Late last year, Representative Adam Smith (D., Wash.), then the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee and now its chairman, said, “The rationale for the triad I don’t think exists anymore. The rationale for the numbers of nuclear weapons doesn’t exist anymore.” This month, he doubled down on his insistence that America should shrink its nuclear arsenal, saying he does not think intercontinental ballistic missiles “are necessary for our deterrence.” Chairman Smith is wrong. Such dangerous disregard for the effectiveness of the nuclear triad directly contradicts the consensus of our military and intelligence communities and the lessons we’ve learned throughout history.
Smith’s desire to dismantle our nuclear triad flies in the face of military consensus. Look no further than the recommendations of the bipartisan National Defense Strategy Commission for the United States, which found in 2017 that “nuclear and conventional forces are both indispensable to a balanced, effective defense.”
I could not agree more. Since its inception, our nuclear triad has been a vital part of protecting our nation, and the need for proper deterrence filled by a nuclear arsenal has not lessened over time. What’s more, the newfound desire to dismantle the triad goes against 50 years of history, during which time the triad has successfully deterred attacks from foreign entities over and over again.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have discussed this issue with the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, General John E. Hyten, who on multiple occasions has reiterated that “the surest way to prevent war is to be prepared for it.” Hyten’s concern rises in large part from the more diverse and dangerous group of global adversaries the United States now faces, which includes Russia. In that respect, the hypocrisy in Democrats’ desire to disarm the triad is glaring: The party proclaiming Russia as our democracy’s top threat is simultaneously advocating the abandonment of the weapons deterring the Kremlin from attacking our country.
And that’s the bottom line: Chairman Smith’s desire to disarm our country ignores the fundamental, foundational truth that deterrents work. They have worked before and they are working now. Eliminating a deterrent does not eliminate the underlying threat; the world does not become a safer place when we remove what keeps us safe.
While recently visiting a nuclear base, I experienced firsthand the same reality the base’s military service members face every day: Should these weapons ever be used, the next page in our world’s history could be the last. Our brave men and women in uniform feel the weight of the world on their shoulders because these missiles could destroy the world. If we defied history and the military community by unilaterally forfeiting our superior arsenal, we would be placing our world’s fate in the hands of our adversaries.
As Ronald Reagan once said, “We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression.” We need the nuclear triad now more than ever. The military community relies on it, our history reminds us of the need for it, and basic logic demands it. Chairman Smith and his allies might insist otherwise, but we cannot afford to find out if they’re right.