1997 Congressional Hearings
Special Weapons
Nuclear, Chemical, Biological and Missile


THE FUTURE OF NUCLEAR DETERRENCE




                  PREPARED STATEMENT OF RICHARD PERLE
             RESIDENT FELLOW, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE

                                HEARING
                               before the
                SUBCOMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL SECURITY,
                  PROLIFERATION, AND FEDERAL SERVICES
                                 of the
                              COMMITTEE ON
                          GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
                          UNITED STATES SENATE
                       ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
                              FIRST SESSION
                               __________

                           FEBRUARY 12, 1997


    Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to appear before the Subcommittee to 
comment on the future of nuclear deterrence. I spent more than a decade 
as a member of the staff of this Subcommittee and its predecessors 
under the chairmanship of Senator Henry M. Jackson. It was Scoop's view 
that this Subcommittee had an important contribution to make to 
international security and that it could do this best by exploring the 
intellectual underpinnings of our national security policy.
    I hope, Mr. Chairman, I may be permitted to digress long enough to 
remember a distinguished former staff director of this Subcommittee, 
Dorothy Fosdick, who died last week at the age of 83. Dorothy directed 
the Subcommittee staff for nearly 20 years and was its guiding force 
through hundreds of hearings like this one today. She was a 
tremendously energetic, intelligent and conscientious public servant 
who fought with skill and tenacity for American strength of purpose and 
of arms throughout the Cold War. Happily, she lived to see that titanic 
struggle end with the western victory to which she so abundantly 
contributed.
    One of the issues on which Dorothy--or Dickie as she was known 
throughout the Senate--worked long and hard was the subject of today's 
hearing, nuclear weapons. I have little doubt that she would have 
organized a hearing on today's subject out of a deep concern, which I 
share, that the United States not embrace, even as a long term goal, 
the objective of eliminating all nuclear weapons.
    Mr. Chairman, I have read the joint statement by my friend General 
Goodpaster and General Lee Butler. I've known General Goodpaster for 
many years and hold him in the highest regard. And while I know General 
Butler less well, I certainly credit his intelligence and experience. 
So it is despite my personal respect for these men that I disagree 
sharply with their advice as to the desirability of eliminating all 
nuclear weapons.
    They have made the judgment that our security would be enhanced by 
the elimination of all nuclear weapons. I believe, on the contrary, 
that our security would be profoundly undermined by the elimination of 
all nuclear weapons, even if agreements providing for this could be 
negotiated and universally ratified.
    In the real world there is no serious possibility of an agreement 
eliminating all nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Generals 
Goodpaster and Butler seem to recognize this when they say ``. . . the 
phased withdrawal and destruction of nuclear weapons from all 
countries' arsenals would take many years, probably decades, to 
accomplish.''
    But elsewhere in their joint statement, the generals acknowledge 
that ``No one can say today whether or when this final goal will prove 
feasible . . .'' Nevertheless, despite uncertainty about whether the 
course they recommend will prove feasible, they urge us to undertake 
now a serious commitment to it. I should have thought that embarking on 
a policy the feasibility of which cannot be shown is a most doubtful 
and risky way to shape our future security.
    Before outlining why I think it would be dangerous and unwise to 
embrace a goal of admitted uncertain feasibility but certain grave 
risks, let me say two things about a second statement with the same 
theme, issued by a long list of flag officers from several countries a 
day after the Goodpaster-Butler joint statement.
    This second statement is longer but no sounder. And unlike the 
Goodpaster-Butler statement, which is sincere but debatable, the second 
statement is tinged with hypocrisy reminiscent of the statements 
emanating from the ``peace'' movement of the Cold War. The ``Statement 
on Nuclear Weapons by International Generals and Admirals,'' which 
advocates immediate reductions in nuclear weapon stockpiles on the way 
to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons, has been signed, 
among others, by a number of very senior retired Russian officers, 
including the vice-chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee 
and the chairman of the Duma Defense Committee.
    Now, unless I am mistaken, the Duma has thus far refused to ratify 
the START II Treaty which calls for significant reductions in the U.S. 
and Russian nuclear arsenals--reductions that would leave in place 
numbers of weapons the signers of the statement consider ``exceedingly 
