"Itâ€™s a fairly radical new way of thinking," declared Linton Brooks of the National Nuclear Security Administration after the passage of most of the Bush administrationâ€™s proposed new nuclear policy and funding agenda in the 2003 Energy Bill. "We essentially got what we wanted," the Bush appointee chortled. Brooks described the Republican-controlled Congressâ€™ acceptance of the Bush nuclear doctrine as a "fundamental shift" in nuclear policy. Brooks lauded the move from test bans and non-proliferation to the development of a new generation of weapons and planning for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.
Included in the funding package, according to Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (CACN), was $49.3 million for "mini-nukes" and testing programs: $7.5 million was earmarked for development of the "bunker buster," $6 million for studying other "low-yield" weapons, $10.8 million for "modern pit" manufacturing facilities, and about $25 million for testing preparations. (A "modern pit" is the basic nuclear core material of an atomic weapon in storage.) Another $700 million was allocated for manufacturing new pits, storing tritium, and updating nuclear production and maintenance facilities
On the heels of this success the Bush administration proposed additional funding increases in its 2005 budget, more than doubling the spending on a "mini-nuke" program. Additionally, the administration called for $4 billion for building a new "modern pit" production facility "able to produce 125 - 450 plutonium pits per year," says the CACN. Sources also say that Bush will be asking for almost $500 million, over five years, for research on its "bunker buster" bombs. While these proposals have currently bogged down, if Bush administration and a Republican dominated Congress maintain power after the November election, we can expect to see a renewed blitz to pass them.
Linton Brooks was correct. Bushâ€™s nuclear policy represented a qualitative shift from how past administrations regarded the use of the nuclear arsenal. While Bush claims an expanded nuclear policy is necessary to conduct a "war on terrorism," it is clear that this line is only a cover for a policy the far right has pursued openly since the 1990s. As early as 1990, then Pentagon chief Dick Cheney sought to skirt test bans and "to integrate the possible use of nuclear weapons to respond to biological or chemical attacks." George H.W. Bush hinted his support for a new policy by openly opposing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on his last day in office in 1993. In 1999 Senate Republicans rejected the CTBT signed by
By 2000, however, Republican Senators John Warner and Wayne Allard pushed a "provision to allow initial development studies on a nuclear weapon with an explosive yield of less than five kilotons," according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Warner-Allard initiative overturned a 1994 law banning "undertaking research and development that could lead to a precision nuclear weapon" or "mini-nuke." Even then, Republicans sought the development of nuclear weapons "intended not to deter a potential enemy but for use in small, regional wars."
Production for use was now on the agenda. With Bushâ€™s selection as president in 2000, this nuclear agenda moved from doctored commission reports and Senate hearings to the Pentagon and the White House. While many Democrats, including
In the early months of his administration, Bush took steps to separate the
Within two months after September 11th, the Bush administration signaled a shift in its rationale for opposing the CTBT. The administration boycotted a UN conference that November promoting the treaty, saying that banning testing would undermine "the safety and reliability of
Under this public shift in policy rationale, a more closely guarded policy was being developed in the bowels of the Pentagon and the White House. While usable nuclear weapons as Bush administration policy predated September 11th, the terrorist attacks temporarily gave the concept a much-needed boost. The Bush administrationâ€™s nuclear policy first received concrete expression in an initially secret document called the Nuclear Posture Review (not released until January 2002). The NPR was developed in the first year of Bush term â€“ not just in the weeks after September 11th. The administrationâ€™s NPR relied heavily on a report originally published in January of 2001 by the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP), whose board of advisors includes former advisers to the Reagan administration and a Boeing officer whose specialty is missile defense. NIPPâ€™s reports are published in such far-right periodicals as National Review and the Washington Times.
Low-yield nukes, bunker busters, the administrationâ€™s problems with testing bans and other non-proliferation treaties, expanded research and production facilities, citation of Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, China, and Russia as potential nuclear targets and expanding the "scale, scope, and purpose" of nuclear strike capabilities were hot topics. Most significant was that the NPR lumped conventional and nuclear weapons together in potential first-strike scenarios. One report produced for the Congressional Research Service said that the administrationâ€™s NPR "has grouped nuclear weapons and conventional weapons together as â€˜offensive strike weapons.â€™ It argues that the ability to use conventional weapons would reduce reliance on nuclear weapons. But by grouping the two together, in one interpretation, the Administrationâ€™s policy could begin to blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons and increase the likelihood of nuclear use." Further the NPR opened the possibility of using nuclear weapons against countries that did not possess nuclear weapons.
The administration broadened the list of potential country targets to include those which might use and weapons of mass destruction later in 2002 with its National Security Presidential Directive-17 (NSPD-17). Geared specifically toward mobilizing the military and public opinion for the "war on terror," a potential permanent war with the "axis of evil," and the ultimate goal of an invasion of
His call for developing new weapons and new production facilities for new and old weapons contradict Bushâ€™s claim that the main goal is non-proliferation and reduction of the arsenal. Currently, according to the NPR and other sources, the
The international community is deeply concerned with or opposed to the Bush administrationâ€™s new nuclear policy. Certainly countries that have been named as immediate potential targets have few reasons to disarm or avoid developing stockpiles. In addition to objections from expected quarters, however, friendly countries have raised serious concerns and criticisms.
From right to left politically, expert opinion has highlighted the danger of Bushâ€™s nuclear policy. While Republicans expressed little or no opposition to the NPR after the September 11th attacks, more recently dissent has appeared in their ranks. After the passage of the 2003 Energy bill that included funding for new nuclear testing and research, some congressional Republicans expressed concern about the
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 2002, Carnegie Non-Proliferation Project Director Joseph Cirincione called the NPR a "deeply flawed document" that "could cause irreparable harm to the national security of the
A report by the Center for Defense Information forcefully pointed out major contradictions. The administrationâ€™s 2005 budget proposal, it said, would massively underfund international non-proliferation programs by about $2 billion while calling for huge increases in new nuclear programs here. The spending on non-proliferation programs that Bush did propose "is mitigated," the report continued, "by funding put into new nuclear weapons programs, as other countries will be less likely to cooperate with the
After winning funding for its new nuclear policy, the next obstacles are the international treaties that restrain full-scale launching of the new program. Withdrawing from the ABM treaty and boycotting the conference on the CTBT and refusing to seek its ratification were politically easy enough. Next is the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Bush administrationâ€™s policy may have already wrecked the NPT in effect. In 2002 CACN echoed other critics saying that the NPR "undermined" the NPT and countries that have agreed to NPTâ€™s restrictions may feel obliged to "abandon the treaty in the face of a
In fact, last May a preparatory meeting (called PrepCom) for the NPTâ€™s routine five-year conference ended in "dissensionâ€¦dimming hopes" for continued "international consensus" on the treatyâ€™s future, according to a report by the Arms Control Association (ACA). At this meeting,
The U.S. obsession with Iran was countered by the "[non-aligned movement] states and other delegations, such as the seven members of the New Agenda Coalition â€“ Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, and Mexico." According to the ACA report, "These states made clear their belief that the slow pace of disarmament by the five nuclear-weapon states, most pointedly the
Notwithstanding the State Department supportive pronouncements, the Bush administrationâ€™s commitment to the NPT is waning (if it even exists). While it seeks to use the treaty to enforce inspections in and disarmament of states like
A reelected Bush administration will try to push the NPT into extinction. The only feasible alternative scenario is replacing the Bush administration with an administration that is committed to NPTâ€™s original goals. Without "regime change," aggressive confrontations with nuclear and non-nuclear powers that object to the