American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Bush's Nuclear Weapons Policy: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
David Culp is a legislative representative with the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington. He has lobbied for over ten years on nuclear weapons issues. If you would like to receive regular Email updates on nuclear disarmament, send him a note at <email@example.com>. More information on these topics is available on FCNL's website at <www.fcnl.org>
Behind closed doors at the Pentagon and the White House, the Bush administration has begun a review of the nation's nuclear weapons policy. Originally slated to be finished in April, the completed review is now not expected until May or June. Why? First, the administration has been slow in staffing the executive branch. Second, political advisors in the White House are arguing for a delay in announcing expensive military programs until the tax-cut bill has cleared the Senate.
While the specifics have not been decided, the Bush policies are
known in general. For peace activists they can be described as
the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The Good: Strategic Reductions and De-alerting
While the President will seek to persuade Russia to join us
in further reducing nuclear arsenals, he is also prepared to lead
by example. The President proposes to maintain our nuclear arsenal
with the lowest number of nuclear weapons consistent with our
present and future national security needs.
The administration is expected to announce unilateral reductions in the strategic nuclear arsenal. There is broad agreement, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Greenpeace, that the nuclear arsenal is too large. The US now has 7000 deployed strategic nuclear warheads under START I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). That number was determined by the Reagan administration to be what was needed to deter the combined forces of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. START II would have further cut the arsenal in half. However, that treaty was not ratified in its final form because of disagreements between the Clinton administration and the Senate Republican leadership.
To break the arms control logjam, the Bush administration is considering unilateral reductions. The Pentagon brass had already agreed to eliminate 4500 strategic warheads (from 7000 to 2500 warheads) as part of a START III agreement that the Clinton administration was considering. How many warheads to eliminate will be a major part of the debate inside the Bush administration.
". . . the United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status--another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation. . . . today, for two nations at peace, keeping so many weapons on high alert may create unacceptable risks of accidental or unauthorized launch. So, as President, I will ask for an assessment of what we can safely do to lower the alert status of our forces." (George W. Bush, Washington, May 23, 2000)
The Bush review may also recommend "de-alerting," i.e. taking off hair-trigger alert, some of our nuclear weapons. The US and Russia each have 2500 missiles on hair-trigger alert. A Russian president has about six minutes and a US president about 22 minutes to decide whether to launch a nuclear counterstrike after receiving a report of an attack.
The dangers inherent in the crumbling of the Russian military infrastructure concern Republicans as well as Democrats. In 1991, President George Bush, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell authorized the de-alerting of thousands of nuclear weapons as the Warsaw Pact unraveled. In 2001, President George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Powell may do the same.
The Defense Department has committed to include de-alerting in
its nuclear review, in a February 2001 letter to the Friends Committee
on National Legislation, as Bush promised during the campaign.
The Bad: Tactical Nuclear Weapons
Future warfare scenarios may require low-yield nuclear options.
. . . the President should issue a directive outlining that protecting
the national interest requires . . . tactical nuclear weapons
to deter the use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons
against US troops, regardless of where they are located.
There are sharp contradictions among Bush officials over the role of tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons. Some officials, with opinions parallel to the Heritage Foundation's point of view, would like to find new battlefield roles for tactical nuclear weapons. These new roles could include authorizing the use of tactical weapons, or "mini-nukes," against non-nuclear states possessing chemical or biological weapons. Other nuclear scenarios include destroying underground command bunkers in countries like North Korea and Iraq. The most extreme proposals include the development of new nuclear weapons. This would require the resumption of underground testing and would destroy any prospect for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
On the other hand, Secretary of State Powell is known to have
little use for nuclear weapons on the battlefield. As chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the first Bush administration,
he tried to eliminate all US tactical nuclear weapons.
The Ugly: Missile Defense
America must build effective missile defenses, based on the
best available options, at the earliest possible date.
There is complete agreement within the administration on deploying a missile defense system. However on the second-tier questions, such as what kind of system to deploy and how quickly to deploy, there is disagreement.
Will the system be a limited, land-based system, as proposed by Clinton, or will it include sea-based and space-based systems?
Whom would the US try to protect? The United States only? European allies? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia?
What are we trying to protect against? A limited number of missiles from a country like North Korea? China's ballistic missiles?
The answers to these questions will determine the system's price tag. The limited Clinton program was estimated to cost $60 billion. The system some Republicans are advocating could approach $200 billion--a lot of money, even in Washington. And who will pay for the system? American taxpayers only? Or will US allies be asked to help pay for missile defense?
