I served in the Navy for six years, an enlistment that began during the Reagan administration under Secretaries Lehman and Weinberger, and ended with the election of President Clinton. I served aboard an East Coast aircraft carrier for the majority of those six years.
Every time we deployed overseas, we carried nuclear weapons with us. Dozens of them, as did the majority of US Navy ships. At the peak if US Naval power, the Navy had over 5,700 nuclear warheads afloat at any particular moment. That number represents more warheads than the entire US stockpile today.
During the Bush administration, President George HW Bush issued the Presidential Nuclear Inititatives, or PNI. With that initiative, the US unilaterally disarmed its Navy. In 1992, the US surface Navy lost not only the ability to use nuclear weapons, it lost the capability to do it, as the ‘W division’ that was onboard the ships and trained to handle them was disbanded. Additionally, he withdrew all nuclear weapons from many overseas locations, including the removal of 100 nuclear warheads from South Korea. An extension of this initiative was an international agreement that prohibited North and South Korea from producing nuclear weapons.
I still think that it was a bad idea. Bush signed the PNI because he was hoping that the Russians would reduce their own nuclear stockpile, and North Koreans would abandon their own nuclear program. We all know that has not happened.
Even though the Russians have fewer warheads than they once did, we now see that North Korea has gone on to develop their own weapons, and now we have to face the fact that there is an unstable dictator in possession of nuclear weapons, with at least enough range to reach all of the US to the west of Colorado.
We learned nothing from Neville Chamberlain