Quote of the Day:
The Senate has already considered and rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. To circumvent Congress, Mr. Obama wants the United Nations to declare nuclear tests illegal. This is an affront to the Constitution and bad nuclear policy.
— Jon Kyle and Douglas Feith in this morning's Wall Street Journal
There are two depressing things about President Obama's likely going to the U. N. to ban nuclear tests. The first is that he will once again subvert the Constitution–i.e., our system of government. But he already has changed it perhaps beyond repair in eight years.
The second is that it is dangerous. Kyle and Feith write:
The United States has not done an explosive nuclear test since 1992. U.S. officials rely on computer simulations to ensure nuclear-weapon safety and reliability. The no-test policy was adopted as a nuclear nonproliferation gesture, in hopes of persuading other countries to similarly restrain themselves.
Yet experts worry that the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons cannot be ensured forever without tests, for there are uncertainties in the relevant chemistry and physics. At some point computer simulations may not provide enough confidence.
Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted in a 2008 speech that U.S. nuclear weapons “were designed on the assumption of a limited shelf life.” Because “sensitive parts do not last forever,” he said, the U.S. re-engineers them to extend their lifespan, but “with every adjustment we move further away from the original design that was successfully tested when the weapon was first fielded.” At some point, he warned, it will become “impossible to keep extending the life of our arsenal, especially in light of our testing moratorium.”
Because the U.S. no-test policy is a unilateral measure, any president can change it in the future. If America became a CTBT party, however, that policy would harden into a permanent international legal obligation to refrain from testing.
Imagine if the United States were attacked and we found that we were hampered in fighting back because our untested weapons didn't work.
But of course we don't have a nuclear arsenal because we intend to have to use it. We have a nuclear arsenal because having a strong nuclear capacity ironically means that we almost certainly won't need to use these weapons. It's called deterrence, and there are various theories as to the morality of deterrence. The left is pretty much against deterrence.
Kyle and Feith write:
Senators also complained that the CTBT isn’t verifiable or enforceable: The Russians, Chinese or others could violate it and the U.S. would not necessarily be able to detect, let alone prove, the violation. Taking effective action to compel compliance would be difficult or even impossible.
Allies and partners around the world have positioned themselves for decades under America’s so-called nuclear umbrella. Rather than create their own nuclear arsenals, they rely on America for their security. This makes America—and the world—safer than if there were numerous nuclear states.
Imagine, however, the following scenario: Technical problems develop in U.S. warheads and responsible scientists say that tests are needed to confirm reliability. If America were legally bound not to test, that would undermine faith in its nuclear umbrella and other countries might decide they need their own nuclear weapons. The CTBT could thus aggravate the very problem of nuclear proliferation that it was created to help solve.
But President Obama will feel very pleased with himself if he can get nuclear testing banned in the United States.
And feeling good about themselves, whether it's for hiking the minimum wage (and thereby reducing the number of jobs), making an anti-nuclear deal with Iran (that makes a nuclear Iran a certainty), or what have you, is the name of the game for progressives.
And Congress and the Constitution? Quaint vestiges of the eighteenth century.