Most importantly for peace advocates, what will happen to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty? Some Republicans argue for scrapping the treaty by giving the Russians the required six-month notice this summer. The Russians have repeatedly threatened to withdraw from arms reduction treaties if the US annuls the ABM treaty.
The Bush administration is realizing that the political costs for deploying a missile system are at the front end, while the benefits, if any, are many years down the road. There is no system that can be deployed before the end of the first Bush term. The elaborate sea- and space-based systems being pushed by missile defense advocates would not be in place until after a possible second Bush term.
However, it appears almost certain that President Bush will agree to implement a missile defense plan. That decision can be expected to provoke a political firestorm of opposition here and in Europe. As details become available, the debate will become sharpened. Congress may be asked to vote on deployment of a missile defense system as part of the regular Pentagon budget bills as soon as this summer.
In the short term, peace advocates should be pressing their representatives
and senators to oppose missile defense as unworkable, as a waste
of billions of dollars, and as a threat to arms control agreements.
What to Do
The nuclear policy changes, both good and bad, do not have a legislative vehicle in Congress yet. However, the policies will be debated and influenced by the 50 members of the House Armed Services Committee and the 24 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. If you are represented by one of those members, you should contact them and join the debate. If not, you should express your opinions to your representative and senators and ask them to talk with their colleagues on the committees.
Activists should press members of the two Armed Services Committees for:
On missile defense, the congressional committees that draft the annual military spending bills may be voting on parts of the Bush administration's new plans in June and July. There is a better than 50-50 chance that you are represented by a representative or senator on one of these four key committees: House Armed Services Committee, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Bush administration is likely to unveil its nuclear weapons
policy sometime in May or June, with much fanfare. Peace advocates
should be leaders in the coming debate by writing letters-to-the-editor,
contacting key members of Congress, and encouraging others to
join the public discussion by praising the positive and criticizing
Perspectives on Military Spending
In 1999, the US spent more than the next seven leading military powers, combined: $283 billion versus $265 billion. Five of the next seven leading military powers are US allies.*
In 1999, the US spent 2.6 times more on its military than the combined military expenditures of the next nine largest potential adversaries (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Cuba): $283 billion versus $109 billion.*
In 1999, the US, NATO, and other US allies (Japan, South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia) spent five times more on their militaries than the combined expenditures of the next nine largest potential adversaries (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Cuba): $551 billion versus $109 billion.*
In Fiscal Year 2000, the US spent $296 billion on the military. In 2001, the US will spend an estimated $299 billion, and for 2002 the President has proposed outlays of $319 billion, to begin with. It is expected that additional funds will be requested for 2001 and 2002 following completion of the Administration's review of US military "needs."*
In 2000, the US spent a total of about $547 billion for current and past military programs (includes all military spending cited above, plus mandatory payments to the military retirement system, foreign military financing, sales, aid, and training, veterans' benefits and services, and the interest paid on the national debt that can be attributed to past wars and military spending.)
Over the next ten years, the President's plan calls for spending over $3.5 trillion on the military. This does not include any additional expenditures which he may call for pending completion of the military review.
If enacted, the amount of the increase in military spending for 2002 over 2001 (i.e. $20 billion) will exceed the entire amount that the US government spent on international diplomacy, cooperation, and humanitarian and development assistance in 2001 (i.e. $14 billion).
The President's budget blueprint calls for cutting as yet
unspecified programs in the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce,
Energy (non-military), Interior, Justice, Labor, Transportation,
and the Environmental Protection Agency in 2002.
* These totals do not include foreign military aid, financing, and training, or mandatory payments into the military retirement system.
Sources: International Institute for Strategic Studies, "The
Military Balance: 2000-2001," Oxford University Press, October
2000. The White House, "A Blueprint for New Beginnings,"
February 28, 2001 <www.whitehouse.gov/news/usbudget/blueprint/text>
Scientists' Pledge Campaign
The American Association for the Advancement of Science launched
a new campaign at its recent meeting in San Francisco. The international
campaign asks scientists and engineers to pledge not to participate
in "the design, development, testing, production, maintenance,
targeting, or use," of weapons of mass destruction. By having
scientists and engineers pledge never to perform work relevant
to weapons of mass destruction, the "Pledge Campaign"
hopes to stop the government's attempts at continued weapon
development. The Pledge Campaign has been supported by many scientists,
including physicist Joseph Rotblat, who won the Nobel Prize in
1995 for his nuclear nonproliferation work.