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senate Bill S. 272

Should the U.S. Adopt a No First Use Policy for Nuclear Weapons?

Argument in favor

America’s current nuclear strategy is unnecessarily risky, creating opportunities for nuclear war when countries come into conflict with the U.S. Codifying a No First Use policy would help make the U.S. and the world safer.

Hailey's Opinion
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09/04/2019
It should never come to the point of using nuclear weapons in the first place....
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jimK's Opinion
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09/04/2019
The godlike power to end the world as we know it by engaging in a full-out nuclear conflict needs to be restrained in as many ways possible. We have all been witnessing the nut-balls current running our government and THEY ALL NEED RESTRAINTS. I say NO to first use of nuclear weapons EVER. If multiple nuclear capable missiles were ever launched targeting our country, then a rapid and measured in-kind response would certainly be required- without escalation beyond any 'in-kind' response. The world might survive that. Our defense against nuclear attack comes mainly from the deterrence arising from our having a decisive ability to strike back- which hopefully we will never have to use. … …. A much better solution to all of this is to build the world-wide coalition necessary to tackle the looming impacts of climate change. This will be costly and require world-wide coordination, planning and commitments to stop and hopefully reverse these threats as well as to provide aid to countries with populations suffering from changing watersheds, loss of productive crop lands and vanishing coastal lowlands. When world leaders have to work together to solve a common problem- it is much less likely that they will also be trying to destroy one another.
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burrkitty's Opinion
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09/04/2019
Haven’t we talked about this already? We have only ever used them once and the results was immediate surrender. We didn’t use them as a first strike then and we never should do that. There’s no reason why that is ever going to be necessary. Ever.
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Argument opposed

America’s nuclear arsenal is an important deterrent against nuclear threats to both it and its allies, and has prevented nuclear war. Eliminating the deterrent of a potential pre-emptive nuclear first could embolden adversaries like Russia & China.

JDMA's Opinion
···
09/04/2019
No, we have the right to self preservation. Why would you tie your hands when you are protecting yourself? Only a fool who take the option off the table. Then again this is coming from the far left..
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Lori's Opinion
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09/04/2019
No. Never take your ultimate option off the table. You never know what unforeseen scenario may necessitate such a first response.
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JTJ's Opinion
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09/04/2019
This is proof that warren would be a terrible commander in chief. She has no clue.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
    IntroducedJanuary 30th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 272?

This bill — the No First Use Act — would establish in law that it’s the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first. Currently, the U.S. explicitly retains the option to be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict, even in response to a non-nuclear attack.

Impact

Nuclear policy; No First Use; and U.S. response to military threats.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 272

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced this bicameral legislation to establish a formal no first use policy for the U.S. in regards to nuclear weapons. In a joint statement, Sen. Warren and Rep. Smith said: 

“Our current nuclear strategy is not just outdated--it is dangerous. By making clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal, this bill would reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation and help us maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world."

In November 2018, Sen. Warren called for a No First Use policy in a speech laying out her vision for a progressive foreign policy

“Let me propose three core nuclear security principles. One: No new nuclear weapons. I have voted against and will continue to vote against this President's attempt to create new, more "usable" nuclear weapons. Two: More international arms control, not less. We should not spend over a trillion dollars to modernize our nuclear arsenal, at a time when the President is doing everything he can to undermine generations of verified arms control agreements. Instead, let's start by extending New START through 2026. Three: No first use. To reduce the chances of a miscalculation or an accident, and to maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world, we must be clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal.”

The Arms Control Association’s executive director, Daryl G. Kimball, wrote in favor of a No First Use policy in October 2018: 

“Retaining the option to use nuclear weapons first is fraught with unnecessary peril. Given the overwhelming conventional military edge of the United States and its allies, there is no plausible circumstance that could justify legally, morally, or militarily the use of nuclear weapons to deal with a non-nuclear threat. Even in the event of a conventional military conflict with Russia, China, or North Korea, the first use of nuclear weapons would be counterproductive because it likely would trigger an uncontrollable, potentially suicidal all-out nuclear exchange…  [L]eaders in Congress and the next administration must re-examine and revise outdated nuclear launch policies in ways that reduce the nuclear danger. Shifting to a formal policy stating that the United States will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack would be a significant and smart step in the right direction.”

