Karl Rove proffered false and dubious claims to criticize the Obama administration's nuclear policy review as "troubling" and likely to "undermine our strength" -- a position at odds with military brass and nuclear experts who support a limited deterrent role for nuclear weapons. Rove's false claim that the United States "will not use nuclear weapons under any circumstance against a non-nuclear state" distorts a provision limited to nations acting in compliance with their non-proliferation obligations.
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Rove falsely claims review says U.S. "will not use nuclear weapons under any circumstance against a non-nuclear state"
Rove: U.S. "will not use nuclear weapons under any circumstances against a non-nuclear state [emphasis added]." During an April 7 appearance on Fox News' Happening Now, Rove falsely claimed that the administration's nuclear policy review says the United States "will not use nuclear weapons under any circumstance against a non-nuclear state. I find that a little troubling."
Provision: U.S. "will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons" against countries "in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations [emphasis added]." The Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) does not state that the United States "will not use nuclear weapons under any circumstances against a non-nuclear state." It explicitly limits the provision to states that are in compliance with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, stating that "the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations." The review further states that "the United States affirms that any state eligible for the assurance that uses chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies and partners would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response."
The Nuclear Posture Review states of "countries not covered by this assurance":
In the case of countries not covered by this assurance -- states that possess nuclear weapons and states not in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations -- there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW [chemical or biological weapon] attack against the United States or its allies and partners. The United States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that deterring nuclear attack is the sole purpose of nuclear weapons, but will work to establish conditions under which such a policy could be safely adopted.
U.S. reserves right to adjust this policy. The Nuclear Posture Review further states, "Given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons and the rapid pace of bio-technology development, the United States reserves the right to make any adjustment in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and U.S. capacities to counter that threat."
Rove's claim that policy "seems to undermine our strength" is rejected by nuclear experts and military brass
Rove claims nuclear policy "seems to undermine our strength." Also during the segment, Rove commented that "we do look weak when we take steps that seem to undermine our strength."
Experts, military brass, support limited role for nukes. An April 6 Associated Press article reported: "Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he 'wholly endorses' the plan and believes it includes effective deterrents." American Forces Press Service stated: "The review has the full support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen said." Moreover, in February, nuclear experts and scholars signed a letter addressed to President Obama that explicitly recommended that the "new NPR should clearly narrow the purpose of nuclear weapons to deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and our allies, and it should assure states without nuclear weapons that are parties in good standing to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that they will not face nuclear threats from the United States." The letter continued:
Ambiguity about the purpose of U.S. nuclear forces provides little deterrent value at a high cost; it undermines the credibility of our conventional deterrent, complicates our nonproliferation diplomacy, and can be used by other countries to justify their pursuit or improvement of nuclear weapons.
Signatories to the letter included retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr., former president of the National Defense University; Council for Foreign Relations senior fellow Charles D. Ferguson; and nuclear physicist Richard L. Garwin.