Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nuclear Deterrence, Except on Weekends

Gordon Brown is using logic on nuclear weapons that I do not understand. Maybe one of you can explain to me how this makes the world safer under any 21st century geopolitical nuclear theory.

The prime minister was to outline plans to cut the number of submarines from four to three at a special session of the U.N Security Council on September 24, his office confirmed.

But Brown added: "We are making no proposals at the moment about warheads."

"If we are serious about the ambition of a nuclear-free world we will need statesmanship, not brinkmanship," Brown was to tell the U.N. General Assembly in his speech, according to comments released by his office.

However, he was also to reaffirm Britain's commitment to maintaining an independent nuclear deterrent.
Unfortunately, our President shares in Gordon Brown's delusion by wasting time and resources discussing this supposed nuclear free world. I think I may disagree with Gordon Brown regarding what statesmanship and brinkmanship is in this situation though, because negotiations with an end of stopping nuclear weapons development by either North Korea or Iran is neither statesmanship or brinkmanship, because neither country is willing to give up the capability.

North Korea has the bomb, and Iran will have the bomb. If Gordon Brown and Barack Obama want to know what is required to stop Iran from getting the bomb, all they need to do is look at how George Bush dealt with Iraq on WMD. Nothing short of that type of effort stops Iran, so if another Gulf War isn't an appealing option, learn to accept the idea of an Iranian bomb. All this political happy talk of "tough/smart/strong/cunning" negotiations is about as intellectually convincing as the militant threat of air attack by Israel. Neither will be successful, unless Israel nukes the Persians.

But here is what I just do not understand. Isn't the entire point of a SSBN to insure that a country cannot be destroyed by nuclear weapons, because the SSBN hidden in the middle of the ocean somewhere can retaliate? If you can't maintain a persistent nuclear deterrent at sea all the time, then what exactly is the point? Does Gordon Brown believe that wars start with a phone call from the other guy saying "here we come?" Has any country that is not a democracy ever told another country they intend to attack?

Only Gordon Brown has the strategic vision to believe the nine-to-five working schedule applies to nuclear deterrence. The only way a SSBN is a successful capability is if it is always deployed, and never used. If a country can't meet those two criteria, then you don't have an actual strategy for SSBNs. I've read this argument, and I'm missing the compelling logic that explains how Britain can reduce the number of SSBNs and that will prompt others to follow their lead in reducing nuclear weapons globally.

If the Royal Navy can't build 4 SSBNs, they should build none. The Royal Navy needs a strategy where they can point to something and say "we do that great." Right now the Royal Navy points to their force and says "Can barely do everything but can do nothing well." Time for a new strategic plan if you ask me.

Just thinking out loud here, but the Royal Navy should look at all the low intensity 10% budget solutions the US Navy has been looking at. There are all of these amazing ideas, creative ideas on a low budget for expanding fleet numbers and building robust networks of green water naval forces that the US Navy rejects in favor of risk reduction.

The Royal Navy on the other hand is at the point where even the smallest stuff carries a huge risk, so why not take a risk on something intentionally? I note that taking risks with unconventional, unpredictable approaches is what China is doing, while the US Navy makes conventional, predictable decisions every time.

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