President Donald Trump did not talk about nuclear weapons very much on the campaign trail (though he has tweeted about them a few times). But now that he is in the Oval Office and has seen reports on America’s nuclear capabilities, he has had a lot more to say on the matter.
In an interview with Reuters this week, when asked about America’s nuclear capabilities, Trump stated that America has “fallen behind” when it came to nuclear weapons.
“We’ve fallen behind on nuclear capacity,” Trump stated. “I am the first one that would like to see … nobody have nukes. But, we’re never going to fall behind any country … on nuclear power.”
“A dream would be that no country would have nukes,” Trump stated. “But if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) February 24, 2017
Trump is both 100 percent right, and 100 percent wrong at the same time with that statement.
He’s right that America should always be at the top when it comes to nuclear capabilities. That is the only way that nuclear deterrence will ever be effective — if other countries understand that we have more nuclear weapons than anyone else.
Nuclear deterrence, boiled down to its basics, only works if one side believes that the other side has sufficient nuclear weapons that could both survive a “first strike” and then be used in a retaliation against the attacking country or countries.
In theory, neither side (say for example the United States and Russia) would be willing to carry out a first strike with nuclear weapons if it believed that the other side would be able to retaliate with enough force to cause similar destruction.
Trump is wrong, however, if he really thinks the world would be better off without nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons, while terrifying — or perhaps because they are terrifying — have kept the world safe for decades.
Since the development of nuclear weapons, there has not been a single major-power war in the world. Before nuclear weapons, the world (or in most cases Europe) was fighting major-power wars every 30 years or so, culminating in the two worst wars of all time: World War I and World War II.
Without nuclear weapons, Russia likely wouldn’t hesitate to invade Europe, China would start to make even more aggressive moves in the Asian region and the world would quickly fall apart.
Nuclear deterrence is a powerful strategy, but it only works if America can lead the world in nuclear weapons. Trump should put aside the nuclear-zero sentiments that went out of style in the 1980s and just focus on making America’s nuclear arsenal great again.
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H/T The Right Scoop