It seems that every time I mention to people who are not in this Tarikat, whether in another tarikat or not, about the immanent approaching nuclear war, they shrug it off with disbelief. “No way,” they think. It’s comforting to think so. Yet, upon a little introspection, it is easy to deduce that unfortunately we are heading that way. Both Prophetic knowledge and academic History tells us so.

The following is a popular article that’s currently circulating in the news.

The former defense secretary on the U.S. deterrent and the terrorist threat.


Maclean, Va.

‘Nuclear weapons are used every day.” So says former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, speaking last month at his office in a wooded enclave of Maclean, Va. It’s a serene setting for Doomsday talk, and Mr. Schlesinger’s matter-of-fact tone belies the enormity of the concepts he’s explaining — concepts that were seemingly ignored in this week’s Moscow summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev.

[The Weekend Interview] Terry Shoffner

We use nuclear weapons every day, Mr. Schlesinger goes on to explain, “to deter our potential foes and provide reassurance to the allies to whom we offer protection.”

Mr. Obama likes to talk about his vision of a nuclear-free world, and in Moscow he and Mr. Medvedev signed an agreement setting targets for sweeping reductions in the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. Reflecting on the hour I spent with Mr. Schlesinger, I can’t help but think: Do we really want to do this?

For nuclear strategists, Mr. Schlesinger is Yoda, the master of their universe. In addition to being a former defense secretary (Nixon and Ford), he is a former energy secretary (Carter) and former director of central intelligence (Nixon). He has been studying the U.S. nuclear posture since the early 1960s, when he was at the RAND Corporation, a California think tank that often does research for the U.S. government. He’s the expert whom Defense Secretary Robert Gates called on last year to lead an investigation into the Air Force’s mishandling of nuclear weapons after nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly flown across the country on a B-52 and nuclear fuses were accidently shipped to Taiwan. Most recently, he’s vice chairman of a bipartisan congressional commission that in May issued an urgent warning about the need to maintain a strong U.S. deterrent.

But above all, Mr. Schlesinger is a nuclear realist. Are we heading toward a nuclear-free world anytime soon? He shoots back a one-word answer: “No.” I keep silent, hoping he will go on. “We will need a strong deterrent,” he finally says, “and that is measured at least in decades — in my judgment, in fact, more or less in perpetuity. The notion that we can abolish nuclear weapons reflects on a combination of American utopianism and American parochialism. . . . It’s like the [1929] Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy . . . . It’s not based upon an understanding of reality.”

In other words: Go ahead and wish for a nuclear-free world, but pray that you don’t get what you wish for. A world without nukes would be even more dangerous than a world with them, Mr. Schlesinger argues.

“If, by some miracle, we were able to eliminate nuclear weapons,” he says, “what we would have is a number of countries sitting around with breakout capabilities or rumors of breakout capabilities — for intimidation purposes. . . . and finally, probably, a number of small clandestine stockpiles.” This would make the U.S. more vulnerable.

Mr. Schlesinger makes the case for a strong U.S. deterrent. Yes, the Cold War has ended and, yes, while “we worry about Russia’s nuclear posture to some degree, it is not just as prominent as it once was.” The U.S. still needs to deter Russia, which has the largest nuclear capability of any potential adversary, and the Chinese, who have a modest (and growing) capability. The U.S. nuclear deterrent has no influence on North Korea or Iran, he says, or on nonstate actors. “They’re not going to be deterred by the possibility of a nuclear response to actions that they might take,” he says.

Mr. Schlesinger refers to the unanimous conclusion of the bipartisan Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, which he co-led with Chairman William Perry. The commission “strongly” recommended that further discussions with the Russians on arms control are “desirable,” he says, and that “we should proceed with negotiations on an extension of the START Treaty.” That’s what Mr. Obama set in motion in Moscow this week. The pact — whose full name is the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — expires in December. But what’s the hurry? Mr. Schlesinger warns about rushing to agree on cuts. “The treaty . . . can be extended for five years. And, if need be, I would extend it for five years.”

