Charles Krauthammer
WASHINGTON--On Tuesday, President Bush proposed a revolution in American nuclear strategy. He did not just promise a missile defense for the United States. He proposed something far larger. He proposed, to paraphrase his predecessor, the end of arms control as we know it. No more will we spend endless years deliberating with Russia to determine the number, size, configuration, speed and weight of every warhead, submarine and bomber in the American and Russian nuclear arsenals. No more will we tailor either our offensive or defensive forces to the needs and requirements of Russia. The new Bush Doctrine holds that, when it comes to designing our nuclear forces, we build to suit. We will build defensive missiles to suit our needs. We will build offensive missiles to suit our needs. Indeed, we will un-build to suit our needs. The most striking part of Bush's speech is his pledge to ``move quickly to reduce our nuclear forces.'' The new administration ``will lead by example.'' It will not wait for START III or IV or any other piece of parchment that we would, absurdly, have to beg the Russian Duma to ratify. Nor does the Bush administration fear an ``arms race.'' If the Russians react to our new doctrine by wasting billions building nukes that will only make the rubble bounce, let them. We have a huge offensive arsenal left over from the Cold War. It is not generally understood that its massiveness was not designed to deter a Russian (BEG ITAL)nuclear attack. To deter that, a minimal deterrent of, say, 1,000 weapons--rather than the 12,000 we once had or 7,000 we have today--would have sufficed. Why the excess? To overawe the Soviets and deter them from launching a (BEG ITAL)conventional attack on Europe. We could not match the Warsaw Pact armies on the ground. So we built a monstrous nuclear force as a way of saying: Cross the line in Germany with your tanks and risk massive nuclear retaliation. This was called extended deterrence. It has no relevance to the world of today. There is no Soviet Union. There is no Warsaw Pact. There is no Red Army. There is no line in Germany. Hence, no need for so many offensive weapons. Until now, we held on to them as arms control bargaining chips. But the Bush Doctrine abolishes arms control: If there is to be no more bargaining, there is no need for chips. What we need instead are weapons to deal with a threat that did not exist 30 years ago when we abjured defenses in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty: the development of nuclear-tipped ICBMs by rogue regimes like Iraq, North Korea and Iran. For reasons of delicacy, Bush spoke of the need to ``replace'' rather than abrogate the treaty, which remains the Linus blanket of an entire generation of arms controllers. No matter. He made it clear that we will blithely ignore it. That is important because we cannot otherwise test and engineer effective defenses. Arms control advocates have argued: Why destroy the ABM Treaty for a system that does not work? It was a lovely Catch-22: The reason it didn't fully work was because of slavish adherence to the ABM Treaty. For eight years, the Clinton administration held back and dumbed down defense technologies to make them ABM Treaty-compliant. They tested rockets made deliberately too slow, on systems made deliberately immobile, equipped with sensors blind to information coming from space--because fast, mobile, space-informed systems are banned by the ABM Treaty. The Bush administration will now let technologies prove (or disprove) themselves unhindered by such absurdities. Sure, to placate the critics, we will be consulting and assuaging and schmoozing everyone from Tokyo to Moscow. But in the end, we will build a defense (and slash our offense) to meet the challenge of the missile era. If others don't like it, too bad. The Bush Doctrine announces an international posture for America that might be called soft unilateralism. It is not in-your-face. It is not defiant. It is deliberate and determined. When President Bush the Elder made clear in 1990 that the United States was prepared to fight for Kuwait even if America had to do it alone, the world followed. Multilateralism follows unilateralism. It did then, it will now. Everyone knows that we are entering a new era of missile warfare. Everyone knows that the inevitable next step is to build defenses against it. But all are afraid to break with the certainties of the past, no matter how irrelevant that bipolar Cold War past is today. Yet when we lead, they follow. Within hours of Bush's speech, the Russian foreign minister issued a conciliatory response, pointing out that Russia had itself ``outlined a complex program'' for anti-missile defense. If we build it, they will come along.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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