John Kerry's passionate denunciation of the research into nuclear bunker busters was one of four major mistakes on his part in Thursday's debate, the others being his “global test” remark, his proposal to sell nuclear reactor fuel to Iran, and his demonstration of a very limited grasp of the nature of the terror network. I have begun researching the bunker-buster question because I sense Kerry's outrage at the very idea of America developing and possessing such weapons was both authentic on his part and potentially disturbing to millions of voters who instinctively understand that the armory of America is different from the armory of every other country in the world, that our nation can be trusted with all sorts of weaponry that the world cannot be trusted with, and that our electorate will not reward a candidate who, as Kerry did on Thursday night, proclaims our weapons program to be part of the proliferation problem. But I could be wrong about that. The nuclear freeze think of the 1980s, in which Kerry fully participated, was never close to a majority movement, but perhaps times have changed and the electorate does not want unquestioned military superiority and new capabilities. Perhaps “bunker buster nukes” are this decade's “neutron bomb.” My symposium questions: Did Kerry blunder in denouncing nuclear bunker busters? If so, why? If so, how great the damage to his candidacy?I agree with Hugh in that Kerry’s outrage at the idea of America developing new nuclear weapons is sincere. From a strictly pragmatic point of view, I think that Kerry is wrong and that the majority of Americans can see beyond the naïve assumptions that lie behind his conclusions. At the core of those assumptions, I believe, is a worldview which relies on the belief that morality is ultimately relative. Listen carefully to the arguments posited supporting the view that Kerry espoused: “We have no right to tell others how to live.” “If it’s wrong for other countries to possess such weapons, then it’s wrong for us as well.” “We’re being hypocrites if we invade countries, remove their WMDs, yet not only retain ours but develop new ones.” Inherent in these arguments is the notion of moral relativism. While it appears, on the surface, that the argument is actually one of moral absolutism (i.e., “what’s right for them is right for us”), it really isn’t, and it can be demonstrated as such by simply “taking the roof off” the argument. The argument appears to rely on the idea that the development and ownership of nuclear weapons is inherently wrong. Why would this be the case? I believe that there are essentially only two reasons: 1) An owner of nuclear weapons could use them to destroy innocent human life. 2) While simply owning nuclear weapons poses no direct threat on human life, it could incite an enemy to commit acts of aggression if he feels threatened by such ownership. Reason # 1 could apply to any type of weaponry, but the sheer destructive power of nuclear weapons renders it a valid concern. However, the concern is not necessarily the destructive power of the nuclear weapon, but the misuse of the weapon by the owner. So the real issue is whether the owner of the nuclear weapon is deemed responsible enough for such ownership. Consider the fact that I, as an average citizen of the United States, cannot drive around in an M1 Abrams tank. However there are other citizens (and non-citizens) doing so. They are known as military personnel. Why should they be allowed to operate such a weapon while I am not? The reason is simple: They are allowed to do so because they have been deemed responsible for the duty of protecting the interests of the United States. The issue of the ownership of nuclear weaponry is essentially no different. Yes, there is the chance that those entrusted with the privilege of operating such weapons will abuse that privilege, but such abuse is understood to be a violation of the moral code. We understand it to be a violation not because the United States military had no right to own such weapons, but because certain individuals abused that right. If we are to follow Kerry’s argument to its conclusion, then we would have to declare that just as an average citizen, or a criminal, should not be allowed to operate an M1 Abrams tank, so should the United States military not be allowed to. This is, of course, absurd – or so it should be to any thinking person. Reason # 2 is a bit trickier. Of course the thought behind it hearkens back to the Cold War era and concepts such as Mutually Assured Destruction or Doomsday Devices. The foundational idea of those concepts is very simple – two opposing forces develop and maintain equal measures of destructive power. Whatever weaponry you develop, I develop in like manner – tit for tat. Note, though, the requirements for this process to be effective: The need for at least two sovereign powers who, while disagreeing ideologically, operate with enough logical sense to understand the imminent threat the other poses. Within these requirements is the understanding by both powers that each are willing to negotiate terms of co-existence. Yet, even while both powers are shaking their right hands in agreement, their left hands are cautiously resting on a sidearm. Remember the Eagle on the back of the dollar bill that holds both an olive branch and a bunch of arrows? An interesting sidenote to this policy is that… it worked. The situation with the War on Terror is entirely different. Arguments against the United States developing and maintaining nuclear weaponry collapse when one throws into the mix rogue countries and / or terrorist networks. Such entities do not wish to engage life in co-existence with the United States or her allies. To argue that we should strive for such co-existence legitimizes terrorist networks such as Al-Qaeda. We should not be about co-existing with terrorists – we should be about squashing them from the face of the earth. Some questions that should be asked of Kerry are:
On what grounds do you consider the United States government not responsible enough to develop and maintain nuclear weaponry? Please elaborate Senator, what moral obligation does the United States violate when it engages in the development of nuclear weaponry? Considering that Osama bin Laden may be living deep within a cave in a remote section of Afghanistan, what is it about a nuclear bunker buster that you oppose? Would you rather send in American troops to search for bin Laden? Given that you do not consider the United States government responsible enough to develop and maintain nuclear weaponry, do you also not consider it responsible enough to engage in pre-emptive actions designed to prevent attacks on American soil?