In the Fall 2010 issue of International Security, Michael S. Gerson argued that a continued U.S. First Use policy raises the risk of serious future armed conflicts

“If a nuclear-armed opponent believes that the United States might use nuclear weapons first in a disarming strike, a severe crisis could be especially dangerous and unstable. A crisis is ‘stable’ when neither side has an overriding incentive to use nuclear weapons first, and both sides are aware of this situation. Conversely, a crisis is ‘unstable’ when one or both states have an overriding incentive to strike first. Given U.S. quantitative and qualitative advantages in nuclear forces, and given that current and potential nuclear-armed adversaries are likely to have nuclear arsenals with varying degrees of size and survivability, in a future crisis an adversary may fear that the United States could attempt a disarming nuclear first strike. Even if the United States has no intention of striking first, the mere possibility of such a strike left open by a policy of not ruling one out could cause suboptimal decisionmaking in the heat of an intense crisis and increase the chances that nuclear weapons are used.”

Critics of No First Use argue that the U.S. is in a unique position with regards to nuclear weapons use. They contend that the U.S. is responsible for not only defending itself, but also extending a protective nuclear umbrella over its allies around the world. With this in mind, numerous American allies with more populous enemies — Britain, Japan, France, and South Korea — all lobbied against No First Use when the Obama administration considered the idea.

Those who oppose the adoption of No First Use by the U.S. also point to the increasing potency of non-nuclear weapons, such as hypersonic missiles (which can cross oceans at over five times the speed of sound), chemical weapons, and biological weapons, as weapons of war that may demand a nuclear U.S. respond. They argue that a nuclear response shouldn’t be off the table if such weapons are used to attack the U.S. or its allies. 

The Dept. of Defense is opposed to adopting a No First Use policy. In a fact sheet, “Dangers of a Nuclear No First Use Policy,” the DOD writes: 

“[A]doption of [a No First Use policy] could increase the likelihood of devastating conflict, including one that escalates to nuclear war, by incentivizing non-nuclear strategic attack on, and coercion of, the U.S. or our allies and partners. Such a policy may change how adversaries and allies view the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and our resolve to use it when our vital interests are threatened. Operational scenarios exist in which the U.S. would consider first use. Retaining a degree of ambiguity and refraining from a no first use policy creates uncertainty in the mind of potential adversaries and reinforces deterrence of aggression by ensuring adversaries cannot predict what specific actions will lead to a U.S. nuclear response. Implementing a no first use policy could undermine the U.S. ability to deter Russian, Chinese, and North Korean aggression, especially with respect to their growing capability to carry out non- nuclear strategic attacks.” 

Finally, critics of No First Use as a policy point out that the mere declaration of such a policy might not convince adversaries. As evidence of this, they point out that Pakistan is skeptical of India’s No First Use pledge; and the U.S. is skeptical of China’s.

This legislation has six Senate cosponsors, including five Democrats and one Independent. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), has 36 Democratic House cosponsors. Neither bill has received a committee vote.

Beyond the Bomb supports this bill.


Of NoteChina and India committed themselves to version of No First Use decades ago. However, in the U.S., committing to No First Use would reverse over seven decades of nuclear strategy. 

Both the Obama and Trump administrations have considered — and rejected — the idea of adopting a No First Use policy. The Obama administration considered the idea twice: first in its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and then again near the end of Obama’s second term, as part of a mini-nuclear review. In its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration reviewed the policy and reaffirmed Obama’s decision.

During the Obama administration, both military and civilian officials opposed the adoption of a No First Use policy. Air Force officials argued that a policy of calculated ambiguity gave the president options in the crisis. Admiral Haney, then-Commander in Chief of Strategic Command, noted that a shift to No First Use could undermine deterrence and stability in an uncertain security environment. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry and then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter also raised concerns that a No First Use policy could undermine U.S. allies’ confidence and security.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Neoslam)

AKA

A bill to establish the policy of the United States regarding the no-first-use of nuclear weapons.

Official Title

A bill to establish the policy of the United States regarding the no-first-use of nuclear weapons.

