WHEN the sun is shining brightly, the prudent person closes his umbrella and puts it aside.
It is time for the United States to close its nuclear umbrella and to develop a new strategy for the post-cold-war world. Nuclear devices hereafter should be used only to deter other nations from getting nuclear weapons or threatening to use them against the US or its allies. We can, and must, deal with other threats to our security by conventional means.
Since dropping two atomic bombs on Japan, the US has operated on the assumption that it needed to rely on the threat of the first use of nuclear weapons to meet its security commitments. Although many analysts doubted that this was the case, the threats that the American government saw itself facing were indeed formidable. Soviet military forces surrounded West Berlin and were poised to move toward the English Channel. The Sino-Soviet bloc threatened to attack our allies across a wide arc and with vast c onventional forces. Communist ideology led the Kremlin to support movements throughout the world that were viewed as a threat to Western interests.
In the face of this challenge the US government came to rely on a nuclear strategy that included:
* Deployment of nuclear weapons at the front line from Europe to Korea;
* Deployment of nuclear weapons on many American ships at sea and with Air Force units throughout the world;
* A policy of refusing either to confirm or to deny the presence of nuclear weapons; and
* Reliance on the planned first use of nuclear weapons to deal with serious military threats, combined with opposition to arms-control agreements that were seen as diluting the credibility of the first-use threat.
In response to the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Bush administration has gone far toward changing that policy. Now it needs to go the rest of the way if we are to deal effectively with the danger of nuclear proliferation and the remaining military threats to American security.
President Bush has ordered nuclear weapons off all ships at sea except ballistic-missile submarines and has withdrawn all ground-based weapons from overseas bases and all nuclear weapons from Korea. However, he has neither renounced the confirm-nor-deny policy nor withdrawn the threat of first use of nuclear weapons in Europe, Korea, or anywhere else.
EVENTS in Korea show the importance of the steps taken thus far, and also how much more could be done if the US took this new policy to its logical conclusion.
By withdrawing all of our nuclear weapons from Korea and permitting the Seoul government to announce this change, we have made it possible for the two Koreas to agree that the peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons. To put pressure on the North Koreans to honor this agreement and to permit inspections of its facilities, we should seek an agreement with China and Russia that no nation would use nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. The United Nations Security Council would then be in a position to
insist that the Korean states remain non-nuclear.
A worldwide no-first-use agreement by the five nuclear powers that are the permanent members of the Security Council should be accompanied by a commitment of the Security Council to come to the aid of any nation that is threatened with nuclear weapons by any other country. If the five permanent members pledge never to use nuclear weapons first and to come collectively to the aid of any nation threatened by another power's nuclear weapons, they will be in a position to use the enforcement powers of the Se curity Council to prevent new countries from developing nuclear weapons and to eventually roll back those nuclear forces that have developed in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
This approach would deal directly with the real threats to our security that come from nuclear proliferation. This strategy would also free our armed forces to develop conventional capabilities to respond quickly to threats to American security that may develop anywhere in the world.
It is time to close our nuclear umbrella and work toward a world in which no nation threatens to use or fears the use of nuclear weapons.