James Carafano: 'New START' leads to bad end 

John Forbes Nash Jr. had a beautiful mind. Ron Howard said so.

Howard directed "A Beautiful Mind," the 2001 film about the prize-winning mathematician. The movie was artful. (Much of the story line was "cinematized," Howard explained, because "Nash is not particularly communicative about that sort of thing [his life]." But what Nash can do with numbers is fine art indeed. The letter of recommendation a professor wrote to get Nash into graduate school was one sentence long -- "This man is a genius."

What earned Nash notoriety and a place on the silver screen was his work on game theory. Game theories attempt to understand how competitions unfold. Here, "game" is a metaphor for a structured model designed to evaluate how competitors make choices.

During the Cold War, U.S. analysts used gaming exercises to evaluate the nuclear stand-off with the Evil Empire. Games let them examine -- without risking real-world nuclear war -- how nuclear deterrence might play out if one side or the other changed strategies.

Cold War games involved only two players -- us and them. Nash analyzed how to manage outcomes when several players were all operating independently: the Nash equilibrium. It earned him the Nobel Prize.

My Heritage Foundation colleague Baker Spring built on this concept to game what might happen in a world with numerous independent nuclear powers. Many experts believe that, once North Korea and Iran become established nuclear weapons nations, other regional powers will go nuclear too. And fast.

Welcome to the world of multiple proliferation. With so many fingers on so many buttons, it is not a neighborhood Mr. Rogers would like.

Spring will soon publish the results of his nuclear games. In one scenario, Spring directed the U.S. player to stick to President Obama's strategy for creating a nuke-free world: pursue arms control, let the U.S. arsenal atrophy, and minimize the role of missile defense.

The results offered good news (of a kind) and bad news. The good news: At game's end, there were, indeed, fewer nuclear weapons in the world. The bad news: It was because so many were used in the ensuing nuclear war.

That's the great tragedy of Obama's "road to zero": It is likely to achieve the opposite results of its aim. A deliberately self-weakened United States will exert little influence on the nuclear inventories and programs of other nations.

Rather, potential competitors will feel emboldened. They'll step up their programs. Allies will feel increasingly insecure and take matters more into their own hands.

The gateway to this road to disaster is the New START agreement that the president wants Congress to ratify. It's a bad agreement. It makes Russia a more dominant nuclear power, and it makes Russia more, not less, dependent on nuclear weapons.

Under this agreement, Russia can actually build more delivery systems. It can modernize its nuclear weapons just as much as it wants. And it does not have to count its tactical nukes. The latter is a huge problem because (a) it has way more tactical nukes than we do and (b) since Russia can use its tactical nukes to threaten nearby neighbors, they serve as potent strategic weapons, too.

The whole point of war games is to help strategic leaders avoid making stupid choices. America's New START negotiators could have benefited mightily from the lessons of Spring's "Nuclear Games." Here's hoping the "beautiful minds" of the Senate do better.

Examiner Columnist James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation ( heritage.org)

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