I’ve been struggling with what to say about Al Kamen’s publication of an e-mail from one of the promoters of the $700 billion figure to another. I’m not happy with anything I’ve written, but I think it’s important to get this out, especially in combination with all the posts I’ve written.
It seems to me that, from the start, the argument was badly done. The linkage to the budget involved policy only peripherally, and it is policy that drives the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal. Getting attention in the Super Committee required a big number. A big number was generated without enough thought as to what it included. The reaction to criticism was overblown and poorly thought out. And now an e-mail has leaked that shows that the people using the number don’t know what it represents but have decided to stonewall rather than say they got it wrong.
Compared to other national issues, this is a tempest in a teapot and is likely to be noticed only for a day by most people. But the “other side,” people who want to increase the number and menace of nuclear weapons, will keep this in their opposition research folders.
There are many things that Ploughshares and their allies could say. There is a more nuanced argument they could make as to how much nuclear weapons are likely to cost the country over the next ten years, which would probably not be $700 billion, but would still be a lot. But it looks like they are taking the counsel of the letter.
Links to previous posts in this series can be found here.