The systematic weakening of America 4

This is from an article at Investors’ Business Daily by Robert R. Monroe, retired vice admiral with the U.S. Navy and former director of the Defense Nuclear Agency:

At the dawn of the nuclear era, when America created its nuclear weapons laboratories (Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia) … the labs were charged to conduct advanced nuclear weapons research, development and testing of all types so that no adversary could ever take us unawares by producing some new and dangerous types of nuclear weapons.

The labs performed this mission superbly throughout World War II and the five decades of the Cold War. For over half a century our nuclear weapons and related advanced technological capabilities were supreme in the world.

But since 1992, the U.S. government — executive branch and Congress — has actively prevented the labs from doing work of this type. For 23 years Democrats and Republicans, using laws, regulations and denials of funding, progressively restricted the labs from taking any of these needed actions.

Lab scientists have not been able to even think about new weapons, exploratory work has ceased to exist and the high-priority mission of avoiding technological surprise has been closed down.

These grave mistakes resulted from the simplistic belief that they would help prevent nuclear proliferation. Wiser voices, making the obvious point that true national security — and effective prevention of nuclear proliferation — lay in nuclear weapons strength, were shouted down.

This two-decade rampage has resulted in a staggering list of national disabilities:

Most damaging is President Bush’s unilateral 1992 moratorium on underground nuclear testing. It bars the labs from essential testing of our overage nuclear stockpile, prevents development of relevant replacement weapons, denies our scientists use of the scientific method (the basis of all advancement) and leaves us at the mercy of Russia, China and other adversaries.

• From 1993-2003 Congress explicitly made it illegal to carry out any research or development on low-yield nuclear weapons, which are vital to deter today’s grave new nuclear threats. This established the wrong mindset in a generation of lab scientists which still exists.

In 1989 the executive branch shut down the nation’s only facility to produce plutonium pits — the hearts of nuclear weapons — making us the only nuclear weapons state in the world unable to produce nuclear arms. Since then, executive branch fumbling and congressional denials have combined to prevent replacement of this absolutely essential production facility. If a decision were made today, it would still be 10 to 15 years before pit production could start.

In 1996 President Clinton signed the extremely damaging Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which denies nuclear weapons testing for all time. The Senate emphatically rejected ratification in 1999, but several adverse effects of the signing remain and President Obama is determined to get it ratified. The CTBT has an overpoweringly adverse effect on the labs.

In 2003 the executive branch belatedly proposed three important new nuclear weapons programs. The Advanced Concepts Initiative would have enabled the labs to commence research and development on advanced nukes. The Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator program would have met the mushrooming threat of hard, deeply buried targets. The Enhanced Test Readiness program would have enabled the president, in a national emergency, to conduct an underground test within one to two years, rather than the current three to five.

Congress delayed, then killed, all three programs.

The weakening process has been accelerated under Obama:

• In 2005 the Reliable Replacement Warhead program was proposed. Because it had no new military capabilities, it gained fragile bipartisan support. However, Congress soon backwatered on it, and Obama killed it in 2009 as not befitting his “world without nuclear weapons” vision.

The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which established the overall nuclear policy of the current administration, provided the blueprint for U.S. nuclear weakness, a stark reversal from the role of U.S. nuclear weapons strength that had been established and maintained by 12 Presidents (six Democrats, six Republicans) throughout the prior seven decades.

The urgently needed modernization program for the labs and America’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, formally agreed to by Obama in return for Senate approval of New START treaty ratification in 2010, has been progressively dismantled by both branches ever since.

These eight actions — and many others — by our national leadership have emasculated the labs’ ability to protect us from technological surprise in nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, for two decades Russia has been following exactly the opposite course. Its nuclear weapons labs have focused on low-yield weapons research, design, testing and production. It’s pursued advanced concepts, fifth-generation weapons and greater use of fusion and less of fission (possibly achieving pure fusion).

Such weapons might well emit only neutrons and gamma rays, and their tactics of use would be ones we’ve never seen.

Furthermore, Russia’s new strategy calls for early use of nuclear weapons in all conflicts, large and small.

America’s current nuclear weapons course is one of grave risk. Our policy documents emphasize that “nuclear stability” must be our goal, yet the technological surprise we are encouraging by our actions is the antithesis of stability. We must return to a policy of nuclear strength.

China too is strengthening its arsenal with new weapons.

This is also from IBD:

National Security: Beijing is moving fast on a maneuverable, hypersonic glide vehicle designed to evade America’s defenses, including the Aegis ballistic missile system guarding our carrier battle groups.

On Aug. 7, China conducted a second test of its hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), known as the WU-14, yet another example of its relentless pursuit of high-tech weaponry as the United States abandons what the administration dismisses as Cold War weaponry.

The first test, conducted in January, saw China’s HGV reach speeds in the vicinity of Mach 10, about 10 times the speed of sound. In the latest test, according to Internet reports, the WU-14 was the upper stage of a missile launched from the Jiuquan satellite launch facility in China’s western Gobi desert.

Strategic experts say that the importance of this weapons program cannot be understated. …

China in March announced a 12.2% rise in this year’s military budget over 2013, which itself was 10.3% over the year before that.

These are the actions of an ascending power intent on challenging the U.S., first in the western Pacific and then globally.

It is building a blue-water navy complete with its own carrier battle groups.

Last fall, the Chinese newspaper Global Times boasted, “The 12 JL-2 nuclear warheads carried by one Type 094 SSBN (ship, submersible, ballistic, nuclear — i.e., a ballistic missile-carrying nuclear submarine) can kill and wound 5 to 12 million Americans.” This announcement came complete with target maps.

As we’ve also noted, China recently unveiled a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, the DF-41, that can deliver 10 nuclear warheads to any target in the U.S.

We have moved in the opposite direction, recently deactivating an entire ICBM missile squadron.

China has begun throwing its weight around, recently establishing an air defense identification zone over the Senkaku Islands near Okinawa, claimed by Japan. It has also laid claim to the Spratly and Paracel Island chains in the South China Sea, the entirety of which it treats as Chinese territorial waters.

Beijing’s goal is to push the U.S. out of the western Pacific, establish regional dominance along the Pacific Rim and then push outward from there.

Will the US do anything to stop it?

There’s no sign that it will.

Questions 4

We want answers to these questions:

1.  What would constitute victory in Afghanistan?

2.  Should the US intervene in foreign countries for humanitarian reasons if intervention serves no US interests? 

3.  Should the US use military force to prevent countries that have declared themselves its enemies acquiring nuclear weapons?

Posted under Defense by Jillian Becker on Thursday, May 14, 2009

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