Obama Focuses On U.S. Nuclear Policy
It has been a busy period recently for the Obama administration regarding the issue of nuclear proliferation. The administration released the U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), in which is set forth when U.S. policy authorizes the use of nuclear weapons in the event of attack. The review raised some eyebrows when it pledged that the U.S. will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. This marks a change from when the U.S. maintained the right to use a nuclear weapon against any state attacking it with a weapon of mass destruction – including chemical or biological weapons.
There are instances where the deterrence of a U.S. nuclear strike has altered the behavior of a foe. In 1991, just prior to the Gulf War, Secretary of State James Baker informed Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz that if Iraq used chemical or biological warfare weapons against U.S. forces, “we’ll respond in any way we see fit.” This barely veiled threat was enough of a deterrent for Saddam Hussein that Iraq, although biological and chemical materials were available to attach to their warheads in the 80 plus scud missiles fired into Israel, attached none of those WMD materials. The critics argue that under the current NPR, Baker’s threat and deterrent would not be available.
President Obama has signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. He also hosted the leaders of 46 nations, the most gathered together since the United Nations was formed in San Francisco in 1945, with the stated goal of working together to keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands. The conference ended with the group pledging to create in the next four years a framework to keep nuclear materials from those engaged in terror.
President Obama’s busy agenda has gained kudos from many that applaud his efforts to secure a world where there are no nuclear weapons. And yet, from some corners, there has been criticism that he agreed to a treaty that gave Medvedev too much wiggle room to either abide by or to later reject the treaty.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on record stating that the proposed reductions to the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the levels specified in the treaty were acceptable, so long as we could update the remaining weapons that we have to ensure by testing that they were safe and reliable. Unfortunately for President Obama, the signals coming out of Moscow suggest the Medvedev government has serious doubts about the viability of the treaty it has signed. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov surprised many by warning that Russia might pull out of the treaty if U.S. plans to station strategic anti-missile interceptors in Europe, which were previously suspended by the Obama administration last year, are later revived during the 10-year life of the START agreement.
The U.S. Senate must at some point take up and pass the START Treaty by a margin of 67 votes if the treaty is to be ratified. U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is not certain that the treaty can pass without changes. “I don’t believe that there will be 67 votes to ratify the treaty unless the administration does two things,” Lieberman said. “First: commit to modernize our nuclear stockpile so as we have less nuclear weapons, we know that they are capable if, God forbid, we need them. And secondly, to make absolutely clear that the statements by Russian President (Dmitry) Medvedev at the signing in program, that seemed to suggest that if we continue to build ballistic missile defense in Europe they may pull out of this treaty, are just not acceptable to us. We need that defense to protect our allies and ourselves from Iran.”
This week’s question:
Should the Senate pass the START Treaty President Obama has negotiated with Russian President Medvedev?
By Mark Luedtke
If China had had nuclear weapons in 1931, Japan would not have invaded Manchuria. The rape of Nanking would never have happened. If France, Britain and the Soviet Union had had nuclear weapons, Germany would not have attacked them. If the US had had nuclear weapons, Japan would not have bombed Pearl Harbor. World War II would never have happened. Nearly all of the 72 million casualties of WWII would have lived full, happy lives. The destruction of the European continent would never have happened, civilization would be more advanced, and all the people of the world would be wealthier. As illustrated by the name Cold War, nuclear arsenals are the most effective deterrent against invasion known to man and save lives by deterring aggression between the major powers in the modern world. That’s why every nation covets them. But how many times over do we need to be able to destroy the world to have an effective nuclear deterrent? President Obama and Russian President Medvedev recently signed a treaty reducing the strategic nuclear arms of both countries. Unfortunately the text of the treaty has yet to be published so we only have the word of government officials, professional liars all, to go on, but reports consistently claim that both the U.S. and Russia will reduce deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 and the number of deployed delivery platforms – ICBMs, submarines and heavy bombers – to 700. Both countries have additional tactical nuclear warheads that aren’t addressed by the treaty. If the 1,550 number is accurate, and that seems likely since we’ll soon see the text, that’s a 30 percent reduction from the levels President Bush negotiated with Russian President Putin in 2002. That means we’ll only be able to destroy the 100 biggest cities in Russia 15 times over instead of 20 times over. It’s hard to criticize this, and watching Republicans try is entertaining. Ralph Peters is unhappy because the Russians only had that many useful weapons anyway. We will give up working weapons, but Russia won’t. But Peters doesn’t explain why that matters. He doesn’t claim it makes us vulnerable. As a veteran Cold Warrior, he just wants to make Russia weaker. Other Republicans have claimed the treaty makes us look weak. I’d like to know how.
Another criticism of the treaty is based on the status of U.S. missile defense. Medvedev announced that the treaty is based on the status quo including missile defense, and if that changes, he reserves the right to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty. The Obama administration claims the text of the treaty in no way limits missile defense development or deployment. Assuming the Obama administration is telling the truth because we’ll see the text of the treaty soon, Medvedev must be working public opinion to stop the U.S. from deploying missile defense in Eastern Europe ostensibly to protect Europe from an Iranian missile.
