US nuclear weapons policy reactionary: National Interest
National Interest sheds light on the mistakes committed by the United States when it comes to its "Old Think"-dictated nuclear strategy.
The nuclear age of the world came at the conclusion of World War II, and the notion that a single nuclear bomb dropped on a city would completely erase its population and render it nothing but ash and rubble has been the driving force behind America's nuclear policy and strategies, the National Interest said on Saturday.
The magazine recalled how prior to the "Little Boy" and the "Fat Man", the two bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, the strength of one army was measured by the amount of personnel it had and the capabilities of its arsenal, but now, the power is no longer in numbers, as just a few nukes would completely erase a country.
"Pentagon and political leaders did not learn this critical lesson," John Isaacs wrote, highlighting that 1,000 warheads were just as potent as 500 when it came to the damage that could be done to an adversary.
The author said the number game took over and was the catalyzer in the Cold War, which saw Washington and Moscow garnering thousands of nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence and a further means of imposing the mutually assured destruction doctrine.
Though there were agreements signed in the aftermath of the Cold War regarding the reduction of nuclear stockpiles, both Russia and the US still followed in the same footsteps, with nukes still seen as somewhat of a shield that makes a country safer, Isaacs said, stressing that the Pentagon and political leaders "still have not learned that counts of military strength are not the same when nuclear weapons are involved."
The Old Think and its repercussions
Talking about an Old Think, or the Old Think, the National Interest said military generals and politicians alike allowed themselves to still be influenced by the reactionary way of thinking that saw them up their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, as it is perceived as a major gauge of power, with the number of warheads a country has acting as a sort of requirement when it came to new nuclear weapons.
It added that this Old Think bore several repercussions, such as becoming an obstacle in the face of the Biden administration, as it is allowing this reactionary doctrine to dictate how it reacts to China expanding its nuclear force. Not acknowledging that the number of nuclear weapons, regardless of how high it is, will not be that important of a factor as long as it has crossed the threshold of destruction.
The Pentagon recently issued its "China Military Report", the magazine noted, which said Beijing now has some 400 nuclear weapons in its arsenal and could have as many as 1,500 by the middle of the next decade, though Wahington casually did not mention that even with this large of a number, China would still not have as many nuclear weapons as the United States.
The article cited how Admiral Charles Richard, the commander of the US Strategic Command, and the man behind Washington's nuclear deterrence strategies, ignored how his country has 5,428 nuclear weapons, including more than 1,600 deployer long-range nuclear weapons, more than four-fold the estimated amount China has.
Measuring the numbers and capabilities one has may have been relevant when battleships, airplanes, and tanks were still the key weapons dominating the battlefield, though the shift that happened in 1945 means that the numbers game is no longer relevant. The article acknowledged that a major discrepancy in stockpile sizes matters, though it is missing the point.
"The Pentagon analysis focused on the US military response to the Chinese buildup," the article said, arguing for the pursuit of diplomacy or arms control negotiation with China.
From one pretext to the other
The article recalled the reason behind the increase in Washington's bomber and nuclear weapons stockpiles, the "bomber gap", a pretext that was raised in 1955 and was the United States increasing production of arms as a way to make up for a made-up shortage.
This same pretext was a key factor in former President John Kennedy's election, as he claimed there was a "missile gap" between his country and the Soviet Union, alleging that the latter had more missiles than the United States, during his run for President in 1960.
The claims were dismissed in the same year and continue to be proven wrong today, more than half a century later.
"The problem is one of simply a disparity in the number of vehicles and is soluble completely by an increase in the number of our Polaris and Minutemen," said Albert Wohlstetter, a prominent nuclear strategist who argued against the so-called "missile gap".
Subsequent US President used false pretexts to stoke fears that made it seem like a necessity for Washington to increase the production of nuclear weapons, such as Ronald Reagan, who argued in the late 1970s that there was a "window of vulnerability", a myth that accurate Soviet warheads would be able to take out the US Minuteman force in a first strike and that the United States would only have 30 minutes to respond to an attack.
These pretexts led the United States to have 27,500 nuclear weapons in 1975. The USSR more than matched this number a decade later, reaching 39,000 nuclear weapons in 1985.
Though the numbers have declined since then, the same thought process that birthed this behemoth amount of nuclear weapons is still the driving force for the mass production of nuclear arms today, with the United States now using China as a means of scaring its populace into accepting the uptick in nuclear arms production.
"The United States [...] should be concerned about China’s determination to throw its economic and military weight around the world, particularly in the Asian sphere," the author argued.
It's not about numbers
The author asked, "What difference will more US nuclear weapons make?" and the answer is quite obvious: None at all, as expected. The United States still believes that strength is in numbers when it is not.
An example given in the article is China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and how with a comparatively smaller number, 500 and fewer than 40, respectively, have been able to deter a nuclear attack or even a risk of a conventional war.
"A smaller nuclear force that has a robust capacity to survive a nuclear attack and respond in kind can be more than sufficient," it stressed.
Though there have been numerous attempts in the United States to change how Washington mulls its nuclear steps, nothing has worked so far, and the US is still stuck in its reactionary loop.