Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One Cheer for the Nuclear Posture review-But Much More is Needed!

President Barack Obama's much-anticipated review on the future strategic role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. war arsenal, and in U.S. military planning, has finally been released. There is something in it for everyone, and some movement in a progressive direction. But there are still things that will need to be done if the United States, and the world, will ever achieve a state of the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons that President Obama has articulated as a goal.

The Nuclear Posture Review does state that the United States will become less reliant on strategic nuclear weapons for possible deployment against non-nuclear weapons states, even in the event of chemical and biological weapons attacks on the United States. This means, for example, that there will be no immediate funding for a new generation of smaller, "tactical" nuclear weapons like the B-61 "Bunker Buster" bombs that were contemplated for use against hardened underground targets in the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Further, there will be cuts in the overall U.S. nuclear arsenal, with corresponding reductions in the stockpile of Russian weapons (and, as I understanding, the de-alerting of some U.S. and Russian delivery systems, this reducing the danger of an accidental launch of these weapons.

But before any of us get caught up in false euphoria, there are some major issues that have not been resolved.

First, the U.S. government has not ended there is the persistent, and wasteful, funding of the tens of billions of dollars spent on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure in the form of the research and development laboratories in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Livermore, California, and other research and development centers in the United States. Additional billions are spent to maintain the aging nuclear weapons stockpile, and for the vast security apparatus needed to hopefully keep the weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

This $ 54 billion dollar expense (2009) to U.S. taxpayers is evident of the continued influence of the nuclear war establishment on the national defense budget, even when new policy directives call for a diminished role for the U.S. nuclear weapons "deterrent".

A second problematic issue is the fact that the Nuclear Posture Review doesn't address the issue of U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in foreign nations. Where are these weapons actually located? And does their foreign-base deployment increase real security for this nation, or jeopardize that security in an increasingly volatile and violent world? On April 6th, for example, CBS radio News reported that "hundreds" of such weapons are located in Turkey, under joint Turkish-U.S. command and control.
But why is Turkey being used as a forward base for American nuclear arms?

But the most dangerous condition that remains in our world is the fact that, if the United States continues to develop new generations of nukes, even "smaller" ones-while threatening nations like Iran and North Korea over their respective nuclear development programs ( and ignoring the 200 or more Israeli warheads), there will be very little incentive for other countries to honor the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which comes under review later this Spring. Making strategic arsenal reductions is a positive development. But the acid test of President Obama's articulated vision of a nuclear-free world will be an American pledge to not only end the development of new nuclear weapons ( and their launch systems), but a commitment to honor the spirit of Article Six of the NPT and support the formulation of a Nuclear Weapons Convention that will compel all nations, as a principle of international law, to begin the process of creating a verifiable, universal abolition of nuclear all weapons.

The President deserves some accolades for moving the nation and the world in the right direction. It is important to reduce strategic nuclear forces, even if tactical nukes still abound. But the nuclear weapons "Hawks" and the corporations that profit so handsomely from manufacturing these weapons of mass annihilation, are still enormously powerful influences on the foreign and military policies of the United States.

The Muslim American Society Freedom (MAS Freedom) advocates for nuclear abolition as one of the twelve points in our 2008-2012 Legislative Agenda. Millions of other people throughout the world are ready for a world without these terrible weapons. We can only hope, and work for, the moral and political popular authority that will make future U.S. policy reviews real steps toward nuclear abolition.

Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey is also a founding member of the U.S. Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

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