NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES

By

Harry C. Blaney III

There seems to be no act by Donald Trump that does not endanger American and global security. We had the undermining of the EU and NATO, the beating up on America’s allies, and the threat to tear up the Iran nuclear and not least the still unknown relationship between Trump and Putin with overtones of selling out to Putin and rewarding him for helping in Trump’s election.  But in the most recent words by Trump in an interview Thursday, he said he thought an arms control treaty with Russia is a “bad deal” and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the “top of the pack.” This, is my top pick of dangerous acts by this clearly clueless man on issues of war and nuclear matters.

As every knowledgeable person knows the American nuclear arsenal and capability tops that of any other nation on this earth and has for a long time. Our nuclear weapons can destroy much of the world almost instantaneously. Much of that nuclear capability is deployed in essentially invulnerable American ballistic missile submarines. That is why there is no reason for us to add to them or try to “modernize nukes” them beyond basic maintenance and safekeeping.

Contrary to Trump’s call for added military expenditure just adds to the overwhelming resources and war fighting capability we already have over either Russia or China. Any conflict with them would be as they use to say MAD –mutual assured destruction. That means they should never be used in any circumstance and their existence is purely as deterrence.

American experts and our allies know that a new arms race would not be to the interest of any nation either friend or potential foe. But now both Russia under Putin and Trump seem to not understand the importance to our security of past and present arms control treaties and agreements. The last was the New START treaty between America and Russia which capped the number of nuclear warheads by both nations. And under the Non-proliferation Treaty we and other nuclear nations are bound and promised to work toward elimination of these weapons. The treaty’s aim by this promise is to stop other nations from building their own nuclear weapons. Top leaders, Secretaries of State and Defense, etc. with great experience on nuclear issues, Republicans and Democrats have called for their eventual and timely elimination, known as “going to zero.” A worthy cause but requires all to moderate their own ambitions and work very hard on a true mutual reduction accompanied by other safeguards to ensure security for all nations.

US and Russian escalation of these weapons would undermine greatly the incentive of others to forgo their own weapons. Trump’s words and actions so far have only given other nation reasons to be frightened,  uncertain of our support, or  go alone in developing these weapons. The end being a world of chaos and destruction which Trump for some reason seems to relish.

What is at work in Trump mind or his real goals? Is it an initiative, not of gaining good and fair arms control agreements and seeking confidence building measures bringing security for the world population that make us all safer, or is it Trump’s chaos theory at work of unlimited and high risk blindness to an “arms race” that itself is massively dangerous?
What is needed is less such weapons, better training and practical equipment to ensure American defense, support of our allies, and safety of our people in the world we have today. We need not more money in weapons with no purpose in our time but the near elimination of humanity and global civilization.

Trump in this field has continue his exaggerations and reinforced his habitual lies in claiming the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” There is NO nation on earth that can match America’s modern nuclear force or for that matter conventional war fighting and the safeguarding of our nation. To say otherwise is to deceive out people, waste our needed resources for building back our civilian infrastructure, ensuring our children get the best education in the world, and protecting our environment, not least addressing the massive threat of climate change.

We welcome your comments!! See section below for your comments.

The Charlotte Convention: Clashing Voices on Foreign Policy

Below you will find our take on the Democratic Convention in Charlotte which follows our earlier separate post commentary on the Republican Convention in Tampa. 

Charlotte: Accomplishments and Caution  

There were a number of speakers who touched on foreign policy but the main speakers directed their attention mostly on economic issues as well as the gap between the two parties on the future direction of America.  This included addressing controversial social issues and the growing gap between the rich and the middle class.  

But while foreign policy did have a less prominent  role in most of  the speeches, the reality of getting it right or wrong in this sector is critical for the security and constructive leadership in international affairs by America and the peace and progress of the globe.

It was largely the speech by Senator Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that set the context and landscape of the challenges America faces and set forth the case of what the Obama administration has achieved in a difficult environment.

