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“This clearly makes nuclear weapons a tool for fighting a war, rather than deterring them.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/9/2002]
“The intelligence officials are responding to the political leadership, not the other way around, which is how it should be. The politics are driving our intelligence assessments at this point.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/11/2002]
Joseph Cirincione, an expert on proliferation issues and national security, is detailed by Congress to find out just how well the Patriot missile performed in combat during the Gulf War. George H.W. Bush told a group of Raytheon employees, who helped manufacture the Patriot missile system, that the system had performed admirably during the war: “Forty-two [Iraqi] SCUD [missiles] engaged, 41 intercepted.” (Some sources later cite Bush as claiming that the figures were 43 of 45.) Television viewers around the globe were familiar with video footage of Patriot batteries blazing away at the sky during the middle of the night; such images became icons of the technological success of the war. However, Cirincione finds a very different story for the Patriot. His investigations of Defense Department records shows that the Patriot actually only brought down two to four SCUDs in 44 intercept attempts, or about a 10 percent success rate. The video footage rerun so often by American news broadcasters was of Patriots exploding in midflight. Nevertheless, Congressional funding for the Patriot and other missile defense systems rose dramatically after the war.
Pentagon Experts Knew System Faulty - Experts in the Pentagon admitted to Cirincione that they knew the Patriot system didn’t work as early as 1991, when it was deployed to Iraq. Cirincione tells a reporter, “Everybody thought that missile defense could work” after the erroneous reports of the Patriot’s success. “So it gave the whole program, theater and strategic missile defense, a new lease on life, and cost us billions of dollars more in research and programs that still haven’t proved to be viable.… The power of that television image, the power of that myth of the Patriot success, proved to be very powerful indeed. Studies and scientific inquiries alone can’t overcome the popular misperception.”
Army Incensed with Findings - The Army is incensed by Cirincione’s findings, he will recall in 2004. “The Army insisted that they knew they had some problems with the Patriot, but it didn’t serve any purpose to make these public. We would just be aiding the enemy. And that they would take care of it in the course of normal product improvement.” Why did the Army so adamantly oppose Cirincione’s findings? “The Patriot is a multi-billion dollar system. There’s a lotta money involved. There’s a lotta careers involved.” Cirincione will say that the Army continued to claim that the Patriot was a success even after he presented them with his findings until 2001, when it finally admitted the Patriot’s poor performance. (PBS Frontline 10/10/2002; Carter 2004, pp. 52; CBS News 6/27/2004)
President Bush gives a speech at the National Defense University outlining what he calls a “new strategic framework” for the nation’s strategic defense policy. “This afternoon, I want us to think back some 30 years to a far different time in a far different world,” he tells his listeners. “The United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a hostile rivalry.… Our deep differences were expressed in a dangerous military confrontation that resulted in thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other on hair-trigger alert. Security of both the United States and the Soviet Union was based on a grim premise: that neither side would fire nuclear weapons at each other, because doing so would mean the end of both nations.” Bush is referring to the concept of “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD, which has driven the policies of the US and the former Soviet Union since the 1950s. “We even went so far as to codify this relationship in a 1972 ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty (see May 26, 1972), based on the doctrine that our very survival would best be insured by leaving both sides completely open and vulnerable to nuclear attack,” he says.
A Different Threat - Times have now changed: “Today, the sun comes up on a vastly different world.… Today’s Russia is not yesterday’s Soviet Union.… Yet, this is still a dangerous world, a less certain, a less predictable one. More nations have nuclear weapons and still more have nuclear aspirations. Many have chemical and biological weapons. Some already have developed… ballistic missile technology.… And a number of these countries are spreading these technologies around the world. Most troubling of all, the list of these countries includes some of the world’s least-responsible states. Unlike the Cold War, today’s most urgent threat stems not from thousands of ballistic missiles in the Soviet hands, but from a small number of missiles in the hands of these states, states for whom terror and blackmail are a way of life.” Bush cites the example of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, who, he says, could have forced a very different outcome to the 1991 Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After) had he “been able to blackmail with nuclear weapons.” Hussein is an exemplar of today’s hate-driven dictators, Bush asserts: “Like Saddam Hussein, some of today’s tyrants are gripped by an implacable hatred of the United States of America. They hate our friends, they hate our values, they hate democracy and freedom and individual liberty. Many care little for the lives of their own people. In such a world, Cold War deterrence is no longer enough.”
