Dems propose U.S. give up first-strike nuclear option

Democrats are proposing in Congress that the United States give up the option for a nuclear first strike – for any reason, reports

The policy for decades deliberately has been one of “calculated ambiguity.” It stemmed from a Cold War era in which the U.S. and NATO faced “numerically superior” Soviet and Warsaw Pact conventional forces in Europe, explains a document prepared by the Congressional Research Service.

“At the time, the United States not only developed plans to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield to disrupt or defeat attacking tanks and troops, but it also hoped that the risk of a nuclear response would deter the Soviet Union from initiating a conventional attack. This is not because the United States believed it could defeat the Soviet Union in a nuclear war, but because it hoped the Soviet Union would know that the use of these weapons would likely escalate to all-out nuclear war, with both sides suffering massive destruction.”

That policy of ambiguity has been continued, with even the Obama administration promising that the U.S. “would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances,” far short of a promise never to use them first.

Democrats now are demanding to change that.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mas., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., have proposed legislation, S. 272 and H.R. 921, that would adopt the statement: “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

“Other members of Congress are divided,” the report from the CRS explained, with Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., warning the Democrats’ plan “betrays a naïve and disturbed world view.”

The Trump administration already had rejected the idea, in its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which said the weapons contribute to “deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack; assurance of allies and partners; achievement of U.S. objectives if deterrence fails; and the capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.”