Op Ed: Obama Upgrading The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal “For A Direct Confrontation With Russia”

By Sherwood Ross

President Obama’s “gift” to Americans this holiday season is to renege on his 2009 pledge “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

He is upgrading the lethality level of an atomic arsenal already so deadly it can destroy all life on Earth. Then he’ll send Mr. and Mrs. America the bill, estimated by one Federal study at $1-trillion, to pay for the deadly upgrades he wants, rather than the peaceful improvements Americans need.

“The stated goal of the program is to increase the ‘reliability’ of US nuclear forces,” writes Theodore Postol in the Dec. 29 issue of “The Nation”. “But a close analysis reveals a technically sophisticated effort to ready US nuclear forces for a direct confrontation with Russia.”

Author Postol, a former adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations, slams this modernization as “a reckless policy that directly undermines our safety and national security.”

He writes, “No rational actor would take steps to start a nuclear war. But the modernization effort significantly increases the chances of an accident during an unpredicted, and unpredictable crisis—one that could escalate beyond anyone’s capacity to imagine.”

Why, Postol wants to know, does the White House aim to overhaul “the entire US nuclear-weapons arsenal, with a particular focus on improving the fusing systems and accuracy of long-range land- and sea-based ballistic-missile warheads and on increasing the killing power of other nuclear warheads.”

And, he says, the scale and character of these weapons’ effects are so large and so deadly that any notion of using them in a controlled or limited way “is completely disconnected from reality.” Postol’s article is appropriately titled, “Striving for Armageddon: How the Obama Administration Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Today’s nuclear bombs are vastly more deadly than those the U.S. used to scourge Japan at the end of World War Two. But Postol writes that improving the reliability of fuses on the ballistic-missile warheads disguises the fact the fuses “have been modified to increase the killing power of the warheads.”

What’s more, “Painstaking efforts have also gone into improving their delivery accuracy” and when the results of these combined activities are summarized for Russian political leaders, “it is not hard to understand their alarm.” Postol asserts that it is the U.S. that has pushed the Russians to a higher state of alert.

He reminds, “There is a long history of accidents during the Cold War that brought the United States treacherously close to disaster.” In one major false alert, a training tape loaded into a computer “made it appear to US launch officers that a full-scale Soviet attack was under way.”

And he believes the Russians have good reason to be worried. “With a fully modernized arsenal, the formerly ‘less capable’ nuclear warheads will be able to destroy Russian silo-based ICBMs with confidence. This would free up higher-yield nuclear warheads for other war-fighting tasks, enabling the US military to inflict greater damage on Russian command centers, fixed military facilities and civilian industrial infrastructures.”

Despite Mr. Obama’s recognition that peace depends on nuclear disarmament, Postol says, “the US is making those nightmare scenarios more likely by rebuilding the stockpile of atomic warheads as if they were just another form of conventional weapon.” They aren’t.

When Russia was communist and occupying much of Eastern Europe, U.S. leaders claimed they had to be armed to the teeth. Now that the Russians have scrapped the failed Bolshevik system, have become largely capitalist, and have withdrawn from Eastern Europe, President Obama is ratcheting up the same old tensions. Only now the game he is playing is much more dangerous than ever.

Sherwood Ross View more

Sherwood Ross
Sherwood Ross was active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and was press coordinator for James Meredith's "March Against Fear" in Mississippi in June, 1966. His role in that march is cited in the new book "Down to the Crossroads: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Meredith March Against Fear" by Aram Goudsouzian, chair of the History Department at Memphis State.

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