Many Americans think the U.S. homeland is defended against nuclear attack. It isn’t, except for a modest network on the West Coast designed mainly for dealing with North Korea. Washington decided during the Cold War that it would rely on the threat of retaliation to deter nuclear attack, and forego efforts to build active defenses against large numbers of attacking warheads. In fact, policymakers convinced themselves the nation would be more secure if it had no ability to blunt a large Russian attack, since Moscow would no longer feel the need to engage in a nuclear arms race. Unfortunately, a cold, calculated act of aggression isn’t the only way nuclear war could happen. Some leaders are crazy. Some are accident-prone. Under our current nuclear posture, there is no option other than to retaliate, regardless of how nuclear aggression came about. This is a disaster waiting to happen, because nothing lasts forever — not even nuclear deterrence. The U.S. needs to modernize its Cold War nuclear triad, but it also needs to get serious about building strategic defenses. I have written a commentary for The National Interest here.
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