Emails I've received about the CTBT

My comments are in bold. I've removed people's names if they've requested.


To: General-Sunnyvale
Subject: Help save the planet in only 15 minutes!

As many of you know, my wife and I are active philanthropists. We donate in excess of $5M every year to a variety of charitable causes. Yet none of the work that we are doing to help others is going to make much difference if our world is devasted by a nuclear war.

The good news is that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) was concluded in 1996 after 40 years of bipartisan effort. The United States was the first to sign. President Clinton called it ''the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in the history of arms control.''

The bad news is that four weeks ago, the US Senate voted NOT to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Sen Joesph Biden was quoted in the press as saying "This is the most serious mistake the Senate ever made." And by "ever" I think he meant for all time, not just the current Senate.

I'd like to ask each of you to take a few minutes of your time and read the analysis of the rationale behind this vote on my website,

and make up your own mind on this issue.

By choosing who you support for elected office and encouraging your friends to be educated on this issue, you can help make a difference that may someday save our planet.


From Bill Krause, former CEO of 3Com:

Hi Steve. I'm doing my homework on the CTBT issue. I have read some of the briefing papers which you referred me to on the Internet in addition to some personal research of my own. Thank you for raising my level of consciousness.

As you may know, I am a graduate of The Citadel and recently I have become Chairman of their Advisory Council which consists of 5 four star generals/admirals among others. I spoke with two today and they commented that one of the generals mentioned in the Ploughshares report as being in favor may in fact not be in favor. His name is Andy Goodpastor. I plan to call Andy tomorrow and see what he has to say. I learned from the two generals that I did speak with that this matter is a very complicated issue with many different viewpoints from both the military and scientific communities.

I learned that it is absolutely possible to build nuclear warheads and test them without detection consistently. They can be designed to be below the threshold for seismic and radiation detection. [yes, but these weapons won't be too useful a threat, as mentioned on the CTBT page] Further I learned that there are strong opinions among both the military and scientific community that we have put the country at risk by not continuing testing ourselves [Think it through. The risk only surfaces if we have to use the weapons. If that ever happens, we all lose.]

To be clear, I have not yet drawn any final conclusions on the matter. I have, however, learned that the issue is complicated, not black and white, and deserves considerably more debate to ensure we are fully informed. [which means that at a minimum you should have expected a rather random distribution of support in the Senate, as each Senator carefully considered the conflicting scientific evidence and conflicting testimony by military experts and made their own judgements. Instead you got a vote almost totally aligned along party lines.] If anything the bill before the congress was way premature and should have had a great deal more discussion [absolutely right.]

I'm ready to participate in further discussion whenever you are. I hope this helps.


Thanks for  taking on Congressman Campbell on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I think he is pandering to the right-wingers in the Republican Party, but he's been doing that ever since Hershensohn beat him in '92. I think the Senate really blew it on this one. They are inviting proliferation by India, Pakistan, and many other countries. Like we really need more countries in possession of nuclear weapons. Dangerous stuff.

Keep up the good work!

I can't believe my comment is already on your site! Boy are you fast! Sounds like Bill is a bit conflicted on this. While I agree with him that this is not a black and white issue, to me, it is simple. The USA has thousands of very large nukes. There is no good reason to continue to blow up portions of the planet to show our strength. Nor do we need to blow them up to know that they will work. At this point, we also have the doctrine and infrastructure to assure the public that there is some sense of control over them. I'm very concerned that emerging nuclear powers lack this structure, and I don't want tosee the world endangered by proliferation. A USA rejection of CTBT makes proliferation more likely, and the world a more dangerous place. Bad news. I hope you can help turn it around.

Thanks for speaking up about the CTBT. I find the actions of our Congressional body very disappointing. As leading citizens of the world we definitely failed on this issue.


From: Ed McIntosh

I don't think you considered the possibility that we may be about to do a lot more nuclear testing in the near future as part of anti-missile defenses. Some types of anti-missile systems use nuclear weapons, and that may be something to consider. To the extent that the CTBT would prevent testing of such a system, it puts us at risk.

I also believe that some of the enforcement aspects of the treaty may have put our current arsenal at greater risk, without any advantage against possible adversaries. And weakness is danger.

I am all for world peace but this treaty, despite what Eisenhower said, does nothing for world peace. It is all about symbolism. The test ban would have no effect on stopping Pakistan from nuking India, Afghanistan from nuking Israel, Russia from nuking Afghanistan, Taiwan from nuking China, North Korea from nuking South Korea, or Iran & Iraq from nuking us. Those are the real dangers we face, and the CTBT just doesn't change ANY of those equations.