Kerry quipped that, “Our opponents like to talk about ‘rebooting Exceptionalism.’ But all they do is talk. They forget that we are exceptional not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things.” He went on to say, “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago.”

The interesting fact is that polls were finding that the public thought Obama and the Democrats were better at foreign policy/national security than the Republicans– a change from past historical results over decades. It is clear that after the convention, with the strong statements by Kerry, Clinton, and Obama, that perspective has not changed. 

Recent talk after the tragic events in Libya by Romney and Ryan has only strengthened the image of “foot in the mouth” neophytes on the part of the GOP team.  

At the convention, the three key and other speakers (and in the platform) voiced a long litany of accomplishments in the international arena. They include the New START agreement with Russia which will reduce the numbers of nuclear weapons, the gaining of access via Russia to supply our forces in Afghanistan, the vote in the UN Security Council for sanctions and NATO action against Libya, which resulted in the ousting of a tyrannical regime. Successes included the “rebooting” of our relations with Russia, the pivoting towards Asia, the withdrawal from Iraq as promised, and the set date for ending US combat role in Afghanistan.  Further, Obama has led the rethinking of our defense posture and a focus on future dangers rather than building unneeded weapons and forces for past wars. 

Senator Kerry, himself a Vietnam hero, made the main foreign policy speech and it was effective and direct. He said: 

“…..our opponents like to talk about American exceptionalism, but all they do is talk. They forget that we’re exceptional, not because we say we are, but because we do exceptional things. We break out of the Great Depression, win two World Wars, save lives fighting AIDS, pull people out of poverty, defend freedom, go to the moon and produce exceptional people who even give their lives for civil rights and for human rights…”

“…and despite what you heard in Tampa, an exceptional country does care about the rise of the oceans and the future of the planet. That — that is a responsibility — that is a responsibility from the Scriptures. And that too is a responsibility of the leader of the free world. The only thing exceptional about today’s Republicans is that almost without exception, they oppose everything that has made America exceptional in the first place. An exceptional nation demands exceptional leadership.

While the Republicans largely ignored Afghanistan, Senator Kerry ripped into the varied and clearly thoughtless GOP positions. In Kerry’s own sarcastic words: 

It isn’t fair to say that Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan. He has every position.

He — he was against — he was against setting a date for withdrawal. Then he said it was right. And then he left the impression that maybe it was wrong to leave this soon. He said it was tragic to leave Iraq. And then he said it was fine. He said we should have intervened in Libya sooner. Then he ran down a hallway to run away from the reporters who were asking questions. Then he said, the intervention was too aggressive. And then he said the world was a better place because the intervention succeeded. Talk about being for it, before you were against it.” 

Vice President Joe Biden in his talk put it when talking about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound — that “if you attack innocent Americans, we will follow you to the ends of the world.” By contrast, Biden recalled, Republican challenger Mitt Romney once said that it wasn’t worth “moving heaven and earth, and spending billions of dollars, just to catch one person.”

More extraordinary still, it was the Democrats who saluted, mourned, and celebrated the “fallen angels” and “wounded warriors” of the U.S. military. Romney thoughtlessly observed no such understanding, leaving Sen. John Kerry to note, in his speech Thursday night, never before had a wartime nominee for president, of either party, “failed to pay tribute to our troops overseas in his acceptance speech.” 

IN SUMMARY COMPARISON:  

One interesting fact is that Romney and Ryan both on domestic, international issues, and on the challenges America faces were unwilling to get into the specifics of what their policies are, what exactly they would do different, and why their policies are more realistic and would be more effective.

The simple answer is that often while they mouth that they are different or better, in fact, you can see where their prescriptions for the most difficult issues are similar to Obama’s, simplistic and “mother and apple pie” (like supporting our allies), and where they are massively different: like climate change. Their position flies in the face of sound science and would bring catastrophes to the global environment and is just nonsense in addressing one of the great existential risks the world faces in this century. 

