Michael Klare: The Trump Doctrine: Making Nuclear Weapons Usable Again

By Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1. Originally published at TomDispatch

Maybe you thought America’s nuclear arsenal, with its thousands of city-busting, potentially civilization-destroying thermonuclear warheads, was plenty big enough to deter any imaginable adversary from attacking the U.S. with nukes of their own. Well, it turns out you were wrong.

The Pentagon has been fretting that the arsenal is insufficiently intimidating.  After all — so the argument goes — it’s filled with old (possibly unreliable) weapons of such catastrophically destructive power that maybe, just maybe, even President Trump might be reluctant to use them if an enemy employed smaller, less catastrophic nukes on some future battlefield.  Accordingly, U.S. war planners and weapons manufacturers have set out to make that arsenal more “usable” in order to give the president additional nuclear “options” on any future battlefield.  (If you’re not already feeling a little tingle of anxiety at this point, you should be.)  While it’s claimed that this will make such assaults less likely, it’s all too easy to imagine how such new armaments and launch plans could actually increase the risk of an early resort to nuclear weaponry in a moment of conflict, followed by calamitous escalation.

That President Trump would be all-in on making the American nuclear arsenal more usable should come as no surprise, given his obvious infatuation with displays of overwhelming military strength.  (He was thrilled when, last April, one of his generals ordered, for the first time, the most powerful nonnuclear weapon the U.S. possesses dropped in Afghanistan.)  Under existing nuclear doctrine, as imagined by the Obama administration back in 2010, this country was to use nuclear weapons only “in extreme circumstances” to defend the vital interests of the country or of its allies.  Prohibited was the possibility of using them as a political instrument to bludgeon weaker countries into line.  However, for Donald Trump, a man who has already threatened to unleash on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” such an approach is proving far too restrictive. He and his advisers, it seems, want nukes that can be employed at any potential level of great-power conflict or brandished as the apocalyptic equivalent of a giant club to intimidate lesser rivals.

Making the U.S. arsenal more usable requires two kinds of changes in nuclear policy: altering existing doctrine to eliminate conceptional restraints on how such weapons may be deployed in wartime and authorizing the development and production of new generations of nuclear munitions capable, among other things, of tactical battlefield strikes.  All of this is expected to be incorporated into the administration’s first nuclear posture review (NPR), to be released by the end of this year or early in 2018.

Its exact contents won’t be known until then — and even then, the American public will only gain access to the most limited version of a largely classified document.  Still, some of the NPR’s features are already obvious from comments made by the president and his top generals.  And one thing is clear: restraints on the use of such weaponry in the face of a possible weapon of mass destruction of any sort, no matter its level of destructiveness, will be eliminated and the planet’s most powerful nuclear arsenal will be made ever more so.

Altering the Nuclear Mindset

The strategic guidance provided by the administration’s new NPR is likely to have far-reaching consequences.  As John Wolfsthal, former National Security Council director for arms control and nonproliferation, put it in a recent issue of Arms Control Today, the document will affect “how the United States, its president, and its nuclear capabilities are seen by allies and adversaries alike.  More importantly, the review establishes a guide for decisions that underpin the management, maintenance, and modernization of the nuclear arsenal and influences how Congress views and funds the nuclear forces.”

With this in mind, consider the guidance provided by that Obama-era nuclear posture review.  Released at a moment when the White House was eager to restore America’s global prestige in the wake of George W. Bush’s widely condemned invasion of Iraq and just six months after the president had won the Nobel Prize for his stated determination to abolish such weaponry, it made nonproliferation the top priority.  In the process, it downplayed the utility of nuclear weapons under just about any circumstances on just about any imaginable battlefield.  Its principal objective, it claimed, was to reduce “the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security.”

As the document pointed out, it had once been American policy to contemplate using nuclear weapons against Soviet tank formations, for example, in a major European conflict (a situation in which the USSR was believed to possess an advantage in conventional, non-nuclear forces).  By 2010, of course, those days were long gone, as was the Soviet Union.  Washington, as the NPR noted, now possessed an overwhelming advantage in conventional weaponry as well. “Accordingly,” it concluded, “the United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.”

A nuclear strategy aimed exclusively at deterring a first strike against this country or its allies hardly requires a mammoth stockpile of weaponry.  As a result, such an approach opened the way for potential further reductions in the arsenal’s size and led in 2010 to the signing of the New Start treaty with the Russians, mandating a sharp reduction in nuclear warheads and delivery systems for both countries.  Each side was to be limited to 1,550 warheads and some combination of 700 delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers.

