No Global Zero For You


The Four Wise Men - George Schultz, Sam Nunn, Henry Kissinger, and William Perry - are in the Wall St Journal telling us how they believe we need a new doctrine for strategic deterrence in the post-Cold War era. It's a strange argument - it calls for both reducing the US and Russian nuclear stockpile while retaining nuclear weapons for deterrence against nuclear-weapon states, but everyone else needs to stand down and work out their regional issues. Or as Cartman on South Park would say, "You nah, me nah. Screw you guys, I'm going home."

Fourth, as long as nuclear weapons exist, America must retain a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile primarily to deter a nuclear attack and to reassure our allies through extended deterrence. There is an inherent limit to U.S. and Russian nuclear reductions if other nuclear weapon states build up their inventories or if new nuclear powers emerge.

It is clear, however, that the U.S. and Russia—having led the nuclear buildup for decades—must continue to lead the build-down. The U.S. and its NATO allies, together with Russia, must begin moving away from threatening force postures and deployments including the retention of thousands of short-range battlefield nuclear weapons. All conventional deployments should be reviewed from the aspect of provocation. This will make America, Russia and Europe more secure. It will also set an example for the world.

Fifth, we recognize that for some nations, nuclear weapons may continue to appear relevant to their immediate security. There are certain undeniable dynamics in play—for example, the emergence of a nuclear-armed neighbor, or the perception of inferiority in conventional forces—that if not addressed could lead to the further proliferation of nuclear weapons and an increased risk they will be used. Thus, while the four of us believe that reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective, some nations will hesitate to draw or act on the same conclusion unless regional confrontations and conflicts are addressed. We must therefore redouble our efforts to resolve these issues.

It's a complicated story. I think it's a careful clarification from the Four Wise Men's perceived earlier "Global Zero" endorsements (see 2007, 2008, and 2009). At best, it's a careful retreat from "Mutual Assured Destruction" but not a commitment to give up threatening other countries with nuclear weapons under the concept of "strategic ambiguity."

It's hard to read "Beltway" rhetoric sometimes, but I'm going to call this the "Cartman strategy. We got our nukes, you got no nukes, let's reduce the chance of conflict in which nukes might be used (or where Teh Terrorists might get one) and leave it at that. You nah, me nah.


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