November 18, 2012

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Return Of The Nuclear Nightmare.

Since their use invites devastating retaliation, many strategists today imagine that nuclear weapons can never be used to good effect and are therefore essentially worthless. This perception doesn’t just shape American thoughts about our own arsenal; it impels American leaders to underestimate the difficulties of nonproliferation because they don’t fully grasp the size of the gains that nonnuclear powers can achieve in joining the Bomb Club. Our strategists, says Mr. Bracken, are in a state of denial: “An older generation wants to make the nuclear nightmare go away by inoculating the young with protective ideas. Nuclear weapons are useless and we should get rid of them. Strengthen the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]. Get rid of ballistic missiles. Deterrence will work.”

These ideas, very much at the heart of the present administration’s strategic thought, are fantasies.

Don’t worry — we’ve got “Smart Diplomacy” to protect us!

Mead’s writing about Paul Bracken’s new book, The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger and the New Power Politics. Bracken’s a very smart guy. I remember him from when I was at Yale; his big book then was The Command And Control of Nuclear Forces. He’s been thinking about this stuff for a long time, and people should be paying attention to him now.