Debate: Should the U.S. Adopt 'No First Use' Nuclear Policy? | Opinion

It has now been 75 years since the U.S., under then-President Harry S. Truman, deployed atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a means of expediting a Japanese surrender in World War II. Since August 1945, there has not been a single instance of a nuclear weapon deployed during active wartime hostilities. Nonetheless, the U.S. today touts the same nuclear strike policy that it maintained throughout the entirety of the Cold War: that which retains the threat of a preemptive nuclear "first strike," if need be. Some, including current Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, now espouse a "no first use" nuclear policy that would publicly remove such a threat. Is that a good idea? Or has the status quo served America well and kept us safe?

For the latest Newsweek "Debate of the Week," bestselling author and nuclear non-proliferation advocate Greg Mitchell debates Hudson Institute senior fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs on one of the most important, but perhaps one of the more under-discussed, U.S. defense policy questions: Should we adopt a "no first use" nuclear strike policy?

We hope you enjoy this important and informative Debate.

Josh Hammer, Newsweek opinion editor, is also a syndicated columnist and of counsel at First Liberty Institute.

Seventy-five years have now passed since the United States initiated a policy known as "first use" with its atomic attack on Hiroshima. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, it was affirmed with a second detonation over the city of Nagasaki. No nuclear attacks have followed since, although many Americans are probably unaware that this first-strike policy very much remains in effect.

And that's a problem.

Reject 'No First Use' Nuclear Policy

There is an activist effort among nuclear idealists to mobilize public opinion and urge elected officials to pledge to support a policy of "no first use" (NFU). Put simply, an American president who would adopt a policy of NFU would be declaring that the United States will never be the first country to use a nuclear weapon in a war.

No doubt these activists were thrilled to see Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden offer an enthusiastic recent embrace of NFU. But his position is not new; at a campaign event last year, Biden confirmed that he has supported NFU for more than 20 years.

Then-President Barack Obama in Hiroshima, Japan
Then-President Barack Obama in Hiroshima, Japan in 2016 Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images