Nukewatch Quarterly Winter 2016-2017
The general nominated by Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of Defense has questioned the purpose of the long-range missile system, the Air Force’s 450 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
In remarks to the US Senate Armed Services Committee in January 2015, four-star Marine Corps General James N. Mattis asked, “Is it time to reduce the triad to a diad, removing the land-based missiles? This would reduce the false alarm danger.”
General Mattis joins an influential group of high-ranking military commanders and civilian experts who have slammed the ICBM system including General James Cartwright, a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Secretaries of Defense William Perry and Chuck Hagel.
Gen. Mattis questioned the need for US land-based nuclear-armed missiles on the grounds that they represent a higher risk than other weapons of being launched on bad information, the same risk that retired Gen. Cartwright raised in 2012 as a reason to eliminate all the Minuteman IIIs.
Gen. Mattis also suggested to the Senate committee that the US should limit the threatened use of the nuclear arsenal to deterring nuclear attack, a change of targeting policy that would repeal Clinton Administration policy that allows for nuclear attacks—even against non-nuclear states—in retaliation for merely conventional or chemical weapons attacks on US forces or its allies. “[F]undamental questions must be asked and answered,” Mattis told the Senate armed services committee in January 2015. “We must clearly establish the role of our nuclear weapons: do they serve solely to deter nuclear war?”
—The Guardian, Dec. 4; CBS News online, Dec. 1, 2016.