large.'' I would suggest that General Boris Gromov's time and that of 
his colleague General Lev Rokhlin might be profitably used to line up 
the votes in their Duma committees necessary to ratify START II rather 
than propagating high-sounding declarations about a nuclear-weapons 
free world.
    Second, while the statement is signed by generals and admirals from 
several countries, and appears to derive its authority from the 
military credentials of the signers, it is, like the statement from 
Generals Goodpaster and Butler, a political rather than a military 
utterance reflecting political rather than military judgments. In an 
effort to inflate the authority with which their political judgment 
will be received, the signers refer to their ``intimate and perhaps 
unique knowledge of the present security and insecurity of our 
countries and peoples.'' This is followed immediately by a flood of 
political judgments about the Cuban missile crisis, various treaties 
and U.N. actions, the efficacy and credibility of deterrence, the 
likely behavior of rogue states and terrorists, and the like.
    I go out of my way to mention this, Mr. Chairman, because officials 
responsible for nuclear weapons policy should not accord undue weight 
to the opinions of military men when they address topics that are 
quintessentially political in nature. This is true in general. It is 
doubly true when the stars are not on their uniforms, but in their 
eyes.
    Mr. Chairman, there are at least five important reasons why we 
should reject categorically and unapologetically the argument that the 
elimination of all nuclear weapons would be a wise goal for the United 
States.
    First, there is no way to verify compliance with a treaty banning 
all nuclear weapons. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not ever. The weapons are 
too small and the space in which they can be hidden too vast to allow 
for confident monitoring.
    Second, the elimination of our last remaining nuclear weapon, in 
light of the near certainty that others would cheat and hold some 
weapons back, would be an act of supreme folly. For what possible 
benefit would we be wise to take such a huge risk? If one or more 
nations did cheat we would, by a single wildly imprudent act, place 
this country in grave peril. No President, no prime minister, and 
certainly no dictator would ever do such a thing. Every state able to 
do so would cheat. But we--perhaps alone--would not. The United States 
would not undertake solemn treaty obligations, equal in force to the 
supreme law of our land, while secretly carrying out violations. The 
actual, real world result would be the unilateral nuclear disarmament 
of the United States.
    Ask yourself, would the eighteen general officers from Russia who 
have signed the statement accept that the United States, China, France, 
the United Kingdom, India, Israel and whoever else has nuclear weapons 
at the time would all turn over their last remaining weapon? And if 
they would not, how would they seek to hedge against one or more of the 
others hiding some of their nuclear weapons? Why, they would hold back 
some of their own, of course. Fear of the actions of others would be 
quite sufficient to cause cheating on a grand scale.
    Third, even if the impossible happened and everyone turned in his 
last weapon, how long would it be before the continuing technical and 
scientific know-how and industrial capacity in the former nuclear-
weapon states was mobilized to re-establish one or more nuclear powers?
    If one assumes a future serene world in which sovereign states with 
nuclear weapons give them up in confidence that their potential 
adversaries have done the same, how dangerous would the weapons be in 
the first place? And if the world was still a dangerous place, how 
could one safely assume that the weapons would be given up? The point 
is you can't separate the meaning and implications of the weapons from 
the international political context. It is a common error, especially 
on the part of military and arms control professionals, to attribute to 
weapons themselves the properties that in fact derive from the 
political situation in which they are fielded.
    Setting aside the concern that Russian nuclear weapons could fall 
into unauthorized hands, are we anything like as concerned today about 
thousands of Russian nuclear weapons as we were during the Cold War? Of 
course not. Just as Canadians and Mexicans never feared America's vast 
arsenal of nuclear weapons because the political context among us was 
benign, our concern about Russia's weapons--and presumably their 
concern about ours--is sharply, and appropriately, diminished. It is 
ironic, Mr. Chairman, that just when things are looking up with the end 
of the Cold War, along comes an international group of retired flag 
officers prepared to say that nuclear weapons ``represent a clear and 
present danger to the very existence of humanity.''
    Fourth, the elimination of nuclear weapons, or even a commitment to 
eliminate them in the future, would be a major encouragement to 
potential proliferators. Consider the daunting challenge faced by a 
non-nuclear state today that wishes to acquire nuclear weapons. They 
must mobilize very substantial financial and technical resources behind 
