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Former U.S. Strategic Command Officer Warns: Take Nuclear Missiles Off Alert To Mitigate the Risk of Nuclear War

July 17, 2015 (EIRNS)—Another warning of the danger of nuclear war appeared in U.S. News & World Report this week, calling on both the U.S. and Russia to get their fingers off the nuclear trigger. Retired Lt. Gen. Arlen Jameson, a former deputy commander and chief of staff of U.S. Strategic Command, and Lisbeth Gronlund of the Union of Concerned Scientists, write in a July 16 column that both Russia’s nuclear threats and NATO’s response are irresponsible (they don’t argue with the prevailing narrative about the crisis).

"After all, it is during times of heightened tension that misunderstandings and mistakes are more likely to happen," they write. "The two countries are still living with a short-burning nuclear fuse that dates back to the Cold War," by keeping hundreds of nuclear missiles on alert aimed at each other. "And whether this strategy ever made sense, it does not today, when an accidental, mistaken, or unauthorized launch is more likely than a first strike."

The authors point out the fallibility of launch control systems and argue for taking them off of high alert. "Obama should call on Russia to join the United States in removing land-based missiles from high alert," they conclude.

"It’s the smartest single thing the two countries can do to reduce the risk of accidental or unintended nuclear war. It will make the United States and Russia—and the world—safer and more secure. And it will be a positive step away from a renewed Cold War."

If only Obama were that rational, and his own person.

Jameson and Gronlund’s argument clearly echos that of retired General James Cartwright, a former commander of U.S. Strategic Command and also former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and retired Russian General Vladimir Dvorkin, formerly a senior officer in Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, who co-authored an April 19 op-ed in the New York Times. They also warned that the risk of nuclear war—stemming from having so many weapons on hair-trigger alert—was very high, and that, to mitigate the risk, the launch-on-warning concept, on which the high alert of both countries is based, needs to be eliminated.