Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 9, 2012

Anniversary of a nuclear security paradigm shift

Filed under: Catastrophes,Radiological & Nuclear Threats,Strategy — by Arnold Bogis on January 9, 2012

Last Wednesday, January 4 marked the five year anniversary of the landmark Wall Street Journal op-ed, “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons:”

Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America’s moral heritage. The effort could have a profoundly positive impact on the security of future generations. Without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent. Without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible.

We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal, beginning with the measures outlined above.

The bi-partisan authors of these words, referred to in arms control circles as “The Four Horsemen,” are not traditional peace activists or long-time nuclear abolitionists.  Instead, their identity as realists, hawks, and Cold War warriors is what lent such weight to the argument for nuclear zero:

Mr. Shultz, a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, was secretary of state from 1982 to 1989. Mr. Perry was secretary of defense from 1994 to 1997. Mr. Kissinger, chairman of Kissinger Associates, was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. Mr. Nunn is former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The desire to rid the world of nuclear bombs is nearly as old as the weapons themselves. What was new about this particular call was not simply the sketch of concrete steps that could be taken at the beginning of such a journey, but the gravitas of the messengers.  In the abstract it seems almost silly to think that such ideas cannot inhabit a respected space in the relevant conversation without a blessing from above, but at the same time these “wise men” provided the rhetorical room for such a conversation to expand from a minority view to a wide-ranging debate across the foreign policy, international security, and defense worlds.

What does this have to do with homeland security?  There is the obvious impact that comes with a reduced reliance on nuclear weapons that includes a reduced risk of nuclear terrorism, accidental launch, and war with all it’s worldwide implications.  However, reference to this particular anniversary in other venues made me both appreciate the potential coercive power of such an opinion piece and made me wonder if there had been anythings similar in the homeland security sphere. If not, as I suspect, what could have a comparable effect?

Stephen Flynn and the idea of “resilience” is the only candidate that springs to mind.  Yet it introduced a new concept, one which in my opinion has been twisted into various shapes to fit various needs and definitions.  The Four Horsemen did not conjure a “world without nuclear weapons” out of nothingness, but instead by lending their voices to a relatively marginalized idea shifted the terms of conversation and analysis on which nuclear policy is grounded. Perhaps a true paradigm shift.

Are there possible candidates, authors and topics, in what is considered “homeland security” that could result in such a radical shift?

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Comment by bellavita

January 10, 2012 @ 12:24 am

Arnold — One set of ideas I’ve been working on that have (for me) at least the seeds of a shift similar to the one you wrote about is found in the National Strategic Narrative, by Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby. I’ve alluded to that Narrative several times on the blog, but the more I hear Porter talk about it, the more I see in it. I think it’s worth paying attention to. http://onpoint.wbur.org/2011/04/26/pentagon-security

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 10, 2012 @ 12:28 am

Great post and comment! One of the main problems with the world of nuclear arms is that it is rather arcane and defended by a priesthood that often does not understand the implications of what it does. For example, both the concepts of MAD [mutual assured destruction] still in place as USA strategic doctrine and even NUCLEAR WINTER and EMP are not well covered by those knowledgable in policy circles. Personally I believe the writings of Retired 4-Star AF General Lee Butler are the most informative on these issues.

Comment by Alan Wolfe

January 10, 2012 @ 7:46 am

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace”

Okay, now I’m going to live in the real world, where there are threats and countries that aren’t giving up nuclear weapons. There is a parallel here – the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have no practical way to achieve their end-state, and people championing “resiliency” also have no practical way to get to that end-state.

I will posit that we will never even get within a country mile of “Global Zero” and we as a nation will never achieve resiliency as long as our state and national governments are in a budget-constrained, no new growth, “kill government spending” mentality. Not gonna happen, even though there are good arguments for both.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 10, 2012 @ 11:47 am

Alan respectfully disagree. If governments were honest they would tell their citizens that there is absolutely no military usage for nuclear weapons. They prefer however to let the nuclear priestood continue to undermine democracy.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 12, 2012 @ 10:16 am

The NTI [Nuclear Threat Initiative] an organization started by former Senator Sam Nunn and the Economist Intel section have produced a report describing nuclear surety and safeguards efforts of the 34 countries that have access or can produce special nuclear materials–those leading to or for making a bomb.

Very interesting reading. Long ago, a close friend now long deceased from a viral heart infection, told me in confidence [and he was a CIA BRANCH CHIEF] that if I thought the world was complicated then [1990] it would be much more complicated 40 years down the road when at least 30 nation-states had ballistic missile capability combined with bomb building skills. AS the
report indicates well on course for that prescient comment to be fulfilled. And the leading proliferator is of course historically and still the USA.
A fundamental flaw in US President’s policies and efforts since August 1945 efforts IMO!

Comment by Arnold Bogis

January 12, 2012 @ 5:26 pm


I can see the potential for a similar shift in the work you’ve highlighted. Though I think it would take a similar set of defense heavyweights to get behind it to kick start a more expansive discussion.

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