ABM Treaty Now a Hindrance to US Security - “To maintain peace, to protect our own citizens and our own allies and friends, we must seek security based on more than the grim premise that we can destroy those who seek to destroy us,” Bush says. “Today’s world requires a new policy, a broad strategy of active non-proliferation, counter proliferation and defenses.… We need new concepts of deterrence that rely on both offensive and defensive forces. Deterrence can no longer be based solely on the threat of nuclear retaliation.… We need a new framework that allows us to build missile defenses to counter the different threats of today’s world. To do so, we must move beyond the constraints of the 30-year-old ABM Treaty. This treaty does not recognize the present, or point us to the future. It enshrines the past. No treaty that prevents us from addressing today’s threats, that prohibits us from pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends and our allies is in our interests or in the interests of world peace.… We can, and will, change the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War is over.” Bush is heralding his intention of withdrawing from the 1972 ABM Treaty (see December 13, 2001). Bush says of the treaty: “We should leave behind the constraints of an ABM Treaty that perpetuates a relationship based on distrust and mutual vulnerability. This Treaty ignores the fundamental breakthroughs in technology during the last 30 years. It prohibits us from exploring all options for defending against the threats that face us, our allies and other countries. That’s why we should work together to replace this Treaty with a new framework that reflects a clear and clean break from the past, and especially from the adversarial legacy of the Cold War.” (Bush 5/1/2001; CNN 5/1/2001; Scoblic 2008, pp. 171-172)
An Old Response to a New Threat - Author J. Peter Scoblic later calls Bush’s rationale “disingenuous.” He explains: “Conservatives had wanted to field missile defenses ever since the Soviet Union had developed ICBMs.… But somewhat paradoxically, following the collapse of the Soviet Union—and with it the likelihood of of a missile attack—conservative calls for missile defense increased” (see September 27, 1994). (Scoblic 2008, pp. 171-172) Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace calls Bush’s proposal “tragically mistaken.” (PBS 5/1/2001) Senator John Kerry (D-MA), an outspoken opponent of Bush’s foreign policies, says: “This is essentially a satisfy-your-base, political announcement. It serves no other purpose.” (Sanger 5/1/2001)
The US decides to oversee the removal of two nuclear weapons’ worth of nuclear material from the Vinca Institute in Serbia, part of a defunct Yugoslavian nuclear weapons program. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has cut funding for the government’s nuclear nonproliferation programs so drastically (see January 10, 2001 and After) that it is forced to rely on the efforts of a private foundation. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), founded by former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn and media tycoon Ted Turner, contributes $5 million to the effort—double the funding contributed by the State Department. US and Serbian authorities, in conjunction with NTI, transport 5,000 rods of highly enriched uranium from the site, most likely to be stored at Russia’s Ulyanovsk Nuclear Processing Plant. “Serbia might have decided to sell this material to Iraq,” says national security expert Joseph Cirincione. “It’s a good thing for all of us that that possibility has now been eliminated.” When the operation is successfully concluded, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, whose department oversees the securing of “loose” nuclear material from around the world, learns of it through newspaper reports. (Nuclear Threat Initiative 8/23/2002; Dao 8/23/2002; Scoblic 2008, pp. 208)
The Patriot missile defense system, so famous from iconic video footage shot during the 1991 Gulf War (see Mid-1991), destroys a British Tornado jet fighter in mid-flight, killing both of its crew members. The Tornado is in friendly airspace, is alone, and had already completed its mission and released its weapons, when the Patriot mistakes the Tornado for an enemy missile and destroys it. US military spokesmen explain the incident as due to a “computer glitch.” Originally built to shoot down aircraft, its manufacturer, Raytheon, modified it just before the 1991 Gulf War to shoot down tactical ballistic missiles. When the Army deployed Patriot batteries in Iraq, the crews quickly realized there were problems with the system. The Tornado is just the first of an array of problems manifested by the Patriot. The Tornado’s mission should have gone smoothly, according to retired Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason, who will advise an upcoming British Parliamentary inquiry into the shoot down. “They had fulfilled their mission and they were returning without weapons back to base.”