Such an approach, however, never sat well with some in the military establishment and conservative think tanks.  Critics of that sort have often pointed to supposed shifts in Russian military doctrine that suggest a greater inclination to employ nuclear weapons in a major war with NATO, if it began to go badly for their side.  Such “strategic deterrence” (a phrase which has a different meaning for the Russians than for Western strategists) could result in the use of low-yield “tactical” nuclear munitions against enemy strongpoints, if Russia’s forces in Europe appeared on the verge of defeat.  To what degree this doctrine actually governs Russian military thinking no one actually knows.  It is nevertheless cited regularly by those in the West who believe that Obama’s nuclear strategy is now dangerously outmoded and invites Moscow to increase its reliance on nuclear weaponry.

Such complaints were typically aired in “Seven Defense Priorities for the New Administration,” a December 2016 report by the Defense Science Board (DSB), a Pentagon-funded advisory group that reports to the secretary of defense.  “The DSB remains unconvinced,” it concluded, “that downplaying the nation’s nuclear deterrent would lead other nations to do the same.” It then pointed to the supposed Russian strategy of threatening to use low-yield tactical nuclear strikes to deter a NATO onslaught.  While many Western analysts have questioned the authenticity of such claims, the DSB insisted that the U.S. must develop similar weaponry and be on record as prepared to use them.  As that report put it, Washington needs “a more flexible nuclear enterprise that could produce, if needed, a rapid, tailored nuclear option for limited use should existing non-nuclear or nuclear options prove insufficient.”

This sort of thinking now appears to be animating the Trump administration’s approach to nuclear weapons and is reflected in the president’s periodic tweets on the subject.  Last December 22nd, for example, he tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”  Although he didn’t elaborate — it was Twitter, after all — his approach clearly reflected both the DSB position and what his advisers were undoubtedly telling him.

Soon after, as the newly-installed commander-in-chief, Trump signed a presidential memorandum instructing the secretary of defense to undertake a nuclear posture review ensuring “that the United States nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies.”

Of course, we don’t yet know the details of the coming Trumpian NPR.  It will, however, certainly throw the Obama approach to the sharks and promote a far more robust role for nuclear weapons, as well as the construction of that more “flexible” arsenal, capable of providing the president with multiple attack options, including low-yield strikes.

Enhancing the Arsenal

The Trumpian NPR will certainly promote new nuclear weapons systems that are billed as providing future chief executives with a greater “range” of strike options.  In particular, the administration is thought to favor the acquisition of “low-yield tactical nuclear munitions” and yet more delivery systems to go with them, including air- and ground-launched cruise missiles.  The argument will predictably be made that munitions of this sort are needed to match Soviet advances in the field.

Under consideration, according to those with inside knowledge, is the development of the sort of tactical munitions that could, say, wipe out a major port or military installation, rather than a whole city, Hiroshima-style.  As one anonymous government official put it to Politico, “This capability is very warranted.”  Another added, “The [NPR] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies” and whether current weapons are “going to be useful in all the scenarios we see.”

Keep in mind that, under the Obama administration (for all its talk of nuclear abolition), planning and initial design work for a multi-decade, trillion-dollar-plus “modernization” of America’s nuclear arsenal had already been agreed upon.  So, in terms of actual weaponry, Donald Trump’s version of the nuclear era was already well underway before he entered the Oval Office.  And of course, the United States already possesses several types of nuclear weapons, including the B61 “gravity bomb” and the W80 missile warhead that can be modified — the term of trade is “dialed down” — to produce a blast as low as a few kilotons (less powerful, that is, than the bombs that in August 1945 destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki).  That, however, is proving anything but enough for the proponents of “tailored” nuclear munitions.

A typical delivery system for such future nukes likely to receive expedited approval is the long-range standoff weapon (LRSO), an advanced, stealthy air-launched cruise missile intended to be carried by B-2 bombers, their older cousins the B-52s, or the future B-21. As currently envisioned, the LRSO will be capable of carrying either a nuclear or a conventional warhead.  In August, the Air Force awarded both Raytheon and Lockheed Martin $900 million for initial design work on prototypes of that delivery system, with one of them likely to be chosen for full-scale development, an undertaking expected to cost many billions of dollars.

