Gen. Cartwright Rethinks Nuclear Arsenal

An article in today’s New York Times quotes a Marine Corps general who had responsibility for overseeing our entire nuclear arsenal as calling for deep cuts and fundamental rethinking of our nuclear posture. Key excerpts include:

Gen. James E. Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the United States’ nuclear forces, is adding his voice to those who are calling for a drastic reduction in the number of nuclear warheads below the levels set by agreements with Russia.

General Cartwright said that the United States’ nuclear deterrence could be guaranteed with a total arsenal of 900 warheads, and with only half of them deployed at any one time. Even those in the field would be taken off hair triggers, requiring 24 to 72 hours for launching, to reduce the chance of accidental war. [Our current arsenal contains thousands of nuclear weapons, many on hair trigger alert.]  …

“The world has changed, but the current arsenal carries the baggage of the cold war,” General Cartwright said in an interview. “There is the baggage of significant numbers in reserve. There is the baggage of a nuclear stockpile beyond our needs. What is it we’re really trying to deter? Our current arsenal does not address the threats of the 21st century.”

General Cartwright’s leading role in the study is expected to give heft to the proposals; he was the top officer at the United States Strategic Command, overseeing the entire nuclear arsenal.

This statement expands on earlier statements of General Cartwright while he was still Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

The nation’s second-ranking military officer on Thursday called for a broad reassessment of how to deter significant threats to the United States. … Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff [said] … “I’m advocating a conscious decision on: What is deterrence? How does it work?” …  A 21st century approach should also account for the role of nonmilitary forms of power and persuasion, such as economic and diplomatic tools, he said.

Martin Hellman

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, since 1982, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book, co-written with my wife Dorothie, with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." It's on Amazon and a free PDF can be downloaded from its website:
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2 Responses to Gen. Cartwright Rethinks Nuclear Arsenal

  1. postpartisanitalia says:
  2. Good points by General Cartwright.

    Nuclear weapons expansion is such a Cold War relic that we need to phased out all of that nuclear arsenal immediately, while continuing research on nuclear physics/chemistry.

    The conflict of the 21st Century is played on the city streets and alleys, not on paranoia. Therefore it will be wise for the Marine Corps to focus more on its urban warfare capability.

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