Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nuclear Testing Will Ensure the Credibility of Our Deterrent

I've been preparing a brief talk on arms control and nuclear proliferation for my afternoon lecture in world politics. Senator Jon Kyl's piece at today's Wall Street Journal is thus perfectly timed. See, "Why We Need to Test Nuclear Weapons":
President Barack Obama made history last month when he presided over the nuclear nonproliferation summit at the United Nations Security Council. Since nuclear proliferation is among the most pressing threats facing the world, one would have thought that the president would use the Sept. 24 summit to condemn the newly discovered uranium enrichment facility in Qom, Iran.

He did not. Instead he asked the Security Council to pass a nonbinding resolution stressing the urgency of global disarmament and arms-control treaties among the five permanent Security Council members. The resolution never mentioned Iran or North Korea.

Mr. Obama also said, on behalf of the U.S., that "We will move forward with the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty" (CTBT). This is a profound mistake, as a ban on testing nuclear weapons would jeopardize American national security. Ten years ago this month the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty, and the reasons for doing so are even stronger today.

The CTBT then, as now, does not define what it purports to ban, which is nuclear-weapons testing. This ambiguity leaves countries free to interpret the treaty (and act) as they see fit. Thus, if the U.S. ratified the treaty, it would be held to a different standard than other nations.

Another concern in 1999 was that clandestine nuclear tests could not be verified. That, too, is still the case. While the treaty has not entered into force, the world still uses the treaty's monitoring system (the CTBT Organizations International Monitoring System) to detect nuclear-weapons tests. But even when Pyongyang declared that it would conduct a nuclear-weapons test and announced where and when it would occur, this monitoring system failed to collect necessary radioactive gases and particulates to prove that a test had occurred.

The CTBT relies on 30 of 51 nations on its executive council—most of whom are not friendly to the U.S.—to agree that an illegal test has been conducted, and then to agree to inspect the facilities of the offending country (which can still be declared off-limits by that country). This enforcement mechanism is obviously unworkable.

But there's another defect in the CTBT. There were concerns a decade ago that the U.S. might be unable to safely and reliably maintain its own nuclear deterrent—and the nuclear umbrella that protects our allies such as Japan, Australia and South Korea —if it forever surrendered the right to test its weapons. Those concerns over aging and reliability have only grown. Last year, Paul Robinson, chairman emeritus of Sandia National Laboratory, testified before Congress that the reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons still cannot be guaranteed without testing them, despite more than a decade of investments in technological advancements.

Treaty proponents, nevertheless, believe the prospective benefit of ratification outweigh its risks and problems. And what, exactly, is the benefit of ratification?
More at the link.

A perfectly argued commentary (which, of course, won't get much traction with the arms control freaks ready to sell off American security to some amorphous multilateral "peace" consensus among academics and America's enemies.)