by Kingston Reif [contact information]
The Triad Is Not The Trinity: A Response To Gen. Chambers
Published in AOL Defense on November 16, 2012.
Article summary below; read the full text online.
In a November 1 article for AOL Defense, the Air Force's General Chambers overstates the peace-promoting virtues of nuclear weapons. In addition, he exaggerates the benefits of the nuclear triad and downplays the significant financial resources that will be required to sustain it.
Gen. Chambers' praise of the stabilizing role of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and in particular during the Cold War, is a bad misreading of history. It was in fact nuclear weapons that made the Cuban Missile Crisis so perilous.
In addition, he claims that the cost to maintain the triad indefinitely is manageable. But our budget pressures are real and likely to get worse, which is why high-level Pentagon officials without a bureaucratic interest in the survival of the triad have been raising questions about its affordability.
The assumptions that undergird the current U.S. arsenal of approximately 5,000 nuclear warheads were devised for a confrontation with the Soviet Union that no longer exists. As the Obama administration contemplates its second term defense priorities in a time of budget austerity, it should not let outdated Cold War constructs such as the triad stand in the way of reshaping U.S. nuclear policy.
Kingston Reif is the Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, where his work focuses on arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear weapons, and preventing nuclear terrorism. He has published letters and articles on nuclear weapons policy in such venues as the Washington Post, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Survival, Defense News, and Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.