Nuclear Weapons, China, and a Strategic Defense Initiative for this Century

Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear Weapons, China, and a Strategic Defense Initiative for this Century

A modern strategy for addressing the threats we now confront must be conceptually similar to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative and draw from the lessons it conveyed. It must also maintain the sufficiency of our triad and apply technologically advanced answers to the array of new threats we face.

Arms control must not be used as a tool to thwart our development of offensive or defensive weapons needed to match our adversaries’ potentialities. We cannot permit conceivable belligerents to use a myriad of intelligence operations, centered on the manipulation of media across traditional and social platforms, to subvert America’s intrinsic right to protect itself through deterrence coupled with defense.

Crucially, America must always be prepared to walk away from the table. This is the prerequisite for successful negotiating that President Reagan and President Trump exemplified on numerous occasions.

A sagacious approach to stability should also consider India’s position. World peace may hinge on India’s not being overmatched by a rapacious China. Specific, regional deconfliction and confidence-building measures should be pursued with our encouragement.

Arms control must be comprehensive in its objectives. If China is not a committed participant in this process, it is doubtful that arms control will yield true dividends in global stability.

We must always keep in mind that arms control can be dangerous if its objectives are not consonant with American and allied interests. I am proud that President Trump and I terminated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that would have aided Iran in amassing the resources to build nuclear weapons as well as the means to deliver them.

The present administration removed sanctions, which we imposed, in its hope of restarting negotiations to limit what Iran will never willingly limit: its nuclear weapons program. The Biden administration must not resume this disastrous farrago of deception that only emboldens a terrorist state.


Nuclear force structures, defensive systems, intelligence, and arms control must serve the objectives of deterrence and stability. That the world has not known global war since the first atomic bombs were used, gives us hope, but this hope must rest on action and not the avoidance of difficult choices.

Electromagnetic Pulse

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, signed into law on November 15 by President Biden, allocates millions of dollars for studies on how to protect critical infrastructure from the effects of an electromagnetic pulse, which could be induced by the explosion of a nuclear weapon or by other means. What is actually necessary, however, is a multi-billion-dollar program to build national EMP preparedness, to harden our electric grid, which will protect our military assets, infrastructure, businesses, and people.

This was not funded, though the requisite studies had, indeed, been completed by the congressional EMP Commission. This commission released its report to Congress and to the White House in 2008.

What are the potential consequences of such inaction in the face of this present danger? An EMP attack against the United States could, in a period of months, result in more deaths than a limited nuclear attack against the homeland. These deaths would be due to the collapse of infrastructure, which would block food and medicine production and delivery and deny the necessity of electricity to millions.

The severe supply-chain problems of today would be amplified a thousand-fold. This is not preparedness, but the abdication of the grave responsibility vested in our president to protect the American people.

It should also be noted that a massive solar flare, if on the scale of the Carrington Event of 1859, would devastate our electric grid if it is not hardened. Such phenomena, on smaller scales, occurred in 1921 and in 1989 due to coronal mass ejections. A massive solar storm, of similar magnitude to the Carrington Event, missed our planet by just nine days in 2012.

Our Future

As we consider the steps we must take as a nation to secure peace and promote world stability, we must enshrine America’s illustrious history. We must draw on our record of averting conflict through preparedness.

George Washington’s admonition, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace,” has never been surpassed in its profundity or in its application. Though nuclear war is unconscionable, we must grasp, as Herman Kahn did, many decades ago, that it is our preparedness for conflict that substantiates deterrence.

Michael R. Pompeo served as Secretary of State and as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Donald Trump. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Image: Flickr.