US Officials Misleading British? - Mason does not believe the Army’s “computer glitch” story. “If the system is confusing missiles with planes, that is just not just a minor glitch. The two are so different, that it’s difficult really to imagine a system could do that.” One of the biggest problems with the Patriot system is that it is completely automated: it tracks airborne objects, identifies them, decides whether or not to fire, and, if its operator does not override the machine in a very few seconds, fires. Reporter Robert Riggs, embedded with a Patriot battery, will recall, “This was like a bad science fiction movie in which the computer starts creating false targets. And you have the operators of the system wondering is this a figment of a computer’s imagination or is this real. They were seeing what were called spurious targets that were identified as incoming tactical ballistic missiles. Sometimes, they didn’t exist at all in time and space. Other times, they were identifying friendly US aircraft as incoming TBMs.” A US Army report will find that “various Patriot locations throughout the theater” routinely identify “spurious TBMs”—tactical ballistic missiles that didn’t exist. Most of the time, the Patriot computers correct the mistake on their own. Sometimes, they do not. Riggs will recall, “We were in one of the command posts. And I walked in and all the operators and officers are focused intently on their screens. And so you know something’s going on here. And suddenly the door flies open, and a Raytheon tech representative runs in and says, ‘Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!’ Well, that got our attention real quick.”
Systematic Problems - Two days later, a US F-16 destroys a Patriot battery that mistakenly targeted it (see March 25, 2003). Eight days after that, a US Navy pilot dies when Patriot missile fire destroys his plane (see April 2, 2003). Reporters find that the Patriot has had systematic problems in identifying friendly and hostile targets since 1991 (see June 27, 2003). (Carter 2004, pp. 52; CBS News 6/27/2004)
Two days after a British Tornado fighter plane is shot down by a US Patriot anti-aircraft missile battery (see March 23-April 2, 2003), a US F-16 pilot is “painted” by what he believes is an enemy missile system. He fires his own missile in self-defense, destroying, not an Iraqi installation, but a Patriot battery. Former Congressional investigator Joseph Cironcione will say of the Tornado and F-16 incidents, “There was no way that Patriot system should have still been up and running, targeting aircraft. They should have stood down, knowing that they had a fatal problem on their hands.” (CBS News 6/27/2004)
The destruction of a British Tornado fighter plane by a US Patriot anti-missile battery (see March 23-April 2, 2003) and other similar incidents (see March 25, 2003 and April 2, 2003) prompt former Congressional investigator Joseph Cironcione to tell reporters that the Army has known of the problems with the Patriot since at least 1991, when Congress tapped him to lead an investigation of the Patriot’s performance (see Mid-1991). But, Cirincione will observe, the media impact of Patriot footage was apparently more important than its actual performance. “I saw the pictures. I thought this is amazing. This system is exceeding expectations,” Cirincione will recall of the Gulf War footage broadcast on CNN and other television networks. “And all during the war, that’s what I thought. This was what all the newscasters said it was—a Scud buster, a miracle weapon. … A lot of money started flowing into the Patriot right after the Gulf War, because everybody thought it was a success.” Cirincione discovered that the Patriot had a dismal record: “The best evidence that we found supports between two and four intercepts out of 44. About a 10 percent success rate.” In 2001, the Army finally admitted that the Patriot was not the ringing success it had claimed. And by that time, the new problem—targeting friendly aircraft as enemies—was becoming evident. A 1996 Pentagon report found that the Patriot had “very high fratricide levels.” Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Philip Coyle, who oversaw Patriot testing from 1994 through 2001, says the Army should have been aware of the problem. “I believe they were,” he will recall in 2004. “But the focus was on hitting a target. Other issues, such as friendly fire, didn’t get the same—either spending, or priority, as the first priority of hitting a target.” Cirincione agrees. “There’s a tendency in all our weapons systems to try to play up the good news and get it through its performance evaluations, and then try to fix the problems later on.… They think that it’s a problem with the system that they can fix down the line.” Those problems were never addressed, but the Army deployed Patriot batteries in Iraq anyway. Cirincione will add, “What’s so disheartening about this is the very things we warned about came to pass in this war. It’s clear that the failure to correct some of the problems that we’ve known about for 10, 12 years led to soldiers dying needlessly. To flyers, dying needlessly.” As of mid-2004, the Army had produced no reports explaining the friendly fire incidents. (Carter 2004, pp. 52; CBS News 6/27/2004)
