Trump, nuclear weapon realist, can correct Obama's idealistic blunders
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President-elect Trump’s miraculous election victory has arrived just in time to save America from a quarter century of nuclear weapons deterioration, caused by our post-Cold-War nuclear freeze followed Obama’s foreign and defense policy failures.

And none too soon!

Since the dawn of the nuclear weapons era seventy years ago, the world has been struggling through a grace period in its attempts to limit the proliferation of these massively destructive threats. But that period is about to end, plunging mankind into a world of nuclear horror and chaos from which there may be no return.

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In fact, Obama himself has been responsible for stimulating the cascade of proliferation which is about to engulf us. He so misunderstood the forces at work that in 2009 he reversed U.S. national policies in three areas: nuclear weapons, deterrence, and nonproliferation.

 

Thankfully, President-elect Trump appears to understand all three. The questions are whether he will sense the extreme urgency of the challenge, and use the force necessary to reverse the U.S. government’s sluggish national machinery in each area, in time to save us.

Let’s examine each of the three.

1. Nuclear Weapons.

They aren’t going away — ever! Nor should they. In the three decades before Hiroshima and Nagasaki almost 100 million people were killed in two world wars.

In the seven decades since, despite there having been thousands of wars, the total killed in them has been only a tiny fraction of that staggering number. Nuclear weapons are responsible for this.  

There has never been a stronger Nobel Peace Prize candidate than nuclear weapons. The 12 U.S. presidents before Obama (six Democrats and six Republicans) recognized this, and they used nuclear weapon superiority as a national security policy.

Obama’s lack of experience apparently led him to perceive nuclear weapons simplistically as an evil to be eliminated, and he established his vision of “a world without nuclear weapons” as America’s No. 1 goal.

Over eight years he has attempted to lead other nations in his effort, failing in every case. In the process, however, he has damaged the U.S. nuclear weapons capability so severely that it will take many years to recover — provided that the rapidly increasing global nuclear threats permit.

A world without nuclear weapons is an absolutely terrible idea. Nuclear weapons would be used frequently by aggressors, rogues, terrorists, and extortionists, and no protections or counters would exist. What we must seek is a world without nuclear weapons use…and this requires enforcement.

President-elect Trump must reverse America’s national policy from one of nuclear weakness to nuclear strength.

We must resume nuclear weapons testing; engage in advanced research; design, test, and produce an new arsenal; and urgently rebuild our deteriorated facilities.

2. Deterrence.

It works. It really works. During 45 years of Cold War America staked all our lives, daily, on active deterrence, and it worked flawlessly.  

Deterrence isn’t something you have (like missiles in silos), it’s something you do! Deterrence is based upon fear. You directly threaten your adversary with intolerable consequences if he doesn’t comply with your demands. Then, through reinforcing actions, you convince him you have the will and capability to carry out your threat.

If your opponent does not conform to your desires, you resolve the issue with military force.   

For eight years Obama has been unwilling to make use of deterrence. Worse, he has established “red lines” and then refused to take action when they were crossed. America’s stature in the world of nations has sunk into the pits, and our credibility as a world power has been destroyed.

The nuclear threats we face have, of course, changed, and our deterrence must change; but it can be just as effective. President-elect Trump must immediately bring active deterrence into our foreign policy, making it clear to the world that America is under new management!      

3. Nonproliferation.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a threat like no other, yet Obama’s nonproliferation policies have been misguided and inept.

Initially they ranged from hand-wringing to ineffective sanctions. Then, in his second term, his disastrous nuclear agreement with Iran has done more to stimulate proliferation than any other action could possibly have done.  

This is a rogue state we’re talking about, the world’s greatest champion of terrorists. Yet Obama’s agreement allows them to become an active producer of nuclear weapons! At that point can anyone doubt Iran will provide nukes to their terrorist proxies (Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, etc.) for use?

In Northeast Asia, for eight years Obama’s nonproliferation policies have done nothing to prevent North Korea — another rogue state — from conducting four additional nuclear weapons tests to advance their weapons designs toward production readiness. And once in production, North Korea will sell nukes to anyone wishing to buy them.

In each case — Mideast and Northeast Asia — neighboring states are being forced to go nuclear in self-defense. As missile ranges rapidly increase, nuclear proliferation will become global.

The answer is simple: Nonproliferation requires enforcement. There must be a cop on the beat; and military force must be used if deterrence isn’t effective.

With Iran, President-elect Trump should plan three steps: Immediately withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement; threaten Iran that if it does not immediately dismantle all its nuclear weapons facilities we will do it with military force; and follow-up if they do not comply.

The good news is that once America firmly stops one case of proliferation, the world will change; and what appears difficult today will become quite possible. Within a few decades, the threat of proliferation will no longer exist. Nonproliferation will be recognized as the primary mission of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, acting collegially.  

The most severe challenge we face is time, in two senses. First, with Iran and North Korea in the mix, the world is racing toward apparently uncontrolled nuclear proliferation. Second, the degradation of our nuclear arsenal won’t take years to correct, but decades.

Decisions must be made at once, and held to, year-after-year. On both counts, strong, effective, and continuing public education on international realities must be a parallel action.  

Robert R. Monroe, Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy (Ret.), is former director of Defense Nuclear Agency.


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.