Give Contractors… Nukes?


Cheryl Rofer has some very interesting thoughts on the future of America’s nuclear arsenal:

I heard a talk last week by a high-up manager at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, someone who characterizes himself as “not doing policy.” He said that George Bush is committed to serious reductions in nuclear weapons, down to 5000 from the current 10,000. One of the contributors to the most recent Nuclear Posture Review said something similar about a year ago.

The question in many people’s minds seems to be whether that reduction is intended to make the remaining weapons more usable in situations that the US is likely to face in the post-Cold War world.

It goes on, so read the whole thing. There’s an open question as to how necessary nuclear deterrence really is in an age of all those shadowy, trans-national terrorist groups lurking around. In the New Republic a few weeks ago, Michael Levi argued that the U.S. should threaten an overwhelming response—presumably an overwhelming nuclear response—even to failed nuclear attacks on American soil. For those threats to work, presumably, we’re going to need some usable nuclear weapons. Frankly, I’m not sure whether this is a good idea or not. I do know that I’d prefer we never have this threat, which is precisely why it’s worth imploring the White House to get serious about funding programs like Nunn-Lugar, to secure loose nuclear material worldwide.

Rofer also notes that the Bush administration is thinking about taking the nuclear program away from Los Alamos and putting it into private, for-profit hands. (See here for more>.) Oy. You’d think any grand claims about the “efficiency” of the private sector would be at least a little muted after the debacle in Iraq, or even after, as Rofer puts it, “Lockheed-Martin’s penchant for using English and metric units interchangeably, which resulted in the crash of one of the Mars vehicles.” Heh, wee bit of a mess-up there. But no, apparently that track record is more than solid enough to trust contractors with our nuclear weapons.

Oh, and you also have to wonder: would the private companies who would stand to make billions off of a new and ever-more-dazzling array of nuclear weapons ever—ever—advise restraint on the subject? Hmmm, tough question.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.