The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) visits the Nasr munitions plant where the Iraqis used to manufacture 81mm artillery rockets. The plant’s inventory includes a large supply of 81mm aluminum tubes. ISG investigators conclude that the aluminum tubes confiscated in Jordan two years earlier (see July 2001) had been purchased by the Iraqis for use as artillery rocket bodies, not centrifuge rotors as alleged by the Bush administration. As reporters Michael Isikoff and David Corn will explain in their book Hubris, “ISG investigators questioned the Iraqi plant managers. They also interrogated the senior official who had overseen Saddam’s military industrial commission. All the Iraqis told a consistent story: the rockets had been falling short. The problem was the propellant. But changing the propellant—the obvious solution—wasn’t an option. The propellant was produced at a facility run by a friend of one of Saddam’s sons. So to avoid interfering with the flow of business to a regime crony, the engineers devised a Rube Goldberg solution: lower the mass of the rockets and use tubes that had a higher strength than otherwise necessary, that was why the Iraqis had been using the Internet to procure tubes with unusually precise specifications (The whole thing reminded [David] Kay of some of the Pentagon’s own procurement messes.) ‘We had this down,’ Kay later said. ‘The system was corrupt.’” Kay will also say of the tubes fiasco, “The tubes issue was an absolute fraud.” (Isikoff and Corn 2006, pp. 306-307) Some observers find it telling that US forces never attempted to secure the Nasr facility or its inventory of tubes. “They’re not acting as if they take their own analysis seriously,” Joseph Cirincione, director of the nonproliferation project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will later tell the Washington Post. “If they were so worried about these tubes, that would be the kind of sensitive equipment you’d think the administration would want to seize, to prevent it from going somewhere else—Iran, Syria, Egypt.” (Gellman 10/26/2003)
The nonpartisan Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) releases a comprehensive study called WMD in Iraq: Evidence and Implications, written by Joseph Cirincione, the director of CEIP’s Nonproliferation Project; Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of CEIP; and George Perkovich, vice president for global security and economic development studies at CEIP. The study takes a critical look at the arguments used by the Bush administration to support the claim Iraq had WMDs. Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean writes: “All of their key assertions are examined in detail and found to be wanting. Established evidence is lined up in charts beside the assertions of Bush-Cheney, making the administration’s dishonesty obvious.” The study finds that the administration “systematically misrepresented the threat from Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile program”; conflated bits of evidence of pre-1991 weapons programs into arguments that Iraq had viable and growing WMD programs; distorted intelligence findings by “routinely dropping caveats, probabilities, and expressions of uncertainty”; and “misrepresent[ed UN] inspectors’ findings in ways that turned threats from minor to dire.” Despite the study’s precision, it is all but ignored by the mainstream media. (Dean 2004, pp. 139-140; Cirincione et al. 8/2004)
Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that the US has intelligence showing Iran’s active pursuit of a nuclear warhead. The evidence, Powell says, documents Iran’s attempt to adapt ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear payloads. He says: “I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems.… You don’t have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon.… I’m not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead; I’m talking about what one does with a warhead.” Powell does not claim that Iran has the nuclear material—enriched uranium—to actually construct a bomb. “I’m talking about information that says they not only have these missiles, but I am aware of information that suggests that they were working hard as to how to put the two together.… There is no doubt in my mind—and it’s fairly straightforward from what we’ve been saying for years—that they have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, meaning that it is something they would be able to deliver, not just something that sits there.”
