrieved over their defeat. The former wanted to disarm the free world, so that Stalin and his successors could sweep in and claim the globe. Communist propaganda relied heavily on front groups and on "fellow traveler" intellectuals. And when they failed to sell a party line message damning the United States for its nuclear weapons, they instead turned to emphasizing the horrors of a nuclear stalemate in which the world could end at any moment.

The genesis of Global Warming panic lay in the fraudulent claims of a Nuclear Winter. Both aimed at terrorizing the American public by making them believe that disagreeing with them, meant dooming their children and the world to utter environmental destruction. Countless dramas in which the world was destroyed were meant to bring home the terror. To convey the message that nuclear weapons were a horror that had to be eliminated. All this went to improve the negotiating position of the Soviet Union, which lagged technologically behind the United States, and needed a way to handicap its superior rival.

An easy way to convince your enemy not to fight back, is to cause him to believe that even self-defense is immoral. The left has never succeeded in convincing anything close to a majority of Americans of that position-- but they have settled for convincing them that some forms of self-defense are too dangerous and inconvenient. Just as they convinced them that nuclear power was too dangerous, so that countless billions could go on flowing to Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia financing Islamic terrorism. Just as they hope to convince them that the War on Terror is just too dangerous and too much work.

As Obama works to disarm the United States, both morally and tactically, he is continuing the work of those who do not believe that America is a moral entity or has any national right to exist. And the people who think that way, view Israel the same way. As well as all of Europe. Illegitimate national entities to be carved up and turned over to Third Worlders with more deserving values. In a world in which immigration has become a tactical demographic weapon, nuclear weapons can almost seem like a relic of a cruder and more mechanical age, when wars were fought with billion dollar weapons pitted against each other, not with cell phone activated bomb vests and press releases.

Yet we are poised on the edge of a new nuclear age, in which the widespread dissemination of nuclear weapons makes them widely available. Without nuclear deterrence, that age may well mean the end of civilization as we know it. The end of conventional nations and cities, as any faction or group with a grudge, and another nation's backing, can kill millions to make a point. Anti-war activists suggest we meet the threat by talking about peace and reducing our own arsenals, while relying on the UN, to be the same useless wet noodle that it's always been. But talking of peace is as likely to bring on wars, as prevent them. And paper lanterns make a poor defense against radiation poisoning.

The demonization of nuclear weapons is the product of propaganda, not history. And it leads to a dead end. Few examples of this dead end are as apt as that of Japan, which has embraced the demonization of nuclear weapons as an act of historical revisionism to deny its own role in WW2. Today Japan relies on a US nuclear umbrella, while fumbling nervously at the prospect of being confronted with a North Korean bomb. Its peace activists lobby for Japan to leave the "immoral" US nuclear umbrella, leaving it completely exposed to the nuclear whims of Kim Jong Il. Their own denial of history has left them helpless and bent on making themselves even more so. Japan is not unique in that regard. Europe has gone down the same path, at a slower rate. As has Israel. And the United States is likely to be next.

If you cannot defend yourself against a weapon, then you are helpless in the face of it. That is the final lesson of history, one that the "intellectuals" who disdained the Western canon, have ignored, in the pursuit of a Socialist disdain for the survival of their home countries, or papered over with bits of butchered Orientalist "wisdom". To defend itself against nuclear weapons, the United States needs nuclear weapons. The Second Nuclear Age is beginning. And we must be ready.


Lemon said...

When America partook in the Hiroshima ceremonies this year it was a sign of how far down the nation has fallen.
It was a shame.
The horrors that Japan perpetrated seem forgotten.
I have heard the first hand stories of some soldiers who lived through those times. The Japanese were merciless and cruel and worse, fanatical. It had to be stopped.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

it was despicable, much like the UK funding cathedral rebuilding in Germany

it's the behavior of countries whose leaders no longer know right from wrong

Paul said...

It is a good idea for the US to keep an arsenal of nuclear weapons as a part of its overall national defense strategy. The days of the Cold War are long behind us and the threat of global nuclear war no longer exists the same way it did when the primary targets of nuclear weapons were launch sites of other nuclear weapons. The scary thing about nuclear war during Cold War was not so much the nuclear bomb all by itself as much as it was the speed of delivery and the massive dosage. The consequence of such an exchange had no reliable predictions.

If the possession of nuclear weapons becomes more common, the problem is no longer anything like the Cold War. The problem is one of portability. The technology that made "brief case" nukes possible in the sixties has advanced considerably since then. And if a nut-case government like Iran can build a nuclear weapon with warhead potential, then a portable version is probably next on their list.

Following Him said...

Sultan ... I say "Amen" to your closing paragraph. You can never be too strong or too prepared. That's like saying a girl can be too pretty. That can't happen.

A great word for America again.

Anonymous said...

Or the behavior of leaders who know full well that they are betraying their own people because they are Marxists hell bent on destroying Western civilisation perhaps?

I'm convinced that what has been done to the West since the end of WWII has been deliberate.


Keli Ata said...

Most people forget about Japan and think WW II ended with Germany's surrender.

jlp4221 said...


"it was despicable, much like the UK funding cathedral rebuilding in Germany"

I believe I understand the analogy but I'm at a loss as to the history and the problem. Can you please explain?


Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said... apologize for the British bombardment of German cities during WW2

jlp4221 said...

I never equated reconstruction with apology. To my knowledge, the USAF and RAF never apologized for Dresden, et al. And considering the mental state of Germans one year after the fall of Berlin, dealing with over 1 million rapes by the Soviets, unemployment, the rising Steppenwolf, the massive emotional depression (albeit self-earned); wouldn't rebuilding churches provide an emotional, civil, and moral anchor to the post-war populace? Wouldn't it help make the populace more servile?


Marc said...

The world cannot afford Islamic nuclear proliferation, nor should the US unilaterally eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I'm talking about in the present day.

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