No, We Don’t Need More Nuclear Weapons
Republicans and Democrats may quibble over how federal tax dollars might be spent on various social welfare programs like Medicaid and food stamps. But alongside Social Security, there is one area of federal spending that everyone can apparently agree on: military spending. Last year, the Biden administration requested one of the largest peacetime budgets ever, at $813 billion. Congress wanted even more spending and ended up approving a budget of $858 billion. In inflation-adjusted terms, that was well in excess of the military spending we saw during the Cold War under Ronald Reagan. This year, Joe Biden is asking for even more money, with a new budget request that starts at $886 billion. Included in that gargantuan amount—which doesn’t even include veterans spending—is billions for new missile systems for deploying nuclear arms, plus other programs for “modernizing” the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Indeed, over the past year, the memo has gone out among the usual advocates of endless military spending that the US needs to spend much more on nuclear arms. This is a perennial position at the Heritage Foundation, of course, which has never met a military pork program it didn’t like. Moreover, in recent months, the Wall Street Journal has run several articles demanding more nuclear arms. The New York Post was pushing the same line late last year. Much of the rhetoric centers on the idea that Beijing is increasing its own spending on nuclear arms and thus the United States must “keep up.” For instance, last month, Patty-Jane Geller insisted that the US is in an “arms race” with China. Meanwhile, writers at the foreign-policy site 1945 claimed Congress must “save” the American nuclear arsenal.
Congress will surely be happy to cooperate. Such spending is an enormous cash cow for weapons manufacturers, although it has little to do with actual military defense. The US nuclear arsenal is huge, and China’s efforts to expand its own arsenal will have no effect on the already substantial deterrent effects of the US’s existing nuclear arsenal. Although the 1945 article insists that China soon “will field a peer or superior arsenal to the United States,” it’s difficult to see by what metric this is actually true.
Contrary to claims that the US nuclear arsenal needs to be “saved” or it will soon be eclipsed by the Chinese arsenal, the US remains well in the lead of every single nuclear power except Russia. Even if Beijing increases its arsenal to one thousand warheads, as the New York Post breathlessly predicts, the Chinese arsenal will remain well behind that of the US.
This is true even if we remove all the retired US warheads from the equation. In that case, Moscow retains the global lead with more than forty-four hundred weapons, and the US comes in second with more than thirty-seven hundred. Presently, Beijing has approximately 350 of these weapons, France has 290, and the rest of the world is well behind that.
Like Moscow, Washington has a full-blown and well-developed nuclear triad, complete with a fleet of nuclear subs that can launch up to twenty missiles—each containing multiple independently targeted warheads—land-based missile silos, and bombers. Each option provides ways to deliver hundreds of warheads. The submarine fleet, of course, is constantly mobile, ensuring first-strike survivability.
The Nonexistent Missile Gap
This won’t stop advocates of more spending from calling for more. They’ll always have reasons why there is some sort of missile gap. Lately, the obsession is with hypersonic missiles and having various forms of delivery, as well as the claim that the current gap between the US arsenal and rival arsenal is not sufficiently lar
Article from Mises Wire