If a widely circulating quote attributed to George W. Bush by an “unnamed source” is true, its another example of how much more sane Bush’s alleged naivete in foreign policy matters is compared to that of Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s. Supposedly Bush was given a briefing in the White House about the state of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and after hearing about the thousands of warheads at America’s disposal reportedly said, “I had no idea we had so many weapons. What do we need them for?”
Even if the story is apocryphal, it is hard to imagine somebody circulating a story in which Gore or Clinton are surprised at the number of weapons in the U.S. arsenal, much less ask the obvious question, “What do we need them for?” Unlike Clinton and Gore, Bush seems willing to follow through on cutting the number of American warheads.
Of course this, and similar Bush views on foreign policy, have not gone over well with hawkish conservatives who assumed Bush was one of their own. Case in point is The National Review’s John Derbyshire thinks it is impossible to have to many nuclear weapons. According to Derbyshire,
I beg to differ. 18,820 looks like about the right number to me, though I’d feel a little easier in my mind if we rounded it up to a neat 20,000. I don’t see how you can ever have enough nukes. Nukes are very, very scary. A nation with 20,000 of them is a very, very scary nation. That’s the kind of nation I want to live in, so long as it is under rational, constitutional government.
Derbyshire completely undercuts his own argument in favor of nuclear weapons, however. On the one hand he says we need thousands and thousands of them to deter people from attacking the United States. But on the other hand, he dismisses people who say other countries would never attack the U.S. by citing nations that are unstable or led by crackpots. But how exactly are crackpots deterred by 20,000 nuclear weapons (as opposed to say 500 or 5,000 warheads).
Obviously the United States is not going to abandon its nuclear arsenal, but there is plenty of room for large cuts that would still present a serious deterrent threat while further lowering the risk of accidents. Lets hope Bush doesn’t give in to the absurd views of people like Derbyshire who actually writes that, “If Saddam Hussein has an atom bomb, we should have a hundred. If China has a hundred, we should have ten thousand. If Russia has ten thousand, we should have a million. Nukes, nukes, nukes — you can never have enough of them..”
Too Many Nukes?
Impossible.. John Derbyshire, The National Review, June 21, 2001.
Dropping the bomb. John Barry and Evan Thomas, Newsweek, June 25, 2001.
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