The Democrats were able to demonstrate clarity and experience in the Obama, Biden, and Kerry team.  They did sometimes also fall back on generalizations and there were some gaffs like the “Jerusalem” wording.  But the history of four years of actions and policies spoke for themselves, and Kerry’s summary of accomplishments and criticism of outlandish foreign policy positions provided Obama the change to focus on larger goals and connect on an emotional level. 

The recent events underline how events abroad can intrude on campaign efforts the “keep on message” on domestic topics. It also shows how stupidity by the GOP team in this area can cause a backlash and expose to light the shallowness of the GOP posture on national security and diplomacy.  

We welcome your comments,

Decision Pending to Reduce Nuclear Weapons: The U.S. Strategic Posture Review

There are few issues that are more important for the security of mankind than the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. The danger of proliferation is evident in Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and even India.  Further, the number of nuclear weapons and material in the former Soviet Union and in Russia proper is a key risk to everyone including the Russians themselves. The hope is that both the U.S. and Russia will agree in time to mutual reductions in order to lower nuclear arms levels.

 Discussions on a technical and low level are already underway to see if a true mutual and proportionate reduction level is doable.  Both Republican and Democratic past foreign policy and national security leaders have endorsed deep reductions from the present levels. 

 We are likely to see in the coming weeks a statement by President Obama in response to the issuing of the Strategic Posture Review document now in the works which could create a real possibility of further reductions in American nuclear weapons. There is a growing consensus that the numbers we are permitted to have, under the New START treaty, of 1,550 deployed and some 5,000 in stockpiles is unnecessary for deterrence purposes and each warhead or missile on hair trigger alert is an existential threat of a major catastrophe for our globe.

 

The key to this decision will be a close review of what is really needed for deterrence and many experts both military and civilian are indicating that numbers like 1,000 or even much lower are more than enough to ensure security for all and may even increase security with the necessary adjustments in deployment, transparency, and confidence building. Indeed given the inspections provisions under New START, the instruments do exist to ensure stability and confidence on all sides.

There are many advantages to major reductions in nuclear weapons.  For America, the reasons include major cost savings by not having to maintain, deploy, and safeguard so many weapons. Taking them off hair trigger makes the world a much safer place and with many weapons deployed on invulnerable subs there is high confidence that our deterrent and retaliatory capability would remain even after an attack. However, the likelihood of such an action is infinitesimal given the clear consequences for all.

 The problem is that like trying to get the American economy to grow with a logical and effective stimulus program, the decision to reduce our nuclear stockpile and change some of our strategic posture options has become enmeshed in highly partisan politics where the Republicans seem ready to oppose even slight and mutual reductions of nuclear weapons. Indeed, they seem bent on an illogical desire to increase such weapons and pile money into a massive system which is unnecessary and would create more danger than reduce risks.

 There is a clear need for a moratorium on mindless partisan fights that seemed only aimed at destroying Obama’s election chances rather than on sound strategic realities. The GOP seems just to be focused on pilling more money into the military-industrial sector at the expense of building a truly prosperous, fairer, and broader economy and creating goods and service needed here in America.

 The pilling of money into Republican-supporting front groups by military-orientated firms underlines the corrosive impact of coming to reasonable and fact-based decisions on weapons numbers and deployment.  Thus the answer to better security lies in a major change in the ability of unaccountable money to determine U.S. politics, budget decisions, and where our country is headed.

We welcome your comments!

The Stupidity Does Not Stop! Wasted Money for Useless Defense Boondoggles at Expense of the Least Among Us!

The Republicans in the House of Representatives  Armed Services Committee on Thursday May 10th voted a  raise of nearly $4 billion over the Administration’s requested funding for defense programs.  As the New York Times editorial today said, the House Republicans “have insisted on preserving bloated military spending and unjustifiably low tax rates for the rich.” That is an understatement! They noted that a million Americans would lose their food stamps and 44 million others would find them reduced. The GOP would gut a host of other programs for the poor, the elderly, youth at risk, and the disabled.  Let me add that these cuts are indeed a frontal attack on American security. These cuts make our nation weaker in its social fabric and poorer. They will instigate a downward spiral in our economy which will make us less efficient, productive, healthy, and able to meet our challenges at home and abroad.

