Yep, hard to believe, but the Washington Post editorial board got it right again this morning with Exploding Costs, an editorial questioning the wisdom of devoting up to $10 billion of our tax dollars to “refurbish” the B-61 nuclear gravity bomb. It’s a dumb idea for a “dumb bomb” (i.e. not a “smart bomb” with all the precision guidance gizmos on it) for many reasons, not the least of which many or most of these bombs are deployed on U.S. bombers based in Europe, and there is a growing consensus, among Europeans but even some U.S. policymakers, that getting rid of the stupid things in a treaty with Russia to eliminate “tactical” nukes in Europe makes way more sense than “modernizing” them.
There are at least two concerns the the Post editorial didn’t raise. The first is that there are serious concerns among independent watchdogs of the nuclear weapons laboratories that “Life Extension Programs” could do more than “refurbish” existing nuclear warheads; they could result in new warhead designs, something the rest of the world would be very concerned about and would undercut our leadership in non-proliferation and arms reductions.
The second is the larger context, in which “refurbishment” or “Life Extension Programs” for U.S. nuclear warheads is part of a very expensive proposed scheme to spend close to $200 billion over the next decade “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear weapons production complex, our warhead designs and their delivery systems (bombers, submarines and missiles).
Is that a good idea? Can we effectively preach nuclear non-proliferation to the rest of the world while “modernizing” our entire nuclear arsenal and production capacity? How is that consistent with President Obama’s pledge to seek the security of a world without nuclear weapons?
Even if one can answer those questions, how in the world could we afford that sum, as all manner of social programs face the chopping block?
If you are so moved, write the Post (email email@example.com or comment on the webpage of the editorial) and give them an “attaboy!” for the editorial, but also feel free to bring in these or other points.