Critics of the proposed missile, including former Secretary of Defense William Perry, argue that the U.S. already possesses more than enough nuclear firepower to deter enemy attacks without it.  In addition, as he points out, if the LRSO were to be launched with a conventional warhead in the early stages of a conflict, an adversary might assume it was under nuclear attack and retaliate accordingly, igniting an escalatory spiral leading to all-out thermonuclear war.  Proponents, however, swear that “older” cruise missiles must be replaced in order to give the president more flexibility with such weaponry, a rationale Trump and his advisers are sure to embrace. 

A Nuclear-Ready World

The release of the next nuclear posture review will undoubtedly ignite a debate over whether the country with a nuclear arsenal large enough to destroy several Earth-sized planets actually needs new nukes, which could, among other dangers, spark a future global arms race.  In November, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report indicating that the likely cost of replacing all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad (intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and strategic bombers) over a 30-year period will reach a minimum of $1.2 trillion, not including inflation or the usual cost overruns, which are likely to push that figure to $1.7 trillion or beyond.

Raising questions about the need for all these new weapons and their phenomenal costs couldn’t be more important. After all, one thing is guaranteed: any decision to procure such weaponry will, in the long term, mean budget cuts elsewhere, whether in health, education, infrastructure, or fighting the opioid epidemic.

And yet questions of cost and utility are the lesser parts of the new nuclear conundrum.  At its heart is the very idea of “usability.”  When President Obama insisted that nuclear weapons had no battlefield use, he was speaking not just to this country, but to all nations.  “To put an end to Cold War thinking,” he declared in Prague in April 2009, “we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy and urge others to do the same.”

If, however, the Trump White House embraces a doctrine that closes the distance between nuclear weapons and ordinary ones, transforming them into more usable instruments of coercion and war, it will also make the likelihood of escalation to all-out thermonuclear extermination more imaginable for the first time in decades.  There is little question, for instance, that such a stance would encourage other nuclear-armed nations, including Russia, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, to plan for the early use of such weaponry in future conflicts.  It might even encourage countries that don’t now have such weaponry to consider producing them.

The world imagined by President Obama in which nukes would be a true weapon of last resort was certainly a more reassuring one.  His vision represented a radical break from Cold War thinking in which the possibility of a thermonuclear holocaust between the planet’s two superpowers seemed like an ever-present possibility and millions of people responded by engaging in antinuclear protest movements.

Without the daily threat of Armageddon, concern over nukes largely evaporated and those protests came to an end.  Unfortunately, the weaponry and the companies that built them didn’t.  Now, as the seemingly threat-free zone of a post-nuclear era is drawing to a close, the possible use of nuclear weapons — barely conceivable even in the Cold War era — is about to be normalized.  Or at least that will be the case if, once again, the citizens of this planet don’t take to the streets to protest a future in which cities could lie in smoldering ruins while millions of people die from hunger and radiation sickness.


Copyright 2017 Michael T. Klare

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  1. Disturbed Voter

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Do you give local commanders autonomy or not? If we micromanage from the WH, we get Beirut or Bengazi. But I don’t think that this means that nuclear war is imminent.

    And no, threat of nuclear war didn’t go away in 1991. Proliferation has made the threat worse than it was in my childhood. And no, President Obama was no Mahatma.

    1. Science Officer Smirnoff

      Seriously folks, does anybody recall Nunn-Lugar on getting the 10000 to 20000 (or whatever) ex-Soviet tactical nukes to safety (secured from terrorist organizations)?

      Or the related issue of “limited nuclear war“?
      James R Schlesinger, Secretary of Defense from 1973 to 1975 under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He became America’s first Secretary of Energy under Jimmy Carter. While Secretary of Defense, he opposed amnesty for draft resisters and pressed for development of more sophisticated nuclear weapon systems.

      . . .The United States, Schlesinger said, needed the ability, in the event of a nuclear attack, to respond so as to “limit the chances of uncontrolled escalation” and “hit meaningful targets” without causing widespread collateral damage. The nation’s assured destruction force would be withheld in the hope that the enemy would not attack U.S. cities. In rejecting assured destruction, Schlesinger quoted President Nixon: “Should a President, in the event of a nuclear attack, be left with the single option of ordering the mass destruction of enemy civilians, in the face of the certainty that it would be followed by the mass slaughter of Americans?—wiki

