Letter to the Times:
Your leader (“Obama’s Folly,” August 16, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/obamas-folly-rz0klnp7r) ends by asserting “A doctrinal statement that rules out any first use of nuclear weapons provides no obvious benefit.”
Dr Ira Helfand, co-president of the respected International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, explained why a no-first use policy is the rational first step of de-escalating reliance on nuclear weapons for national or allied defence, in the New York Times this week, writing:
“For 70 years we have treated nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of our security. That view is fundamentally wrong. The nuclear nations have come perilously close to using these weapons on a number of occasions, (as was reported in the New York Times on Nov.2015, “NATO War Games Unwittingly Put Soviets and U.S. on ‘Hair Trigger’ in ’83, Analysis Suggests,” http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/world/europe/nato-war-games-unwittingly-put-soviets-and-us-on-hair-trigger-in-83-analysis-suggests.html?_r=2) and have been saved, not because nuclear weapons possess some magic power that prevents their use but because of a string of incredible good luck that will not last forever. (“Questions About America’s Nuclear Policy,” New York Times, August 16, www.nytimes.com/2016/08/15/opinion/questions-about-americas-nuclear-policy.html?ref=opinion&_r=0)
Backing Dr Helfand is Dr Lisbeth Gronlund, a former MacArthur Foundation fellow in international peace and security at the University of Maryland and a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Defense and Arms Control Studies Program, and currently co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who argues in the same newspaper: “Before he leaves office, President Obama should eliminate launch-on-warning options and remove American land-based missiles from their current hair-trigger posture.”
It is thus clear several security experts come to the opposite conclusion to your leader: it benefits the avoidance of nuclear war by error.