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Deutch on the future of the U.S. nuclear program

March 31, 2017

Professor John Deutch

Originally posted on March 16th 2017 by Beth Do

“It took two decades of war between the USSR and the U.S. to understand that nuclear weapons alone are not a credible deterrence to conventional warfare,” said John M. Deutch to over 150 students, faculty and community members who filled Walker Ames in Kane Hall to capacity the evening of March 9 to hear his talk hear his talk on “The Future of U.S. Nuclear Deterrence.”

The public lecture marked the inauguration of the Henry M. Jackson/James R. Schlesinger Visitor Lecture Series, a program funded by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and supports a distinguished practitioner of U.S. foreign policy at the Jackson School of International Studies.

View a video of the entire lecture.

Executive Director of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation Lara Iglitzin.

Executive Director of the Jackson Foundation Lara Iglitzin, opened the evening with remarks about the the new lecture series in honor of James R. Schlesinger and Henry M. Jackson:

“The Jackson Foundation seeks to perpetuate Senator Jackson’s work by working with institutions like the Jackson School on issues of human rights, the environment and encouraging young people to join the public service. As for Dr. Schlesinger, he had a remarkable career, and we were fortunate to bring him out here to the University to give a lecture 18 years ago. He was a man of incredible intellect and him and Senator Jackson had a remarkable professional and personal bond that was forged of their shared commitment on American foreign policy and good environmental and energy policy, national security and national defense.”

A number of family members of former Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger and the late Senator Henry M. Jackson also attended the event.

Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba then introduced John Deutch, highlighting his career in the U.S. Departments of Defense, Security and Energy, and his academic roles at MIT and over 104 publications on physical chemistry, technology, energy, international security and public policy.

MIT Professor Emeritus and former CIA Director John Deutch speaks with members of the audience after his lecture.

Lack of consensus on nuclear policy
Deutch began his lecture with the premise that no country should be able to use their nuclear capability as a weapon. While global actors agree on this issue, there is still a lack of consensus on counter-proliferation, the “first-use” policy and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The intellectual and political leadership of Senator Jackson and Secretary Schlesinger, said Deutch, contributed a significant amount in the design of nuclear policy the way it is today.

The big question, according to Deutch, is how we approach nuclear capability in the long-term. While many agree that nuclear weapons should not be used, there is a strong debate on the approach. Idealists argue that working diligently to completely eradicate nuclear weapons is the best manner, as the use of even one bomb could result in disastrous consequences.

Pragmatists, on the other hand, he noted, accept the existence of nuclear weapons as a given and want to focus on reducing the number of them. They also believe that nuclear power can be used as an advantage as long as there continues to be irrevocable differences between national and sub-national groups.

Students, veterans and active military, faculty and community members filled the Walker Ames room to capacity to hear MIT Professor Emeritus John Deutch on U.S. nuclear deterrence.

First-use policy
Deutch asserted that a major issue, with distinguished advocates on either side, is whether the United States should announce a “no first-use” policy. Idealists argue that the force of nuclear weapons is not necessary and would have a destabilizing effect.

Pragmatists take the exact opposite view, he said, because declaratory statements can be reversed and therefore have no predictable effect. Furthermore, pragmatists argue, nuclear capability provides stronger deterrence.

Nuclear weapon treaties
Deutch explained that idealists and pragmatists are also divided on whether the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, or CTBT, is an effective measure against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The controversy over the CTBT has gone on for so long that it seems like both sides would rather fight than win, in Deutch’s opinion.

His recommendation is of a permanent treaty, whereby the CTBT could be amended to be more like the United Nations Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or 5-year terms with renewal options, giving apprehensive members periodic opportunities to voice their concerns.

Modernization proposal
Deutch acknowledged that the United States’ nuclear triad – land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), strategic bombers, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) – requires modernization. However, he underscored the issues at hand include how big does it need to be to address the new geopolitical system and how should the triad be composed.

For example, the Obama administration proposed new submarines, bombers, ICBMs and long-range air-launch cruise launch missiles. Additionally they proposed improving the current infrastructure and command and control system, at the cost of roughly 400 billion dollars.

MIT Professor Emeritus John M. Deutch, March 9, 2017 at UW talking “The Future of U.S. Nuclear Deterrence.”

Deutch has been surprised by the lack of conceptual discussion around the Obama administration’s modernization proposal since it was released over a year ago. He challenged the assumption that the U.S. needs all three legs of the triad, since the nuclear program is already very expensive to maintain. He concluded with a thought from Senator Jackson and Secretary Schlesinger:

“This country is facing the decision to modernize its forces – at a great expense – in a way that will serve the long-term posture of the country, with extremely little debate and public thinking about the what and why behind nuclear weapons,” he said. “This is something that would not have met with approval from either gentlemen [Senator Jackson or Schlesinger].”

John Deutch is an emeritus Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1995-1996, where he was head of the Intelligence Community (all foreign intelligence agencies of the United States). Prior, he served as Deputy Secretary of Defense (1994-1995) and Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisitions and Technology (1993-1994). In the Carter Administration, he held several positions in the Department of Energy, including Director of Energy Research and Undersecretary under Secretary of Energy James R. Schlesinger, and was con rmed by the Senate on recommendation of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson (1977- 1980). Dr. Deutch has served as Dean of Science and Provost at MIT. He has published over 140 technical publications in physical chemistry and numerous publications on technology, energy, international security and public policy.

Dr. Schlesinger served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and became the country’s rst Secretary of Energy in the new Department of Energy under President Jimmy Carter. He received many awards during his career, including the National Security Medal, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Medal and nine honorary doctorates. His career achievements as a public servant are too numerous to mention. He was a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and played a key role in the establishment of the Foundation. In 1996, The Jackson Foundation awarded Dr. Schlesinger its highest honor, the Henry M. Jackson Award for Distinguished Public Service. He passed away in 2014 at age 85.

This event was sponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the Center for Global Studies at the University of Washington.