      Of course, the idea of limited nuclear war is (severely) limited—as notions go.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I say no building new nuclear weapons until the old ones are used up first!
    This whole story is really about people wanting to get use out of the nuclear arsenal but it doesn’t work that way. There is a reason why they call them weapons of mass destruction. Remember that foto of the three carrier groups together in a display of US naval power that came out a week or so ago? Now imagine a crapped out North Korean sub with a nuke aboard under that fleet. Boom!
    This is the same sort of thinking that led Reagan to say back in ’81 that the world could survive a limited nuclear war – in Europe! The only thing that as changed about this sort of thinking is the fact that the theater has now been changed to the Korean peninsular. It was noted even back then that the sort of people that thought this a good idea made sure that they themselves never spent a day in the military and even Ronnie spent WW2 making films (unlike fellow actors like Jimmy Stewart).
    Try sending over a mini-nuke under the new doctrine and as soon as the oppo’s Geiger counter starts screaming, watch them launch a nuclear counter attack and then kitty bar the door! I can see that a few corporations are salivating at the thought of trillions of dollars in play but you know what really worries me here. The thought that they might **** up this new technology. Such new weapons systems such as the F-35, the new USS Gerald Ford, litoral ships, the new Zumwalt class ships, etc are all pricey disasters in the making so that does not give me confidence that they won’t find a way to stuff it up.

  3. lyman alpha blob

    Why is this being laid at Trump’s feet?!?!? Wasn’t it W who decided a little “tactical” nuke once in a while might keep the barbarians at bay? And this –

    The world imagined by President Obama in which nukes would be a true weapon of last resort was certainly a more reassuring one.

    – is cherry picking at its finest because about all Obama did to make the world safer from nukes is imagine.



    1. WobblyTelomeres

      “We need to upgrade every leg of the nuclear triad”. – Carly Fiorina

      Well, I also lay it at Trump’s feet, but only because of Carly Fiorina’s debate performance. In debates defined by The Donald’s incessant dick-waving, she out-waved him in her rants about the military. He defines himself by his response.

      [forgive the vulgarity, please, but it is hard to discuss the GOP debates without it]

    2. hemeantwell

      Exactly. Klare does finally get to the fact that Obama, despite his Nobel prize puffery about putting an end to the nuclear threat, pursued a “modernization” program. But, instead of giving adequate consideration to the role of the military and armament industries in keeping this mad waste going, he contributes to Obama’s idealization, made so easy by Trump’s bellicosity.

      1. lyman alpha blob

        That is the worst thing about Trump – the idealization of his predecessors. But the normalization of nukes has been going on for at least two administrations prior to Trump. I don’t recall Bubba building up the arsenal or threatening to nuke anyone off the top of my head (although I wouldn’t be surprised if he did) however I do remember Hillary the Harpy feeling quite at home with rattling the nuclear sabres.

    3. Crosley Bendix

      This article is exactly the kind of dishonest puffery that critics of Trump have consistently put out. Instead of an attempt at an honest assesment of what the real policy differences are between Trump and Obama Klare focuses on the rhetorical and stylistic differences between the two.

  4. blennylips

    Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim.
    Where you going to get all this development done?
    Sandia Labs is supposed to, but after a particularly egregious accident in 2011, we find that [http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/near-disaster-federal-nuclear-weapons-laboratory-takes-hidden-toll-america-s-arsenal]

    …Washington, officials there concluded the privately-run lab was not adequately protecting its workers from a radiation disaster. In 2013, they worked with the lab director to shut down its plutonium handling operations so the workforce could be retrained to meet modern safety standards.

    Those efforts never fully succeeded, however, and so what was anticipated as a brief work stoppage has turned into a nearly four-year shutdown of portions of the huge laboratory building where the plutonium work is located, known as PF-4…

    Many consider the MBA-ification of managment led directly to this.

    As near as I can tell, they are still unable to work on the cores: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/safety-problems-los-alamos-laboratory-delay-us-nuclear-warhead-testing-and-production

    I believe that means we have no idea of how are nukes on the shelf are doing either…

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      That’s what the supercomputers are for. Seriously, the simulations are extensive, complex, and very demanding (of computing resources).

      1. blennylips

        the simulations are extensive, complex, and very demanding

        and right? and immune to crappy management?

        As a software engineer who spent twenty years automating laboratory experiments and factory floors, I shudder to think of how far off reality you can drift in four or five years of no feedback from reality, without denigrating the power and sophistication of such simulations used appropriately.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          They know this. But the alternatives (to determining the state of decay in the remaining nuclear weapon inventory via extensive simulation) are

          a. decommission the entire inventory.
          b. explode some subset of the warheads.

          a) is unacceptable to the MIC (ask Carly Fiorina if you dare). I certainly support this option but my vote doesn’t count.
          b) is just nasty in many ways. We still have smoldering ruins from our earlier tests. Check out the current state of Bikini Atoll is you want to see neoliberalism applied to nuclear test sites.