The New York Times estimates that the House bill will prevent $55 billion of automatic cuts imposed on DOD as part of the debt ceiling deal, the so-called “sequester.” What was not said was that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 defense authorization bill includes hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear weapons and missile defense programs that are largely useless and that the military itself does not want and has no rational national security purpose.

Leading the charge for wasteful spending are House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon (R-Cal.) and Strategic Forces Subcommittee chair Michael Turner (R-Ohio). It seems to all to be about payoffs to the military industrial lobby and has nothing to do with real national security. Some of these Republicans are pressing for increases in nuclear weapons programs, which include $100 million for a new plutonium laboratory, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) Facility, to be built at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) did not request any funds for CMRR.

Further Rep. Turner is likely to try to block implementation of the 2010 New START Treaty unless the funding is provided. Blocking U.S. implementation of New START, as Rep. Turner’s bill H.R. 4178 threatens to do, would likely result in Russia acting along the same lines. The treaty would unravel; the result could be Moscow increasing its forces above treaty ceilings with increases in the number of nuclear weapons. Further, the inspection system established under the treaty could collapse. This would deprive the U.S. of critical data exchanges and on-site inspections of Russian forces that the U.S. intelligence community needs.

Further, the Republicans are trying to add funding for a $460 million increase for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, including $100 million to study a missile defense site on the East Coast. This would be in addition to the two sites already built in California and Alaska at a combined cost of $30 billion. (Yes that is billion!) Again, a program the DOD does not want or need. According to reports, GMD system is largely useless. The GMD system has not had a successful intercept test against a cooperative target since 2008. It had two failures in 2010. A recent National Research Council report said the GMD system “has serious shortcomings, and provides at best a limited, initial defense against a relatively primitive threat.” Moreover, the GMD system has not been tested against a realistic target including decoys.

Finally, Rep. McKeon’s bill also includes an increase of up to $347 million for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program, known as the SSBNX. The Navy did not request this money, and wants to delay the program by two years. Just one U.S. Ohio-class submarine, currently armed with 96 nuclear warheads, could kill millions. Experts believe a change to eight strategic submarines would provide a more than adequate nuclear deterrent. Under New START, the Pentagon plans to deploy approximately 1,000 nuclear warheads on strategic submarines. Enough is enough! But not for those who are mindless and have no concept of real national security.

The hope is that the senate will kill these provisions and the president would in any case veto any bill with these “crazy” proposals from a security, budget, and economic perspective. We must wonder why the inmates are in charge of the asylum.

We welcome your comments.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

The Energy Debate, National Security, and a Sane Energy Policy

President Obama during a speech in Cushing, Oklahoma: “We want every source of American-made energy. I don’t want the energy jobs of tomorrow going to other countries. I want them here in theUnited States of America. And that’s what an all-of-the-above strategy is all about. That’s how we break our dependence on foreign oil.”

President Obama during a visit to Copper Mountain Solar 1 plant: “If some politicians get their way, there won’t be any more public investments in solar energy. These folks dismiss the promise of solar power and wind power and fuel-efficient cars. . . . If these people were around whenColumbus set sail, they would’ve been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.”

Mitt Romney on energy: “I will ensure we utilize to the fullest extent our nation’s nuclear know-how and immense reserves in oil, gas and coal. We are an energy-rich country that, thanks to environmental extremism, has chosen to live like an energy-poor country. That has to end.”

Mitt Romney on climate change: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

Mitt Romney on energy: “I think the EPA, acting in concert with the president, really doesn’t like oil, gas, coal, and nuclear. I really do believe that the EPA wants to get its hands on all of energy and be able to crush it to cause prices to go through the roof. …The EPA should not be regulating carbon dioxide.”

