What happens when two nuclear submarines collide in the Atlantic? The New York Times issues a truly atrocious editorial, which it did this morning.  Early this month, British and French missile subs bumped each other, causing minor damage to both of them.  There was no release of radiation and no risk of accidental launch.

So what does the Times do?  It issues a call for an agreement among the United States, Britain, France, and Russia — the four nations operating missile subs in the Atlantic — to assign cruising depths.  As the paper notes, this would be like restricting airplanes to certain altitudes.

This is a truly atrocious idea.  First, an agreement of this sort would be unenforceable. The collision occurred because missile boats are silent and essentially untrackable.  So how are we going to detect violations?  Second, collisions are extremely rare — this was the first between two nuclear subs — and NATO on its own could further reduce a low risk by ensuring closer coordination among its member states.  Third, the security of the United States depends on masking the location of its missile subs.  Therefore, the last thing we should be doing is giving adversaries a clue as to where we are lurking in the ocean.  Not every problem in this world requires a treaty.

I believe in arms agreements, and I believe the United States is at risk as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world.  But as long as they exist, we need to do all we can to ensure that nations wishing us harm cannot locate the six or so missile boats that are on patrol at any one time.  The existence of our nation critically depends on keeping them hidden.

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