Senators Bob Corker (R–TN) and James Inhofe (R–OK) recently published an op-ed outlining dangerous fallacies of President Obama’s disarmament policies, which the Senators claim will do nothing to make the world a safer place. Rather, America will weaken itself and give North Korea and Iran more incentive to improve their nuclear weapons programs.
The Senators are correct. As The Heritage Foundation’s nuclear games exercises show, it is imperative for the United States to maintain a strong nuclear arsenal in order to protect itself and its allies.
In 2009, President Obama spoke in Prague about the importance of an America free of nuclear weapons, which he believes will lead to a “nuclear zero” world. Since then, he has taken certain measures to ensure that this occurs. For instance, agreement to the New START treaty has forced the nation to decrease its number of nuclear weapons to 1,550 by 2018—and that number is sure to dip under 1,000 if the President continues on this path.
Even during the recent State of the Union address, the President continued to advocate the supposed importance of a reduction in nuclear arms. Instead, America’s military has been weakened, while their weapons continue to lack the modernization that they desperately need.
From the lack of cooperation by Iran and North Korea with the international community, it is apparent that they have no intention of disarming their nuclear weapons. A “road to zero” will end in a futile effort. Heritage’s Kim Holmes further explores how the idea of nuclear zero is dangerous:
Iran and North Korea want nuclear weapons for two reasons: to ensure the survival of their regimes and to intimidate. North Korea uses nuclear weapons as a form of extortion. Iran’s regime sees them as a trump card to keep the U.S. not only from ever helping to overthrow them if it were to come to that, but also from ever coming to the defense of our allies in a shooting war.
Neither Iran nor North Korea have the military capability to take on the U.S., but having a nuclear weapon makes the U.S. and its allies apprehensive about taking military action against them. The consequences of such an attack on either Iran or North Korea would be dire and long-term. Therefore, an attack from America and its friends toward an erratic, nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea should be a last resort.
Eliminating the military’s nuclear weapons will not cause others to do the same—history has proved differently. Heritage’s Rebeccah Heinrichs and Baker Spring illustrate that even as the U.S. has decreased its stockpile since the end of the Cold War, more countries now possess nuclear weapons.
This “set an example” ideology, one which assumes the rest of the world will follow America’s lead because of the goodwill it is trying to promote, has not been effective. It now looks even less optimistic with countries like Iran and North Korea pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Because of this reality, the President needs to enhance the nation’s weaponry and maintain America’s status quo as the military hegemon of the world.
In relation to nuclear modernization, the U.S. has little to show. The Heritage Foundation explains that under this Administration’s polices, “Replacement systems will not enter the U.S. arsenal until 2030. By then, the U.S. will have 60-year-old intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 40-year-old submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and 35- to 70-year-old bombers.” While the military’s weapons are aging with no sign of change, others, like Russia, are modernizing their nuclear arsenal at an alarming pace.
President Obama has to understand that the world is acquiring more nuclear weapons, not fewer. Heritage’s Peter Brookes puts it more realistically:
The important thing is that we preserve our strategic security in an increasingly proliferated environment. For the moment, that means developing robust missile defenses and maintaining and modernizing our nuclear arsenal—not sacrificing our well-being on the altar of wishful thinking.
Proliferation of nuclear weapons technologies will continue in the future. To protect America and its interests here and abroad, now is the time to strengthen the nation’s military capabilities and begin nuclear modernization.
Aaron Richards is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.