"Give Us $1 Billion Or Else...
-Letter delivered to U.S. Congress, July 2007
Evil Bald Madman With Evil Bald Cat?
How about the Secretaries of Energy, Defense, and State? It's a whole new strategy - and the only way to get Republicans elected in 2008.
Stay with me here.
Basically, the story is this: in 2004, a subsection of the joint military calling itself Advanced Concepts proposed a $1,316,936,000 bill for direct stockpile work - that would be maintaining the nuclear warheads that are now in service in the United States. The idea was to reduce the total number of warheads not by reducing missile weight and improving delivery systems, as is the current trend in research: instead, they wanted to improve the accuracy and payload delivery reliability by totally rebuilding the warheads themselves.
Now, if this works, the number of missiles that will be needed will be reduced dramatically, down to about 2,000 from the 6,000 currently resting tranquilly in silos. As well, the thrust of the development would be to make the warheads "dependable for a long time".
All well and good: the bill passed in the House of Representatives 416-13. Now it's come to Congress, and there are a couple questions yet to be answered that frankly aren't covered in the (as Arms Control Wonk calls it) "thin gruel" of the presented paper. A couple biggies that Congress might want to ask could be:
1) Isn't Star Wars supposed to save us all?
2) So, now that relations with North Korea are finally back to pre-2001 levels, relations with Russia are turning back to pre-1990 levels, and Iran as touchy as ever with the president using religious fundamentalism to stymie human rights advances, is now really the right time to open a whole new chapter in nuclear weapons research? Just asking.
And in that second question lies the biggest problem: will other nations consider this the development of a new nuclear weapon? If so, it breaks the non-proliferation treaty agreed to in 1992, and will lead to other nations pursuing their own programs, enemies and allies alike.
This is, to put it bluntly, not a good thing.
Eventually, these missiles are going to need replacing: according to the JASON group's findings, published in January,
"The Level 1 Milestone Report should indicate that the primaries of
most weapons system types in the stockpile have credible minimum
lifetimes in excess of 100 years and that the intrinsic lifetime of Pu in
the pits is greater than a century. Each physical effect on the lifetime
of selected systems should be calculated and explicitly reported. The
report should emphasize the need to manage margins."
So in about 100 years - the oldest of these weapon systems is 40 years - there is still no chance of a breakdown.
Is this a sensible risk, then? The Federation of American Scientists doesn't think so (both in long form and short).
So what's being offered in return? Simply put, the Three Amigos are threatening that if the funding doesn't got through for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program,
"Delays on RRW also raise the prospect of having to return to underground nuclear testing to certify existing weapons."
Yup. Back to nuclear testing, something the U.S. hasn't done since 1992. I invite you to picture the response by North Korea, Iran and Russia, among other interested parties.
So that's it: the strategy by the current white house is to tap in to the fetishistic Reagan Worship still visible in certain quarters or the Republican Party - they're going to recreate the Cold War!
That, at least, was a war they could win.