Since the Eisenhower Administration

The eternal rounds of Viennese diplomatic nightlife–balls, receptions, dinners, concerts–are noted for fostering a general commitment to making decisions by consensus, the so-called spirit of Vienna.

All this shoulder-rubbing bonhomie might be good for crafting consensus, but apparently it’s good for spreading misinformation and skewing perspectives too.

You see, many non-nuclear-weapons states believe the US and other keepers of WMDs are not making good on their disarmament commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and what better forum to raise the issue than at this week’s 51st General Conference of the IAEA?

Not so fast, US ambassor G. Schulte told the plenary this afternoon, putting the kabosh on what he termed the misconception that the nuclear-weapon states weren’t disarming by citing Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman’s statement from this Monday. The US removes more metric tons of HEU and plutonium from its arsenal before breakfast than other countries do in a lifetime, which means that by 2012 when the provisions of the Moscow Treaty come due (as well as expire), the US will possess fully half the 2001 number of warheads–the lowest level since the Eisenhower adminstration.

Gosh, that sounds pretty cool, like history-in-the-making or something. Practically pre-Cold War levels of nukes just twenty years after the demise of the Cold War–sweet!

But there’s better news–the US arsenal is already (!) at its lowest since the Eisenhower administration, as this graphic makes clear. As a matter of fact, the US arsenal has been lower than Eisenhower levels since, um, the early 1990s and has remained pretty level since the mid 1990s.

And it turns out that Eisenhower was a major proliferator of nuclear weapons (and Kennedy kept the ball rolling). On Eisenhower’s watch the total stockpile increased from around 1,000 to a respectable 20,000 warheads, making scoring lower than Ike on the proliferation scale an accomplishment that ranges in difficulty from shooting fish in a barrel to threading a camel through a needle (to say nothing of rich men getting into heaven), but pretty meaningless without additional information.



  1. Key additional information would be weapon delivery systems. An ICBM that can reliably deliver its warheads close to their targets is worth a lot of B-47s that may or may not penetrate enemy defenses.


  2. Besides, air planes can be destroyed on the target. ICBMs, by contrast, enjoy the benefit of hardened silos.

    Relying on bombers for one’s nuclear deterrent amounts to inviting a preemptive attack.


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