A pair of compelling op-eds, from recent editions of the Washington Times:
In Wednesday's paper, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Frank Gaffney examines the "shrinking" U.S. deterrent, and its implications for global security. As Mr. Gaffney observes:
With that [nuclear test] and a series of missile launches that day and subsequently, the regime in Pyongyang has sent an unmistakable signal: The Hermit Kingdom has nothing but contempt for the so-called "international community" and the empty rhetoric and diplomatic posturing that usually precede new rewards for the North's bad behavior. The seismic waves from the latest detonation seem likely to rattle more than the windows and members of the U.N. Security Council. Even as that body huffs and puffs about Kim Jong-il's belligerence, Japan and South Korea are coming to grips with an unhappy reality: They increasingly are on their own in contending with a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Until now, both countries have nestled under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. This posture has been made possible by what is known in the national-security community as "extended deterrence." Thanks to the credibility of U.S. security guarantees backed by America's massive arsenal, both countries have been able safely to forgo the option their respective nuclear-power programs long afforded them, namely becoming nuclear-weapon states in their own right.
A bipartisan blue-ribbon panel recently warned the Obama administration that extended deterrence cannot be taken for granted. In its final report, the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States unanimously concluded: "Our military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, underwrite U.S. security guarantees to our allies, without which many of them would feel enormous pressures to create their own nuclear arsenals. ... The U.S. deterrent must be both visible and credible, not only to our possible adversaries, but to our allies as well."
Unfortunately, the Obama administration is moving in exactly the opposite direction. Far from taking the myriad steps needed to assure both the visibility and credibility of the U.S. deterrent, Mr. Obama has embraced the idea of eliminating that arsenal as part of a bid for "a nuclear-free world."
Gaffney also notes that Mr. Obama has steadfastly refused to modernize our nuclear arsenal, despite pleas from defense experts. Instead, he remains committed to cutting the nation's nuclear stockpile, which will leave us with an inventory of aging weapons, with even less deterrent value.
Thursday's edition of the Times has another worthy read, from former Defense Secretary William Cohen, the type of "moderate" Republican preferred by the chattering classes. In his commentary, Mr. Cohen condemns planned cuts in missile defense by the Obama Administration:
Reducing the funding commitment to our missile-defense system by $1.4 billion, as the Obama administration has done, sends the signal that we do not take the threats of rogue regimes seriously, and are willing to take the risk that current technologies are sufficient to prevent devastating accidents or miscalculations.
Given the disturbing geopolitical events that are now unfolding, it is imperative that we err on the side of safety. The consequences are too grave to allow our leadership to claim at some future time that they were taken by surprise.
Cutting missile-defense funding at this critical juncture sends the wrong signal to both our adversaries and our allies. It would embolden North Korea, Iran and other rogue states to pursue missiles of increasing range. It would also confuse our allies and undermine their trust in America's security guarantees. If the United States is vulnerable to the threat of a missile attack by a rogue state, allies could lose confidence in America's nuclear deterrent - which could lead nations such as Japan to pursue a nuclear deterrent of their own.
"Could lose confidence?" We'd say Tokyo and Seoul have long passed that point. Lest we forget, Japan actively debated shooting down that Tapeodong-2 on its own, until Washington engaged in a bit of diplomatic arm-twisting. Now, with North Korea firmly in the nuclear club, Tokyo won't be as compliant next time around. And a nuclear-capable Japan is becoming a real possibility.