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Opinion

The Obama bid to rid the world of nuclear weapons boosts US security -- minus the threat of Armageddon

The Obama plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons would mean more US focus on non nuclear weapons, which would give the US more military leverage, without causing a nuclear Armageddon.

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3. If there became a pressing need to obliterate deeply buried and armored targets such as the enemy’s leadership’s bunkers and facilities manufacturing or developing weapons of mass destruction and other high-value items.

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Using atomic devices to achieve these goals is fraught with dangers. Leadership decapitation – as was attempted with conventional means against Saddam Hussein – often postulates the autocrats will be replaced by statesmen, enjoying popular support, willing to make peace with America.

Starting this process with a nuclear strike is not the best way to generate a wave of pro-American sentiment. As for wiping out WMD sites, the same issues may apply, as well as the risk of nuclear contamination.

Fortunately for the US, work on advanced nonnuclear penetrators is proceeding apace. While the details are classified, it is clear that the combination of weaponry with higher precision, greater penetration capability, and more potent explosives is moving quickly.

The ability to compel enemies of the US to alter their behavior with these nonnuclear systems is far more plausible than with nuclear weapons, since America’s enemies rightly doubt that Washington will ever pay the political price of a nuclear first strike.

A nonnuclear environment will favor the technologically advanced, since postnuclear systems are more sophisticated. As the country with the largest military- industrial complex, the US would benefit the most from the transition to a postnuclear world. Mr. Obama’s detractors say this push to rid the world of nuclear weapons is dangerous, or a product of a lofty attitude. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee says this is a noble goal. But it’s much more probable that Obama sees just how much more powerful the US can be with a nonnuclear sword held over its enemies’ heads.

Achieving a total ban on nuclear weapons will not be easy. But working toward it is a logical goal for the US.

Even if negotiations fail, the process will encourage more US research and development on nonnuclear alternatives that, even absent the abolition of nuclear explosives, will strengthen US military capabilities and deterrence.

Robert Dujarric runs the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University, Japan Campus.

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