Secretary Gates

The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration will probably change the United States’ nuclear policy in its upcoming Nuclear Posture Review. Specifically, President Obama would like to reduce the American nuclear arsenal by thousands of weapons but update the technology of the existing stockpile.

The Nuclear Posture Review will outline important steps toward the new American policy on nuclear weapons, which is expected to further depart from a Cold War era posture.

“The Heritage Foundation has proposed a ‘protect and defend’ strategic posture for the U.S. that is based on shifting away from the retaliation-based strategic posture of the Cold War toward a more defensive posture that is adapted to the emerging international structure.”

It is possible that the Obama Administration’s policy will rely more on missile defense for protection against an attack from a country like Iran as it reduces the nuclear arsenal. Adopting a “protect and defend” strategy is the most effective way to minimize the nuclear threat.

An effective strategy promotes nuclear modernization, superior conventional weapons, and effective missile defense while reducing the likelihood of armed conflict. Arms control is not the end in itself, but an outcome of the strategy.

Heritage Fellow Baker Spring argues that “those who strongly favor nuclear disarmament should recognize that robust strategic defensive measures–including ballistic missile defenses–and conventional superiority can create a circumstance where nuclear disarmament is appropriate.”

The delay in the Nuclear Posture Review’s release is reportedly a result of intense debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates over U.S. “declaratory policy.” Biden supports limiting the circumstances under which the U.S. is willing to use nuclear weapons, which will eliminate America’s ability to strike first and prohibit the use of nuclear weapons in response to a chemical or biological attack. Gates, on the other hand, wants to maintain a flexible policy closer to the “calculated ambiguity” currently in place.

Jeffrey Chatterton is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: