It’s one thing for President Trump to lie about his golfing prowess or the size of the crowd at his inauguration. It’s another when the subject is the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
Lost in the furor over his fierce warning that he would bring “fire and fury” on North Korea if it didn’t behave was this whopper, in the form of a Wednesday tweet:
“My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”
To be picky, his first order was not about nukes. But to the larger point — Trump has done nothing in his seven months in office to build up America’s nuclear arsenal. In fact the action he did take is most likely delaying a $400 billion upgrade that was ordered by President Obama.
The arsenal is not “modernized.” It is quite the opposite.
On his eighth day in the Oval Office, President Trump called for a “nuclear posture review” that will take the rest of the year to complete. It is the same general review undertaken by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama when they took office. Obama’s resulted in the upgrade plan that the Pentagon may put on hold to complete Trump’s study.
We already know the system is plagued with problems. Saying otherwise is a dangerous lie — or worse, if the president believes it. We are now facing a world crisis in which use of that system has been suggested.
When Trump took office in January, the United States was estimated to have 6,800 nuclear warheads with about 1,400 deployed on nearly 700 strategic bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. That is almost certainly enough in number, but during the 1980s, the United States had roughly 70,000 nuclear weapons.
The Soviet Union and the United States negotiated a series of arms control agreements aimed at severely reducing the nuclear threat. It is only recently under the Obama Administration that the United States began taking steps to modernize its nuclear capability.
Meanwhile, China has increased its nuclear arsenal to 300 weapons. France and the United Kingdom have roughly a combined 500. Israel, India and Pakistan each have about 100, and North Korea, which is aggressively testing its long-range ballistic missiles, might have as many as 10 nuclear warheads.
The continued nuclear proliferation is worrisome for U.S. military personnel, not to mention the rest of the world. But Trump’s bragging about U.S. power and lying about facts that can easily be disproven are a problem in themselves, further undermining our credibility and influence in a dangerous world.
Trust is a fragile commodity that has tremendous value both at home and abroad. The president’s blatant misrepresentation of the truth will continue the United States’ hemorrhaging of respect regardless of the actual strength of our nuclear arsenal.
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