My Quiet Life My Quiet Life

WMDs

Fred Kaplan asks some good questions in Slate on Friday. These questions will be familiar to some of you. (Dennis Kucinich asks them just about every day.)

Measured in “real dollars” (that is, adjusting for inflation), this year’s spending on nuclear activities is equal to what Ronald Reagan spent at the height of the U.S.-Soviet standoff. It exceeds by over 50 percent the average annual sum ($4.2 billion) that the United States spent – again, in real dollars – throughout the four and a half decades of the Cold War.

There is no nuclear arms race going on now. The world no longer offers many suitable nuclear targets. President Bush is trying to persuade other nations – especially “rogue regimes” – to forgo their nuclear ambitions. Yet he is shoveling money to U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories as if the Soviet Union still existed and the Cold War still raged.

These are the findings of a virtually unnoticed report written by weapons analyst Christopher Paine, based on data from official budget documents, and released earlier this month by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report raises anew a question that always springs to mind after a close look at the U.S. military budget: What the hell is going on here? Specifically: Do we really need to be spending this kind of money on nuclear weapons? What role do nuclear weapons play in 21st-century military policy? How many weapons do we need, to deter what sort of attack or to hit what sorts of targets, with what level of confidence, for what strategic and tactical purposes?

These are questions that haven’t been seriously addressed in this country for 30 years. It may be time for a new look.

A new look? How about a new administration.