    It should never come to the point of using nuclear weapons in the first place....
    Like (82)
    Follow
    Share
    No, we have the right to self preservation. Why would you tie your hands when you are protecting yourself? Only a fool who take the option off the table. Then again this is coming from the far left..
    Like (73)
    Follow
    Share
    The godlike power to end the world as we know it by engaging in a full-out nuclear conflict needs to be restrained in as many ways possible. We have all been witnessing the nut-balls current running our government and THEY ALL NEED RESTRAINTS. I say NO to first use of nuclear weapons EVER. If multiple nuclear capable missiles were ever launched targeting our country, then a rapid and measured in-kind response would certainly be required- without escalation beyond any 'in-kind' response. The world might survive that. Our defense against nuclear attack comes mainly from the deterrence arising from our having a decisive ability to strike back- which hopefully we will never have to use. … …. A much better solution to all of this is to build the world-wide coalition necessary to tackle the looming impacts of climate change. This will be costly and require world-wide coordination, planning and commitments to stop and hopefully reverse these threats as well as to provide aid to countries with populations suffering from changing watersheds, loss of productive crop lands and vanishing coastal lowlands. When world leaders have to work together to solve a common problem- it is much less likely that they will also be trying to destroy one another.
    Like (70)
    Follow
    Share
    Haven’t we talked about this already? We have only ever used them once and the results was immediate surrender. We didn’t use them as a first strike then and we never should do that. There’s no reason why that is ever going to be necessary. Ever.
    Like (39)
    Follow
    Share
    No. Never take your ultimate option off the table. You never know what unforeseen scenario may necessitate such a first response.
    Like (31)
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    Anyone who thinks nuclear weapons are a answer to any political problem is clearly insane
    Like (26)
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    For humanity’s sake.
    Like (22)
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    This is proof that warren would be a terrible commander in chief. She has no clue.
    Like (20)
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    Why in the world would you want to make a foolish law from using nuclear weapons. It would hamstring our military from protecting our nation! So are we supposed to wait until they explode a nuclear bomb somewhere in our country?Just look at who sponsored this bill! Let’s use some common sense! Should we have waited until Japan for Germany nuked us before we reacted? No this bill just doesn’t make any sense.
    Like (19)
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    The US should have a no-first-use nuclear policy regardless of the type of attack or aggression, even in response to chemical or biological attack.
    Like (19)
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    For the entire duration of trumps presidency there should be a no use policy and acted by Congress. Trump is so erratic, vapid, and so slowly stupid that he might not even realize the impact a nuclear strike would have.
    Like (17)
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    Warren is not only a clueless candidate, she is now a dangerous one. Warren is the political equivalent to an angry blind man wielding a loaded gun.
    Like (14)
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    Never take your strongest weapon off the table. Now that our enemies know this, do you think they’ll go soft on us for the first strike? This is a pretty stupid idea and nothing more than red tape for our military and our protection. We don’t know when the time to use our nuclear weapons will come, but creating rules against it now without knowing any details is naive and backing ourselves into a corner. And just think of all the other dumb ideas to come if this woman gets elected.
    Like (11)
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    Let’s get agreements back so that we eventually wipe out all nuclear weapons. Sounds like utopia, but anything is possible. But I understand having the use for first strike capabilities until utopia takes effect.
    Like (11)
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    Require congressional approval and no emergency exceptions. Somebody please throw yourself on the big orange clown if he so much as glances at the red button.
    Like (11)
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    No first strike policy is reality
    Like (10)
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    Yes. The point is to deter other countries. If we cannot fire first, they’re still deterred. There’s no reason we should ever be using a nuke, unless we have no choice.
    Like (10)
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    Once anyone fires a nuclear bomb the earth as we know it is gone from us forever. Damn right we should at least pass a NO FIRST USE resolution!
    Like (9)
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    Why would we let our adversaries ever know our positions on US security.
    Like (8)
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    It should never come to the point of using nuclear weapons in the first place. Don't we have a State Department, the United Nations?However, no President should be able to start any war with any country without approval from the Full Congress. The use of Nuclear Weapons should only be used in the case of Mutually Assured Destruction, in other words if we are attacked first. Also in the circumstances that mirror the Cuban Missile Crisis.
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