Implication - Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that Powell is implying that Iran is trying to reduce the size of a nuclear warhead to fit on one of its ballistic missiles, a difficult task. “Powell appears to be saying the Iranians are working very hard on this capability,” Cirincione says. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said just days before that it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work, Cirincione notes. The Bush administration is likely to press for sanctions from the UN. Powell says that the US will monitor international verification efforts in Iran “with necessary and deserved caution because for 20 years the Iranians have been trying to hide things from the international community.” (Wright and Richburg 11/18/2004)
Claims Said to Be Unverified - A day later, US officials say Powell’s claims are unverified, and come from a single, unvetted source that has not yet checked out. The single source is an Iranian citizen who approached US intelligence officials with a laptop computer crammed with documents and sketches purporting to be from Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 2004). Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed on the laptop revelations last week, and though it was stamped “No Foreign,” meaning it was not to be shared with any foreign nations, President Bush decided to share some of the information with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Administration officials tell diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany that Powell misspoke in alluding to the laptop intelligence. Powell’s office says Powell stands by his remarks. (Linzer 11/19/2004)
US intelligence officials meet with the leaders of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna and reveal the contents of what they say is a stolen Iranian laptop computer. The laptop contains over a thousand pages of documents describing Iranian computer simulations and results of experimental results that the US officials say show a long-term Iranian effort to design a nuclear weapon (see Summer 2004). The documents do not prove that Iran has a nuclear weapon at this time, the Americans acknowledge, but say that the documents are powerful evidence that Iran, despite its denials, is actively developing a nuclear weapon that can fit atop its Shahab III ballistic missile. That missile can reach Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. The briefing, which includes IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei, is a secret part of a US campaign to bring international pressure to bear on Iran. Some countries, such as Britain, France, and Germany, have known of the documents for over a year, and have been convinced of their accuracy. Other countries unaware of the documents are not so willing to go along with the US campaign. Foreign analysts, unable to peruse the documents for themselves because of the unwillingness of the US to provide the actual documents, have not been willing to conclude that the documents are real. One European diplomat says, “I can fabricate that data. It looks beautiful, but is open to doubt.” However, IAEA analysts find the documents credible evidence of Iran’s progress with nuclear weapons. “They’ve worked problems that you don’t do unless you’re very serious,” says a European arms official. “This stuff is deadly serious.” (Broad and Sanger 11/13/2005)
Two former CIA officials directly involved in producing intelligence estimates on Iran’s nuclear program (see August 2, 2005) say that the Bush administration’s policy of threatening to use military force against Iran is a driving force behind that nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran is fearful of such an attack, the two officials say, and therefore wants nuclear weapons as a way to divert such a threat. Paul Pillar, who managed the writing of all NIEs on Iran from 2000 through 2005 as the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, says, “Iranian perceptions of threat, especially from the United States and Israel, were not the only factor, but were in our judgment part of what drove whatever effort they were making to build nuclear weapons.” Had the US tried to reassure Iran on its security fears, Pillar says, that would have had a significant effect on Iranian policies. Iran has made several diplomatic overtures to the US since 2003 (see May 4, 2003), Pillar says, that have not been reciprocated by the Bush administration. While Iran wishes to be the “dominant regional superpower” in the Middle East, the NIEs state, it is not pursuing that aspiration by means that would jeopardize the possibility of thawed relations with the US. According to Ellen Laipson, who managed several NIEs on Iran as national intelligence officer for the Near East from 1990 through 1993, and closely followed others as vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council from 1997 to 2002, says the Iranian fear of a US attack has long been “a standard element” in NIEs on Iran. Laipson is “virtually certain the estimates linked Iran’s threat perceptions to its nuclear program.” The 1991 Gulf War heightened fears of US attacks on Iran, Laipson says, and the recent belligerence of the Bush administration have again agitated Iran’s rulers. Iran’s 2002 listing as one of seven countries that might be targeted by US nuclear weapons, and President Bush’s 2002 naming of Iran as a member of the so-called “axis of evil” (see January 29, 2002), further heightened Iranian fears of a US strike. In return, Iran has tried to counterbalance that threat with the threat of its own nuclear weapons as well as attempts to shore up relations with the US. Non-proliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that US attempts to ease Iran’s fears would go a long way to convincing Iran to give up its nuclear program. “No nation has ever been coerced into giving up a nuclear program,” Cirincione says, “but many have been convinced to do so by the disappearance of the threat.” He cites the examples of three former Soviet republics, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Libya as nations who gave up their nuclear ambitions after fundamental international or internal changes eliminated the security threats that were driving their nuclear weapons programs. (Porter 2/10/2006)
Donald Rumsfeld resigns as US defense secretary. On November 6, he writes a letter telling President Bush of his resignation. Bush reads the letter the next day, which is also the date for midterm elections in the US, in which the Democratic Party wins majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Bush publicly announces the resignation the next day. No explanation is given for the delay in making the announcement. (Roberts 8/15/2007)
Replaced by Gates - Rumsfeld is formally replaced by Robert Gates on December 18, 2006. According to a retired general who worked closely with the first Bush administration, the Gates nomination means that George H.W. Bush, his close political advisers—Brent Scowcroft, James Baker—and the current President Bush are saying that “winning the 2008 election is more important than any individual. The issue for them is how to preserve the Republican agenda. The Old Guard wants to isolate Cheney and give their girl, Condoleezza Rice, a chance to perform.” It takes Scowcroft, Baker, and the elder Bush working together to oppose Cheney, the general says. “One guy can’t do it.” Other sources close to the Bush family say that the choice of Gates to replace Rumsfeld is more complex than the general describes, and any “victory” by the “Old Guard” may be illusory. A former senior intelligence official asks rhetorically: “A week before the election, the Republicans were saying that a Democratic victory was the seed of American retreat, and now Bush and Cheney are going to change their national security policies? Cheney knew this was coming. Dropping Rummy after the election looked like a conciliatory move—‘You’re right, Democrats. We got a new guy and we’re looking at all the options. Nothing is ruled out.’” In reality, the former official says, Gates is being brought in to give the White House the credibility it needs in continuing its policies towards Iran and Iraq.