Rick Santorum on oil: “This president, systematically, is doing everything he can to raise the price of energy in this country. He’s shutting down all sorts of opportunities for us to drill for oil. This is what the president’s agenda is. It’s not about you. It’s not about your jobs. It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”

Rick Santorum on “Face the Nation”: “Well, I was talking about the radical environmentalists. That’s why I was talking about energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do. That man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth. But we’re not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down.”

There are only a few subjects that have become more “silly” during this season of presidential and congressional debates than energy policy and its related environmental and economic impacts and consequences. First point is that President Obama is largely right in that we live in a global energy market and most prices reflect the supply and demand of that market. Except when they don’t. 

I saw this when I was the Member of the Policy Planning staff following energy issues, among other subjects, for the Secretary of State in the 1970s, during the then “energy crisis.” At that time I played a significant role in helping to develop our response to what was in reality an artificial effort by the Arab oil producing states to control the international market and raise prices along with an effort to boycott some importing nations.   

There are today “artificial,” “emotional,” and “political” aspects of national and international energy markets. Many examples abound since the 1970s. Recently, the Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in Saudi Arabia, Ali Naimi, wrote an article for the Financial Times, on Thursday, March 29th 2012, entitled “Saudi Arabia will act to lower soaring oil prices.”  His article illustrates how the global energy market is both driven by normal supply and demand and also by artificial, external, and not always rational influences. In short, he outlined that there is no shortage of oil on a global basis, stocks are full (this was confirmed by another article that noted that our main stocks here in the U.S. are also full). Naimi also said, “there is no rational reason why oil prices are continuing to remain at these high levels. It is the perceived potential shortage of oil keeping oil prices high.” His further statement was that Saudi Arabia “…will use spare production capacity to supply the oil market with any additional required volumes.” No while other “experts” have questioned if Saudi Arabia can in reality do this, those that know the spare capacity think it is doable.

The question remains when this “spare capacity” will be effective and hit the global market. Right now Saudi holding tanks are filled and Naimi noted that its capacity is 12.5 million barrels per day “way beyond current levels.”

President Obama is rightly struggling to reduce our imports of Middle East oil and has made significant progress, not least increasing the efficiency of our cars, in this effort but our allies in Europe and Asia will need Saudi oil, especially if a war starts in the region or Iran oil is “taken off the market.” 

So what is the Republican complaint?  They are wrong about “drill baby drill” since such oil is at least a year or more away from getting into our gas guzzling cars. Nor will more oil be the long-term answer to global warming.  

The Republicans oppose cutting the massive subsidies of many billions of dollars we are adding to the already massive profits the major oil companies are making even at these high prices. And most importantly for our national security interests, they oppose Obama’s effort to develop advanced clean energy alternatives to oil and coal. They do not address or deal with our real national security to safeguard our global climate and our earth’s ecosystem. 

Obama seems more likely to effectively address both the energy issues our nation faces and its concomitant massive and dangerous climate change impacts than candidates that will, at the expense of middle class Americans, continue to do the bidding of big oil and make irresponsible jesters of wanting to make now an unnecessary “war” on Iran. They must be happy that their talk of war has already given big profits to the oil companies at the expense of citizens who see fewer dollars in their pockets. Their “war mongering” only means great jumps in gas prices to the average American and leaves the rich and oil companies with even more money to influence our politics and our democratic system. We need real world solutions, a rational sensible debate, and not efforts to undermine both our real security and our economy.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

For more quotes by the 2012 presidential candidates, please visit our quotes page!

Review of “The Nuclear ‘Implementation Study'”

The New York Times editorial “The Nuclear ‘Implementation Study’” hit the nail on the head on the key question of the necessity to have so many nuclear weapons on alert or in storage. It called for deeper cuts and cited studies that said the U.S. could go down to 1,000 warheads in total. The options being looked at include going down to 300 – 700 warheads.

The editorial is a wake-up call for some added rationality to our and other nations’ nuclear weapons strategy, posture, and security. Clearly, the Russians can help this process if they would join the effort at reductions. It would be in the interest of all countries to move more swiftly in this direction. The Times is worried rightly about election year politics, but Obama has already started quiet talks with Russia to see how far and how fast progress on follow-up to the New START treaty is possible and to enable more rapid progress once the elections are over.

