Nuclear New Math

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Reports that the Pentagon is weighing a range of cuts to the nation’s nuclear arsenal – perhaps going as low as 300 deployed strategic weapons, down from the current 1,550 – has nuclear-triggered concern on Capitol Hill. “I have to suggest to you,” Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday, “I consider that reckless lunacy.”

But Stephen I. Schwartz, editor of the The Nonproliferation Review at California’s Monterey Institute of International Studies, has gone to the history books. “Amid all the hyperventilating from congressional Republicans over the Obama administration’s ongoing review of nuclear force levels and postures, it’s worth remembering that when it comes to actual reductions in U.S. nuclear weapons, whether bilateral or unilateral, these have always been deeper and faster under Republicans than under Democrats,” he tells Battleland, flinging recently-declassified charts our way to make his case.

“During George H.W. Bush’s four years in office, the total stockpile was reduced by 38%, from 22,217 to 13,708 weapons, thanks in part to his unilateral decision to retire all ground-based nuclear weapons in Europe and South Korea and remove all nuclear weapons from naval surface vessels,” Schwartz says. “George W. Bush went even further, cutting the total stockpile over eight years by 50%, from 10,526 to 5,273 weapons.

“I don’t recall too many Republicans complaining about, or opposing, those reductions,” he adds. The stockpile shrinkage under W., he points out, “took place during a period when were fighting two wars, when North Korea conducted two nuclear tests, and as Iran expanded its uranium centrifuge operations.”