          So, they simulate. And there are some really REALLY bright programmers doing the work. And they try really REALLY hard to get it right. And they choose to do it, at least some of them, even though they could get a lot more money in Silly Valley. Give ’em some credit, okay?

          1. blennylips

            Thank you.

            I agree with everything you say. My point is that to make new weapons or upgrade the old you have to actually do something; simulation is not sufficient and it has been several years since they could “do” anything.

            This all reminds me of “A Taste of Armageddon” via Star Trek. Now that was some simulating!

  5. Louis Fyne

    sigh. The Air Force got the green light for making nukes great again under Obama.


    Indeed, experts view the B-61-12 as far more than a pure life-extension program or slightly upgraded version of the old bombs. Instead, they consider it to be, de facto, a weapon with new military capabilities — a development that would seem to violate the spirit of US President Barack Obama’s stated pledge of not creating any new nuclear weapons or ones with new military capabilities.

    1. Louis Fyne


      As North Korea dug tunnels at its nuclear test site last fall, watched by American spy satellites, the Obama administration was preparing a test of its own in the Nevada desert.

      A fighter jet took off with a mock version of the nation’s first precision-guided atom bomb…..

      In short, while the North Koreans have been thinking big — claiming to have built a hydrogen bomb, a boast that experts dismiss as wildly exaggerated — the Energy Department and the Pentagon have been readying a line of weapons that head in the opposite direction.

  6. Alex Cox

    As several commenters have pointed out, the $1.2 trillion nuclear “upgrade” (likely to rise to $1.7 trillion) was Obama’s policy, not Trump’s. The US desire to prepare for a massive nuclear war is entirely bipartisan. Harry Truman, the only US president to use nuclear weapons in war, was a Democrat.

    1. nonsense factory

      Indeed, if there’s any sector of the U.S. government that qualifies as “Deep State”, the nuclear weapons complex surely sits at the top of the list. The constellation of federal agencies, military branches, intelligence agency subdivisions, private contractors, national labs and congressional supporters that constitutes the nuclear weapons program is an entity that draws bipartisan political support from Congressmembers. As with other MIC sectors, the rationale is money for the states where the program is physically based.

      Clearly Democrats are just as involved as Republicans are; the massive increase in nuclear weapons production was steadfast from Truman through Eisenhower through Kennedy (who, recall, campaigned against Nixon in 1960 on a supposed ‘missile gap’ with the Soviets, and whose decision to place nuclear missiles in Turkey led to the Soviets placing nuclear weapons in Cuba, leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis – and who also increased nuclear, chemical and biological program funding while in office). Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, GW Bush, Obama – all reliably signed off on whatever nuclear weapons programs the Deep State wanted.

      One factor that rarely gets discussed is the huge fraction of the budget, especially via the DOE (NNSA), that gets devoted to toxic waste cleanup – immensely expensive contracts at nuclear weapons production sites like Hanford Washington, etc. The standards and oversight are incredibly weak, take for example the WIPP disaster (due to untrained contractors packaging nuclear waste with ‘organic grass-based kitty litter’):

  7. Rique

    I am sure will be an unpopular opinion here, but absent “the inherent goodness of humanity” what would be the theoretical upside in having nuclear weapons NOT be usable?

    Not necessarily to the exact point of the article, but I see again and again in “leftist” circles this pollyanna notion that we should just unilaterally discard something that will always be on some level obtainable by someone else of less general self-perceived goodness.

    Or to flip the question – if you were the Persian or N Korea leadership, would you want Donald Trump to have nuclear weapons and you yourself not to have them?