Given the actions of other states, an effort by the U.S. and Russia to reduce nuclear weapons would help give a better strategic context for others to either slow down or reduce their efforts.  The time has come to make that case and to reaffirm that such a direction serves America’s fundamental security interests.

By Harry C. Blaney III.

Russia Turmoil: Winter of Discontent and American Interests

There is much serious turmoil in Russia which is likely to create a difficult 2012 for America and the rest of the globe. The pattern of repression, response, and unrest within the population now seems to be getting more intense and signs of deep unhappiness are clear. Opinion polls seem also to show a high level of criticism of the Kremlin-backed United Russia party. Economic and social statistics are indicating a downward spiral in quality of life for the average citizen in Russia. Street protests in Moscow and elsewhere, which according to some estimates were as large as 150,000, indicate an increased public willingness to question the authority of the day and a recent corrupt election for Duma seats.

There is nothing to give any rational thinker in America or Europe joy. This trend could indicate an ugly period of added instability, growing use of narrow nationalism, and directed antagonism towards the West and its values. This has been exacerbated by the likely next president Vladimir Putin, trying for narrow political ends to re-direct citizen anger towards an outside “boogeyman,” mostly the U.S. but also Europe. Threats are being made of withdrawal from the New START treaty, which would hurt both sides. The treaty was agreed to by now President Medvedev and implicitly by Prime Minister Putin and ratified by a Duma dominated by the Kremlin lead United Russia party.

The hard reality is that Russia has more to lose by increasing conflict and animosity towards the West. The loss of confidence by investors, businesses from the West, and closing down of multiple levels of interchange in many fields, can only increase the sense of isolation by the people and the leaders.

The backbone of the Russian economy remains its energy base – largely gas and oil – whose prices have recently been volatile. Such revenues provide most of the revenue for the government and its programs. But more fundamentally, the Russians have become more and more aware of the lack of freedom, no real participation in their society, and its authoritarian direction as they watch the changes of the Arab Spring and the freedom enjoyed by former members of the old Warsaw Pact countries.

There are two optics that one can foresee for these events, one is the possibility of a true “Russian Winter of Discontent” accompanied by upheavals with dire outcomes for both the Kremlin and the Russian people. The other alternative is a “Russian Slow Spring,” in which the stage is set for a long term thaw in the authoritarian and top down hand of Putin and his security service coterie. In the first case, the demonstrations would continue and a fraudulent election for president would be held on March 4th. The result would be a widely seen illegitimate regime and further alienation of the general population. It would also make more difficult a strategy of “reset” and constructive engagement with Putin and his band of narrow Kremlin sycophants.

The other scenario is that Putin and Medvedev might try to co-opt the popular discontent and make some reforms and move, probably slowly, towards a more consensus-based and quasi-democratic structure. This has its risks but it also has some advantages if the top leaders wish to promote balanced economic growth, broad domestic support, and institute civic society that goes beyond the dysfunctional corrupt society that exists today.

America should continue its fundamental sound policy of active engagement with Russia no matter what direction Russia takes. It is for the Russians to shape their society, but US and its allies can have some useful influence. We can, however, be certain that 2012 will be a year of social unrest, uncertainty, and even perhaps dramatic upheavals. Thus we need to pay attention and react wisely.

What is tragic for Western policy is that the Republican presidential candidates largely seem more bent on a crazy ideological desire to recreate a dangerous “Cold War” than to look for creative ways to move Russia towards responsible membership in the world community. Obama’s “reset” stance is the best option we have and it has resulted in net gains including a New START treaty, entry for our supplies into Afghanistan, and permitting the UN endorsed Libyan NATO actions leading to a new playing field in that country.

America needs now a thoughtful, bipartisan, constructive, and multilateral approach to Russia in this key year and not a narrow hostile and mindless scheme.

Prospects are still dark given the wretched rhetoric we have seen from the candidates so far.

By Harry C. Blaney III.