I do not think Bush has the Republican nomination wrapped up yet. If you want a President who will do the right thing and is not bought and paid for by the right or the left (like most Republicans and Democrats) you should consider Senator McCain. He does what he thinks is right, such as reform of soft money contributions, despite pressure from political parties. You probably won't like him because he voted against CTBT, but here are his reasons:

From: Bill Krause

Hi Steve. What did you think about Campbell's answer? I was on the call listening, but chose not to ask any questions.

I did manage to connect with my Citadel Advisory Council colleague, General Andy Goodpaster, from Supreme Headquarter Allied Commnander. Andy's name was mentioned in the Ploughshares report as being in favor of the CTBT. Here is what I learned.

1. Andy is very much in favor of A CTBT for the country. However, he believes the CTBT as proposed as some severe limitations. So it appears that Ploughshares may be taking Andy out of context and Andy believes that Colin Powell feels the same as he.

2. Andy believes the whole matter of a CTBT has been grossly mishandled by BOTH the Administration and the Congress. There should have been considerably more time for debate and open discussion. He (and many others of the military) is very upset at BOTH for playing politics with our National Security. This to quote him, "is at best totally irresponsible". Further he believes strongly that taking a position one way or the other with regards to the current CTBT should NOT be made a political election issue. This further politicizes the issue. He believes that we should elect the best possible people and charge them with the responsibility of achieving a satisfactory CTBT. Now if someone does not believe in a CTBT under any circumstances then that should be made a political election issue.

3. Andy believes one of the severe limitations of the current CTBT is in verification. He did not cite the specifics as did Tom Campbell, but he said essentially the same thing.

4. The other severe limitation has to do with the fact that the current CTBT is forever binding with no outs. Andy believes there should be an out for us to resume testing is the treaty is violated by another country. Another insight Andy had was that a CTBT would work for countries, but not for terrorist groups because they would take the risk of no or very limited low yield testing.

5. Andy also pointed out that without testing your current deterrent deteriorates quite rapidly. This is because testing is needed to certify safety and reliability of the triggering mechanisms due to plutonium decay.

Last Andy believes very strongly in favor of controlling nuclear proliferation.

He believes in the need for three actions: (1) a non-proliferation treaty which already exists; (2) a CTBT - better then the current proposed; and (3) a treaty between U.S. and Russia to reduce the nuclear arsenal from the current level of 10,000+ weapons to 100s of weapons.

This man is a very credible and respected individual. Hope this helps in furthering our education on this important issue. \Bill.

From: Steve Kirsch

I think Campbell's point that "inspection capability in the treaty is limited, so we should hold out for a better deal" misses the point of the treaty. Firstly, inspection isn't the heart of this. If people are going to violate the agreement, strengthening the inspection provision isn't going to make any difference or act as any more of a deterrent. We had comprehensive inspection rights in Iraq after their surrender. Those were our terms that we dictated. Did it help us? Not really. Saddam could move things and hide things. I think treaties are just like any business legal agreement that you negotiate in that if the parties don't want to comply, they'll figure a way out. The treaty is meant to allow honest people to remain honest, not cover ever loophole. While not perfect, we'll know who the cheaters are, sooner or later.

Secondly, surely it is in everyone's best interest to increase/modify the inspection provisions. So, if Tom really believes we can hold out for a better deal and get it, since it's in everyone's best interest, why not do it as an amendment later, after we get this passed? If it's easy, it will happen quickly. If it is not, it could take years and a lot could happen in the meantime. Why take the risk? This is a good start right now. Is Tom Campbell going to guarantee that we are going to be able to renegotiate this treaty, get everyone to re-sign and re-ratify, and do it all before we are all dead?

As far as Campbell's second point, which was "if we can't test, we can't know if our bombs will still work in 20 years," is interesting. It would seem to me you could just remove the radioactive material and re-test all the components to see if they meet the original factory specs. If they do, then we're no worse off then when we build these weapons in the first place. I'm just speculating here based on my training as an electrical engineer. But because I'm not an expert in this, so I'll defer to someone who knows more.

Naila, do you want to tackle a response to Bill's points?

I'm pursuing answers to the issues raised in the emails above. It's pretty clear that this is a complicated issue and nobody I've talked with so far has all the answers.

By the end of November, I should have assembled enough facts behind the issues raised above for all of us to make a final decision. For example, the argument about the detonators possibly going bad as a result of radiation could seemingly be cured without testing by replacing just the detonators every 10 years with brand new components. So I'm pursuing creative ideas like this off line and I'll post a summary here of my findings by the end of November.

Steve Kirsch's CTBT page