Would Sanders Be the Arms Control President We Thought We Were Getting in Obama?

President Obama may not have given away the $1.2 million award from the Nobel committee, but that doesn’t mean he should have abandoned his anti-nuclear mission, as well.

President Obama may not have given away the $1.2 million award from the Nobel committee, but that doesn’t mean he should have abandoned his anti-nuclear mission, as well. (Photo: The Official White House Photostream / Flickr)

President Obama may not have given away the $1.2 million award from the Nobel committee, but that doesn’t mean he should have abandoned his anti-nuclear mission, as well.

In an article at Breaking Defense, Mark Cancian, a former top defense budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama, presents a “thought experiment.”

What if Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders becomes president? What would a Sanders defense program look like?

Cancian figures that Sanders would attempt to bring U.S. defense spending down from 3.1 percent of the GDP (which, remember, doesn’t even include wars) to the 1.3 percent of GDP averaged by other NATO states. In order to accomplish that

Sanders first target would be nuclear forces. He has repeatedly argued that they are too expensive and pledged to cut $100 billion in nuclear spending over 10 years. Sanders would likely embrace a doctrine called “minimum deterrence”; that is, maintaining only enough nuclear capability to threaten devastating retaliation. Although force definitions for minimum deterrence vary, 300 to 400 warheads is a rough estimate. That compares with the current New START cap of 1550. Getting down to that level would require retiring the entire ICBM force, retiring the nuclear bomber force, and reducing the sea-based leg to about six submarines from the current 14. The new Long Range Strike Bomber program (LRSB) would be terminated because of its high cost, even though its primary mission is conventional. There would be commensurate reductions in the National Nuclear Security Administration, which develops and produces nuclear weapons. One of the weapons labs, likely Lawrence Livermore in California, would have to be shuttered.

Kindly bear with me a moment while I recover from “be still my beating heart” mode. The memory is still too fresh of not only President Obama’s abandonment of his arms control (never mind disarmament) goals, but how Jimmy Carter entered his presidency with visions of a nuclear-free world dancing in his head and exited it with an expanded nuclear arsenal.