Nuclear Sanity, and Insanity

Two nuclear-related events were in the news last week.

Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of all nuclear weapons, issued a report that calls for reducing U.S. nuclear warheads from the current number of around 5,000 to just 900. This would be a very significant step toward reducing reliance on nuclear deterrence.  More important than the report was the person who released it, retired four-star Marine Corps General James Cartwright, the former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. strategic forces.

Cartwright appealed for an “urgent and transformational change in U.S. nuclear force structure, strategy and posture.” He called existing stockpiles “baggage of the cold war” and asserted that our nuclear arsenal “does not address the threats of the 21st century.” These are important words from the man who used to be in charge of nuclear weapons.  Hats off to Global Zero for producing the report and scoring this important announcement. Let’s hope President Obama pays attention.

Global Zero and General Cartwright won’t get any sympathy in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has been controlled since 2010 by political Neanderthals who in the name of budget cutting slash social spending while shoveling extra billions to the Pentagon for unnecessary weapons. Late last week the House approved a Defense Authorization bill that provides $4 billion more than the Pentagon requested. It includes additional funding for a nuclear weapons production facility in New Mexico and requires the U.S. government to begin preparations for establishing a missile defense site on the East Coast.

Yes, you read that right. The House of Representatives wants to build more capacity for producing nuclear weapons. It also wants to create a missile defense system that does not work, against a ballistic missile threat that does not exist. Insanity of the first order!

A Declaration on Drone Warfare

I was asked recently to offer ideas and recommendations for a statement on drone weapons.  Here is what I came up with. I welcome feedback for refining these ideas:

  • The policy of targeted killing and drone warfare is contrary to ethical principles, a violation of international law, and a counterproductive strategy for preventing terrorism and violent extremism.
  • The UN Charter permits the use of military force (including drones) only if authorized by the Security Council or if a state is acting in self-defense after suffering an armed attack. Neither of these conditions has been met to justify U.S drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.


  • The United States should demilitarize its counter-terrorism strategy and apply conflict prevention and law enforcement approaches rather than military policies. Washington should cooperate with other governments to implement the nonmilitary approaches specified in the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy: ameliorating conditions conducive to violent extremism, strengthening the rule of law, and upholding human rights.
  • To prevent terrorism, the United States should end its policies of military occupation and armed intervention in other countries, refrain from providing military aid to autocratic and repressive regimes, and support the rights of the Palestinian people and other oppressed populations. The United States should end all CIA paramilitary and targeted killing operations.
  • The United States should support the convening of an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to develop binding legal standards for the use of drone systems. Any military use of these systems must be strictly in compliance with the principles of international law, as specified in the UN Charter, the laws of armed conflict, and international humanitarian law and human rights law.