Even Nukes Grow Old

Everything grows old. So I suppose it’s no surprise that America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons is also showing signs of advancing age, and may have to be replaced.

One would think that the growing decrepitude of our nukes would be a fine time to dismantle and junk these horrible weapons. President Barack Obama has fulsomely preached for the past seven years on the need to get rid of the nukes. Very nice.

Yet once away from the microphones, Obama has let the military-industrial-financial complex generate plans to refresh and update the US nuclear arsenal in a massive project estimated to cost at least $1 trillion.

No major effort has been made to assemble the world’s declared and undeclared nuclear powers and hammer out a plan to junk all nukes and make sure they are not replaced. On the contrary, it’s full speed ahead in the devil’s workshop.

The US Air Force wants to replace by 2044 all of its 1960’s vintage Minuteman ICBMs with 642 new ground-based, silo-launched ICBMs. Some $7 billion was already spent over the past two decades modernizing them.

Way back in the early 1980’s, I was invited to inspect the US Air Force’s Space Command HQ and Air Defense Command buried deep inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. I was shown a hanger-size room filled with a hundred upright computers, all whizzing away. An officer whispered to me, ‘my laptop has more power than all these computers together.’ Similarly, advancing technology has left many of our defense systems either outmoded or totally obsolete. So some renewal may be necessary.

New ICBM’s are still not enough for the US Air Force. The flyboys also want a new nuclear-armed cruise missile to replace the venerable 80’s vintage AGM-86B carried by B-52 heavy bombers and the yet to be built B-21 stealth bomber.

Meanwhile the US Navy, always a darling of Congress, is planning to replace its Ohio class nuclear-armed submarines with a new, more powerful class of 12 subs that will each carry 16 Trident D5 missiles. Each missile can fly well over 8,000 km and carry 8-10 warheads.

Many other US nuclear-powered warships, both underwater and surface, will need new nuclear plants.

A trillion dollars is a lot of money even for the world’s wealthiest nation. Many will question such a huge expenditure at a time when bridges across the US are collapsing, airports are decaying, the air traffic control system is obsolete, and 44 million people live on food stamps.

We need those nukes badly, say the Pentagon’s top brass, their civilian supporters in Congress, and the booming US arms industry, which looks set for a record year. We must defend ourselves against the Russians and Chinese!

Russia has a powerful triad of air, sea and ground-launched nuclear missiles. Some are being modernized. Moscow has made clear that given its sharp reduction in land forces, increasingly reliance will be placed on strategic and tactical nuclear forces. This important new policy should cause Washington to think twice about its current dangerous policy of putting a military squeeze on Russia in Ukraine, Crimea, the Baltic and Black Seas.

China is also slowly developing its nuclear forces, but they remain modest for a world power and focused on deterring a foreign nuclear strike. So far, China appears only interested in its own region.

In short, neither Russia nor China has tipped the current nuclear balance of terror. Unfortunately, Washington’s updating its nuclear arsenal will likely cause them to upgrade their strategic nuclear forces.

The next US president will inherit this problem. Everyone says they hate nukes but we can’t seem to break the habit. Candidate Donald Trump rightly asked what the purpose of these weapons is, and was blasted for asking this proper question. The biased media keeps claiming Trump can’t be trusted with the red button. But it was Hillary Clinton that actually threatened to use them against Iran if it dared attack Israel.

Instead of debating transgender toilets, American voters should be demanding: `Mr President/or Mrs President, get rid of our nukes!’