New Approach towards Iran? - Gates also has more credibility with Congress than Rumsfeld, a valuable asset if Gates needs to tell Congress that Iran’s nuclear program poses an imminent threat. “He’s not the guy who told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and he’ll be taken seriously by Congress.” Joseph Cirincione, a national security director for the Center for American Progress, warns: “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there [in the White House] and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell—the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.” (Hersh 11/27/2006)
Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says of the newly released National Intelligence Estimate on Iran (see December 3, 2007): “What is happening is that foreign policy has swung back to the grown-ups. We are watching the collapse of the Bush doctrine in real time. The neoconservatives are howling (see December 3-6, 2007) because they know their influence is waning.” (MacAskill 12/8/2007)
White House officials give the press a broad outline of President Obama’s ambitious arms-control agenda. Obama’s plan calls for dramatic cuts in both US and Russian nuclear arsenals, an end to a Bush administration plan for a more advanced nuclear warhead, the ratification of a global treaty banning underground nuclear testing, and a worldwide ban on the production of nuclear weapons material. The long-term goal, officials say, is “a world without nuclear weapons” in which the US leads by example. Obama’s plans are striking departures from the Bush administration agenda, which had little use for arms-control treaties (see May 24, 2002 and Late May 2005) and pulled out entirely from the anti-ballistic missile treaty with Russia (see December 13, 2001). Obama has said his plans are based in part on the work of the bipartisan Nuclear Security Project, headed by former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, former Clinton administration Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Republican Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz.
Criticism - Some conservative organizations and members of the national security community warn that Obama’s proposals could weaken US security. Henry Sokolski, a member of the bipartisan US Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism and an advocate of limited arms reduction, says: “This brave new, nuclear world may be anything but peaceful. As the qualitative and quantitative differences between nuclear weapons states become smaller, rivalries are likely to become much more dangerous.” The Heritage Foundation’s Baker Strang says of the Obama administration: “The problem is that they are betting the physical survival of the US on nothing more than the hope that other nuclear-armed states and any states or non-state actors that join the nuclear club will follow suit by disarming. This gamble involves the highest possible stakes and has an exceedingly low likelihood of success.” And neoconservative Frank Gaffney, a Defense Department official during the Reagan administration and president of the Center for Security Policy, says, “Every other declared nuclear weapon state is modernizing its stockpile and the most dangerous wannabes—North Korea and Iran—are building up their offensive missile capabilities and acquiring as quickly as possible the arms to go atop them.” Obama may also face opposition from within his Cabinet; Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican holdover from the Bush administration, wants to implement the Reliable Replacement Warhead program (see January 26, 2009), a nuclear warhead replacement program that Obama opposes.
Support - Obama’s plan has strong support among Congressional Democrats: Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who heads the House subcommittee overseeing US nuclear forces, says that reducing US and Russian arsenals, negotiating a treaty to end production of new nuclear weapons material, and ratifying the test ban pact “are all achievable goals. The debate is at a point where it is a question about when we achieve these goals, not if,” she says. Ultimately, achieving Obama’s goals will be difficult, says nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “It is going to require a herculean effort,” he says. “It is completely doable, but it will require the sustained attention of the president himself.” (Bender 2/22/2009)
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