There’s another compelling reason for a strong U.S. deterrent: the U.S. nuclear umbrella, which protects more than 30 allies world-wide. “If we were only protecting the North American continent,” he says, “we could do so with far fewer weapons than we have at present in the stockpile.” But a principal aim of the U.S. nuclear deterrent is “to provide the necessary reassurance to our allies, both in Asia and in Europe.” That includes “our new NATO allies such as Poland and the Baltic States,” which, he notes dryly, continue to be concerned about their Russian neighbor. “Indeed, they inform us regularly that they understand the Russians far better than do we.”

The congressional commission warned of a coming “tipping point” in proliferation, when more nations might decide to go nuclear if they were to lose confidence in the U.S. deterrent, or in Washington’s will to use it. If U.S. allies lose confidence in Washington’s ability to protect them, they’ll kick off a new nuclear arms race.

That’s a reason Mr. Schlesinger wants to bring Japan into the nuclear conversation. “One of the recommendations of the commission is that we start to have a dialogue with the Japanese about strategic capabilities in order both to help enlighten them and to provide reassurance that they will be protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella. In the past, that has not been the case. Japan never was seriously threatened by Soviet capabilities and that the Soviets looked westward largely is a threat against Western Europe. But now that the Chinese forces have been growing into the many hundreds of weapons, we think that it’s necessary to talk to the Japanese in the same way that we have talked to the Europeans over the years.”

He reminds me of the comment of Japanese political leader Ichiro Ozawa, who said in 2002 that it would be “easy” for Japan to make nuclear warheads and that it had enough plutonium to make several thousand weapons. “When one contemplates a number like that,” Mr. Schlesinger says, “one sees that a substantial role in nonproliferation has been the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Without that, some and perhaps a fair number of our allies would feel the necessity of having their own nuclear capabilities.”

He worries about “contagion” in the Middle East, whereby countries will decide to go nuclear if Iran does. “We’ve long talked about Iran as a tipping point,” he says, “in that it might induce Turkey, which has long been protected under NATO, Egypt [and] Saudi Arabia to respond in kind . . . There has been talk about extending the nuclear umbrella to the Middle East in the event that the Iranians are successful in developing that capacity.”

Mr. Schlesinger expresses concerns, too, about the safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons, all of which are more than 20 years old. “I am worried about the reliability of the weapons . . . as time passes. Not this year, not next year, but as time passes and the stockpile ages.” There is a worry, too, about the “intellectual infrastructure,” he says, as Americans who know how to make nuclear weapons either retire or die. And he notes that the “physical infrastructure” is now “well over 60 years” old. Some of it “comes out of the Manhattan Project.”

The U.S. is the only major nuclear power that is not modernizing its weapons. “The Russians have a shelf life for their weapons of about 10 years so they are continually replacing” them. The British and the French “stay up to date.” And the Chinese and the Indians “continue to add to their stockpiles.” But in the U.S., Congress won’t even so much as fund R&D for the Reliable Replacement Warhead. “The RRW has become a toxic term on Capitol Hill,” Mr. Schlesinger says. Give it a new name, he seems to be suggesting, and try again to get Congress to fund it. “We need to be much more vigorous about life-extension programs” for the weapons.

Finally, we chat about Mr. Schlesinger’s nearly half-century as a nuclear strategist. Are we living in a world where the use of nuclear weapons is more likely than it was back then? “The likelihood of a nuclear exchange has substantially gone away,” he says. That’s the good news. “However, the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States” is greater.

During his RAND years, in the 1960s, Mr. Schlesinger recalls that “we were working on mitigating the possible effects [of a nuclear attack] through civil defense, which, may I say parenthetically, we should be working on now with respect, certainly, to the possibility of a terrorist weapon used against the United States. . . . We should have a much more rapid response capability. . . . We’re not as well organized as we should be to respond.”

Mr. Schlesinger sees another difference between now and when he started in this business: “Public interest in our strategic posture has faded over the decades,” he says. “In the Cold War, it was a most prominent subject. Now, much of the public is barely interested in it. And that has been true of the Congress as well,” creating what he delicately refers to as “something of a stalemate in expenditures.”

He’s raising the alarm. Congress, the administration and Americans ignore it at their peril.

Ms. Kirkpatrick is a deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page.


If the Third World War is fought with nuclear weapons, the fourth will be fought with bows and arrows.

Lord Louis Mountbatten

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones

Albert Einstein