    I’d never use them first, mind you, on on no level would I cast them aside or make them unusable. To me that is a matter more or less of (left/secularist) theology rather than plain common sense. “Ban the bomb!” etc

    1. Paul Cardan

      In response to your first question, I think weapons that are easier to use are more dangerous. In this case, they’d be more dangerous because they’d lend credence to the mistaken belief that it is possible, today, to win a clean and quick nuclear war against another nuclear power. In response to your second question, my answer is “no, of course not.” I’m reminded of the prisoner’s dilemma. Were I one of the two suspects, I’d surely confess, that being the only rational thing to do in that situation. Making other courses of action reasonable requires changing the situation. There might be something to the claim that leftists haven’t given much thought to the problem of how to pull this off. But others have. Some time ago, now, there was a fellow who wrote a couple of very short books: “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” and “Perpetual Peace.” In them, he argued that even a race of rationally self-interested devils would eventually hit on the idea that they had to end all wars, forever. And, he argued, they could do it – no inherent goodness required. Steps in the direction of success include establishing mutually beneficial trade relations between all nations (as its generally bad for business to murder your suppliers or buyers), and establishing republican governments in every nation (as citizens tend to be reluctant to fight wars that will cost them dearly in their own lives and treasure). Viable republican government requires an educated and well-informed citizenry, and even then, human nature being what it is, these governments would need to be constrained in their actions towards others by a robust system of international law. Were he still around, he’d probably have something to say about curbing rapacious and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources too. In any case, that strikes me as a good start to thinking about how to end war, and I know of no proof that this is an unachievable goal. Moreover, the likely consequences of failing to take action to prevent future wars is rather disturbing, if you think about it.

  8. Chauncey Gardiner

    Michael Klare has provided a stark example of how askew and unbalanced our national policy priorities have become. The first question we should ask of our political leaders is: “Do you stand for peace?”

    As he has pointed out, policymakers cannot give us, We the People, a convincing argument WHY the nuclear weapons strategy that is being proposed is in our interest and should be funded ahead of our health, education, infrastructure, sustainable energy, environmental initiatives, and fighting the opioid epidemic. (Oh, btw, tailored domestic propaganda initiatives as authorized under the NDAA in 2012 don’t count.)

    The idea that the threat of using such weapons and that they could be surgically employed against geopolitical adversaries without triggering a commensurate response is utterly unsupported and runs counter to common sense. Rather than deterrence, development of such weapons will tact as a catalyst for another round of an arms race and potentially catastrophic military conflict IMO.

    First use of nuclear weapons should be publicly renounced by our government, and any use of these weapons reserved for situations of dire national threat, not to realize some political leader’s grandiose vision of their absolute authoritarian control.

    Further, there is the issue of disposition of nuclear waste created in the manufacture of these weapons. We already have more than enough environmental disasters. This proposal runs directly counter to protecting and improving the public health and safety, which should be the top priority of effective governance. We should be making every effort to renounce and limit use of nuclear weapons, not pursuing their further development.

  9. erichwwk

    I usually look fwd to Lynn’s links. And ditto for Michael Klare. But BOTH missed the mark on this one, again pointing to the value of “comments” and an informed readership. One of the few redeeming positions of Trump was actually to REDUCE the demonization of Russia, and to scale back OBAMA’s MASSIVE nuclear weapon program. Glad the reader caught this. A much better source for what is occurring re Nuclear weapons is the Los Alamos Study Group, which pointed out these sort of misconceptions in their Bulletin 236: “Defense bill on Trump’s desk contains Heinrich/Udall amendment seeking fresh mandate for plutonium pit factory at LANL” .

  10. Roland

    The doctrinal shift towards a more “useable” nuclear arsenal did start during the Clinton years, and then became official under the younger Bush. Obama carried on with it, and so does Trump.

    Nuclear policy in the USA is characterized by a thoroughgoing continuity.

    Proliferation is not necessarily destabilizing–more often the contrary. e.g. Indo/Pak relations have improved since the latter got the Bomb.

    The thing that was dangerously destabilizing was Bush’s unilateral abrogation of the ABM Treaty. ABM is ineffective as passive defense, but it could be effective when dealing with an enemy already crippled by a first strike. Hence, abrogating the ABM Treaty heralds a strategy of nuclear aggression.

    But Obama endorsed the same policy.

  11. JBird

    Even a “tactical” nuke can destroy a moderate size city; this desire to normalize the use of them is beyond folly, and if it is fulfilled will surely bring nothing but horror and shame.

    1. fajensen

      That is why we need a subservient press, embedded with the military, so we don’t repeat what the Pentagon believes was the real fiasco in Vietnam: Showing the victims of the war to the American Public.

      Once we neutron-bomb some ancient Persian city, from the reporting, it will look really picturesque with all those antique buildings intact and only clean-shaven peace keepers shown guarding stuff and known brand-name shops going in to replace those nasty terrorists-owned businesses and disorderly markets.

      I kinda agree with “UserFriendly” – Someone should stop us, and since we won’t do that job ourselves ….

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