a clandestine program. If caught--as the Israelis caught the Iraqis in 
1981--they may be attacked and their facilities destroyed. If they 
succeed, they may wind up with a handful of weapons. These would pose a 
serious threat to us and to others, to be sure. But the United States 
possesses many thousands of such weapons and other nuclear weapon 
states have thousands or hundreds. Surely a state with a handful of 
nuclear weapons would take seriously the substantial nuclear arsenals 
of the major nuclear powers.
    Now imagine that we and others are about to give up our last 
remaining nuclear weapons, or that we have committed to do so in the 
future. The mere handful that a successful proliferator might manage to 
acquire suddenly looks like an arsenal bestowing Great Power status. Is 
that a situation we would wish to create?
    I know it is popular to argue that the disarmament of the main 
nuclear powers is essential to discourage proliferation. I think the 
truth is just the opposite. Does anyone seriously believe the Indians 
would not have developed nuclear weapons if the United States had been 
committed to total nuclear disarmament? Or that the Pakistanis would 
forebear if we, with or without the Indians, promised to eliminate all 
nuclear weapons. Our possession of nuclear weapons does far more to 
discourage proliferation than to encourage it since it reassures our 
friends and allies that the protection we afford them is ultimately 
backed up by nuclear weapons.
    Fifth, the elimination of all nuclear weapons would end our 
possession of a deterrent force that has contributed significantly to 
the peace among nuclear powers that has prevailed since World War II. 
It is certainly true that the Cold War gave rise to tensions and 
disputes that might well have led to war between East and West. That no 
such war occurred is a result of the delicate balance of power that 
prevailed among nuclear weapon states. At crucial periods during the 
Cold War our nuclear deterrent served to balance Soviet superiority of 
conventional forces in a divided Europe. And while conventional weapons 
have improved dramatically, and we are less dependent on nuclear 
weapons than at any time since their invention, they still exert a 
sobering influence that cannot be achieved by any other means.
    Mr. Chairman, I happen to believe that the U.S. stockpile of 
nuclear weapons is larger than is necessary for deterrence and could be 
safely reduced. I would urge that we decommission those nuclear weapons 
no longer necessary for deterrence as we develop further the precision 
systems capable of military efficacy equal to nuclear weapons. This 
seems to me just prudent defense planning, especially since the 
credibility of the use of nuclear weapons in situations that can be 
handled without them is close to zero.
    Even here, though, I would not wish to be understood as endorsing 
the admirals and generals when they too call for cutting back on 
present and planned stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The reason for 
distancing my view from theirs' is the underlying logic of our 
respective positions: I want a minimum nuclear force not because 
nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and should be eliminated, but 
because they can serve our security interests if they are deployed in 
numbers and according to a doctrine that is realistic and carefully 
conceived.
    As General Butler knows, that is certainly not what we had when he 
headed the Strategic Air Command. In place of a deliberate strategy 
combining nuclear and non-nuclear weapons in a way that took account of 
the credibility and effectiveness of their use, we had a strategic plan 
that called for massive retaliation--mutual assured destruction--in 
response to a variety of contingencies, many of which would, in the 
real world, never have been authorized. Even the major war scenarios 
entailed the use of nuclear weapons on a scale that was wholly 
incredible. I believe that what we now hear from General is a 
distressed reaction to the ludicrous strategy he was sent to Omaha to 
superintend. And I hope thoughtful observers will conclude that further 
reductions in nuclear arsenals need not be accompanied by an 
apocalyptic utopian vision for their total elimination.
    Mr. Chairman, I have tried to suggest three things this morning: 
That nuclear weapons cannot be safely eliminated now; that they have 
served and can continue to serve our security interests if managed 
properly; and that the goal of eliminating them entirely in some 
distant hazy utopia is dangerous and unwise. If I might add a fourth it 
is to endorse the urgent need to proceed with the development of a 
defense against ballistic missiles, an idea that arises directly out of 
the concerns expressed in the statement of admirals and generals, but 
is, curiously, wholly absent from their considerations.
    I once had occasion privately to discuss the idea of eliminating 
all nuclear weapons with President Reagan. I said I thought the Soviets 
would cheat, and probably others as well. ``So do I,'' he said. 
``That's why it could be done only after we had a fully effective SDI 
in place.''
    Until then, Mr. Chairman, let's not rush to embrace goals that 
would make sense in a world that does not exist.