Republicans seem to be gravitating to this criticism, but it’s unfounded too. Every country has the power to unilaterally pull out of a treaty that is no longer in its interest. A withdrawal clause was built into the first START treaty. Besides which, we shouldn’t provide missile defense welfare to Europe. Europe is wealthier and more populous than the U.S. and just as technologically advanced. If Europeans want missile defense, they can develop it on their own. If they want to buy American technology to develop it faster, we should sell it. But American taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize Europe’s welfare states by providing missile defense.
A more reasonable criticism of the treaty is that it restricts the U.S. from developing new nuclear warheads. Our warheads are modern enough today, but they should be updated over time for safety and to respond to changing security concerns. But we don’t have any money to develop new warheads right now anyway. This shouldn’t stop anybody from voting to ratify this treaty. We have to fix our economic and fiscal problems before we worry about developing new warheads. Republicans have also criticized Obama’s updated policy for using nuclear weapons, but that’s a separate issue and should have no bearing on the ratification of the treaty. In one major change, Obama ruled out a nuclear first strike in response to a chemical or biological attack against the U.S. Critics claim this unilateral disarmament might invite a lunatic leader to use WMD against us when they wouldn’t have before. That’s ridiculous for two reasons. First, the U.S has an overwhelming conventional deterrent. A small part of the U.S .military rolled over Saddam Hussein and the fourth largest military in the world in less than three weeks. Second, if the American people demanded a nuclear response in the wake of a massive biological or chemical attack, Obama’s policy would be ripped to shreds, and everybody knows it. Critics claim Obama’s policy weakens our nuclear umbrella over allies, but the effectiveness of that umbrella is grossly exaggerated. Except for fanatics, economic self-interest is the real deterrent. Governments don’t start nuclear wars because there’s nothing to gain. Starting a nuclear war would dramatically depress the world economy, including the economy of the attacker, for years. The attacker would suffer isolation and poverty that would make North Korea look cosmopolitan. And you can’t conquer territory glowing with radiation. In the case of a nuclear armed country invading an ally supposedly under our umbrella, only a lunatic would start a nuclear war in response. Our nuclear umbrella didn’t deter the Soviets from invading Europe. The costs of conventional war against combined European and U.S. forces made it unprofitable. Assumptions that our nuclear umbrella has deterred others from attacking our allies cannot be proved, and I doubt they’re correct. In the example from the forum center, it’s far more likely Baker’s specific threat to topple Saddam Hussein if he used WMD kept him from doing so. I congratulate President Obama on finally doing something good for America.
Feel safer with Obama’s new nuke policy? Of course you don’t, because you’re not
By Gregory D. Lee
President Obama has implemented the first step in his naive vision of “a world without nuclear weapons.” Not only has he recently negotiated a treaty with Russia to further reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles, but also this week he announced a new doctrine in which the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries, even if attacked with deadly biological or chemical weapons, or by a debilitating cyber attack.
The President did make it clear that North Korea and Iran were still subject to being nuked if they were to attack us with nuclear weapons, primarily because they are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Until now, nuclear weapons doctrine was always classified. Presidents only spoke about it in generalities.
It was designed to allow the president maximum flexibility and to keep our enemies guessing. Mr. Obama is the first president to publicly announce when the country will or will not use the single most effective weapon ever devised in securing peace since World War II. Now, rogue nations that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will not fear that this president will retaliate with devastating nuclear firepower if they attack the U.S.
Does this surprise anyone considering the President’s previous statements about ridding the world of nuclear weapons? Only our enemies were surprised to hear the policy announcement. They probably still can’t believe an American president would ever consider such a thing, because they never would. If we’re lucky, they still don’t believe him, and they’re still deterred from attacking us. The question is why would any president go out of his way to intentionally weaken his country’s defenses? Why would he show his cards to his opponents during a poker game?
What if one or more of the 189 countries that are signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty decided to invade the U.S. or one of our allies using overwhelming conventional forces? Would they fear a nuclear strike by the U.S.? Not according to the new Obama policy. If you were a war planner for our enemies, wouldn’t you consider the likelihood of a retaliatory nuclear strike while formulating your plan? Wouldn’t you think it was impossible to defeat the United States because it just might drop nukes on your capital? Anyone with common sense would. Now, evil-doers will rethink their strategies in defeating the U.S. militarily, especially in light of our armed forces being stretched to the maximum in Iraq and Afghanistan.
My point is to ask, why fix something that is not broken? The U.S. has had a proven deterrent to attacks on the homeland for 60 years, so why change it now?
Mr. Obama’s vision of a world without nuclear weapons will never be achieved. The genie is out of the bottle, and has been since the United States dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan. That action ended a bloody war and saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese soldiers by forcing Japan to unconditionally surrender. There hasn’t been a Democratic president as strong as Harry Truman on national defense since.
Obviously the Russians still don’t trust the United States when it says it will never initiate a nuclear attack against them. At the Russians’ insistence, President Obama already backed off on a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe to protect it from a missile attack by Iran. So, do you feel any safer today than you did last week? I don’t. I do not believe that the U.S. is about to be attacked by any nation, including the Russians. I don’t believe there is a reason to be overly concerned at this point, but the actions of President Obama to purposely weakening our national defense for ideological reasons is unacceptable.
This is yet another good reason liberals cannot be trusted with national security.
Gregory D. Lee is a nationally syndicated columnist for North Star National
Reprinted with permission from North Star National