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Politics is the art of the possible.

February 1, 2010


According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) by Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama intends to increase the funding for the Nuclear Weapons Laboratories by approximately 5 billion dollars over the next five years. The laboratories shall work on means to prolong the active life span of the nuclear charges.

 This project is technically and militarily meaningless. In the article in WSJ there are quotes from the JASON report to the government, written by prominent physicists and weapon experts. The report confirms that nuclear weapons have shown no sign of deteriorating reliability.  They will function as intended. And they are and remain secure: They will not explode unintentionally.

Of course, it is of little importance if the reliability decreases from 99% to 90% or less. That would not decrease their effects as deterrent. Do we know the reliability of the Russian strategic nuclear weapons? Certainly not, but that does not decrease their capacity to threaten. The reliability of the missiles and of the systems for intelligence, control and command is much more important.

William Perry who was Secretary for Defense to President Clinton took part in a commission which recently advocated a great increase in the support for the Nuclear Weapons Laboratories. The same opinion was expressed in a paper in WSJ by “The four apostles” Shultz, Kissinger, Nunn and Perry a couple of weeks ago. They argued that as long as the USA has nuclear weapons these must be reliable. It seems these four statesmen now place the vision for a world without weapons into a distant hazy future.

 In an interview with Mr. Kissinger in the French newspaper Le Figaro last November he says that, of course, a nuclear weapons free world is generations away. Yes, it is, if we want it so. Then maybe the nukes will abolish us, while we discuss how fast we shall abolish them.

 I do not know what means the supporters of the weapons laboratories have used to further their continued prosperity. One argument is recurring: The labs are needed to attract new researchers to their work, thus maintaining the competence. This is difficult nowadays when the lure of an atomic test explosion as the final examination test for the weapons designer has been denied. We do not know when we need to develop new nuclear weapons…

 The President’s dedication to the work for a nuclear weapons free world seems to be waning. Politics is the art of the possible, say some, and he might have found it necessary to throw this piece of pork to the senators who love the bomb and the bomb makers. Obama wants to get the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, an important part of the work to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, through the Senate where it has been blocked since the time of Clinton. Obama knows too that there will be demands for new nuclear weapons, which he pledged during his election campaign not to accept. Mr. Gates, no one less, spoke for a new type of nuclear warheads recently, but was quickly censored. The President also wants the successor to the START agreement on a decrease of the strategic nuclear weapons to be agreed with Russia.

 The resistance against President Obama is strong on all these three points. A few billion dollars to the weapons laboratories, out of the trillion used for the military, may help certain senators to look with less disfavor at the President’s proposals. He needs every vote.

Gunnar Westberg

Past Co-President of IPPNW

  1. Giorgio permalink
    February 5, 2010 1:44 pm



  1. Politics is the Art of Possible – IPPNW « The World Today

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