Weapons of Mass Destruction: The U.S. Experience   [open pdf - 254KB]

The United States has renounced the use of chemical and biological weapons and has reduced both its conventional and nuclear forces substantially since the end of the Cold War, says Korb. However, as long as some nations continue to try to develop weapons of mass destruction, "the United States will need some form of nuclear deterrent," he says. Korb is Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration. With the end of the Cold War and the decline of defense spending, the U.S. economy grew rapidly during the 1990s. By the end of the decade, the U.S. GDP exceeded $8 trillion, unemployment was at 4.3 percent, and inflation was below 2 percent. Maintaining stability in the international system, while not cheap, will not place as much of a burden on the U.S. economy or the American people as the Cold War did. There will, of course, continue to be debates about how much is enough for defense. There are many, like former head of the Strategic Air Command, General Lee Butler, and former commander of the space command and commander of the air component of the Gulf War, General Charles Horner, who argue that the United States should eliminate nuclear weapons altogether. These Air Force generals feel that precision guided U.S. conventional weapons are now so powerful that they can deter use of weapons of mass destruction by themselves. Moreover, they argue that by eliminating nuclear weapons, the United States can seize the moral high ground in the nonproliferation debate. But, like the debates during the Cold War, these debates will not lead to the elimination of all U.S. nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, some nations have tried and will continue to try to develop weapons of mass destruction, and as long as they do, the United States will need some form of nuclear deterrent, particularly since it has given up its chemical and biological weapons.

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Responding to the Challenge of Proliferation: U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda: An Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State, v.4, no.2, p. 22-24
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