National Security

The Nuclear Posture Review Brings Military Readiness

Trump's new policies set a welcome course after eight years of Obama's malfeasance.

Todd Johnson · Feb. 6, 2018

The release of a new nuclear posture is the latest initiative by President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis to revive a Department of Defense capability that, in the words of one senior official, needs to be updated to meet a “challenging and dynamic security environment.”

The 74-page nuclear posture document, the first since 2010, reflects the administration’s attempt to deal with “a more diverse and advanced nuclear-threat environment than ever before, with considerable dynamism in potential adversaries’ development and deployment programs for nuclear weapons and delivery systems.”

More importantly, it’s a rebuke of Barack Obama’s dangerous approach. Obama’s flawed policy choice, which was essentially predicated on the United States dismantling nuclear capability and hoping that adversaries would follow suit, has resulted in the U.S. military having fewer nuclear weapons than during any other post-Cold War presidency. To some people, having fewer weapons would be a positive development, but the results tell a different story.

According to Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, “Over the past decade, while the United States has led the world in these reductions, every one of our potential nuclear adversaries has been pursuing the exact opposite strategy.”

Both Russian and Chinese leadership, as well as China’s puppet Kim Jung-un in North Korea, have viewed the United States nuclear policy over the last 10 years as being impotent and they have used this period of time to bolster the numbers and types of weapons in their respective arsenals. And while it’s extremely unlikely that Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping would ever order a “first strike” against the U.S., the rogue state of North Korea is a different story.

Even the casual observer of world events can’t help but wonder if Kim and his minions are in the closing stages of developing a weapon that can touch American sovereign territory. Just a few days ago CIA Director Mike Pompeo predicted that North Korea will be capable of striking the U.S. with a nuclear weapon within a handful of months.

President Trump’s message to North Korea and the world during his State of the Union address about nuclear weapons couldn’t have been any clearer: “Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this very dangerous position.”

That’s just one reason why the new nuclear posture release couldn’t be timelier.

The posture document clearly states, “This review calls for the diverse set of nuclear capabilities that provides an American President flexibility to tailor the approach to deterring one or more potential adversaries in different circumstances.” Predictably, some arms-control advocates immediately castigated the report, but they are missing the point of why Trump is supporting these audacious policies. He believes that American military firepower can be a powerful tool in getting antagonistic nations to comply with global norms.

The administration’s policy papers over the last few weeks, from the National Defense Strategy to the Nuclear Posture Review, show extreme clarity of thought and a theme of resoluteness. Only time will tell if North Korea will continue to engage in more provocative behavior in the Pacific region, but Trump and his defense team are ready to engage if needed. That’s not only good for the United States but the global community as a whole.

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