By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 04/18/10
We are now more vulnerable as a nation due to an inscrutable Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) last week from the administration. President Obama’s NPR pledged that the U.S. “will not conduct nuclear testing, and will seek ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty,” “will not develop new nuclear warheads,” and “will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”
By so doing, it also eliminates the protection to the country afforded by what Defense Secretary Robert Gates calls “calculated ambiguity.” Attempting to explain the move, Gates said, “If a non-nuclear-weapon state is in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty and its obligations, the U.S. pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it.” Instead, such an enemy “would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response”—even if that enemy “were to use chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies or partners.”
To put the new NPR in perspective in simple terms, it’s like George Washington admitting that he would not use cannons against any foe who claimed they didn’t have cannons, (whether they really had them or not, as long as they said they didn’t have any), in retaliation for an attack on colonial America.
Proclaiming to the world, our enemies and our allies, when we will and won’t use our nuclear arsenal, is a seriously flawed policy that places the country more at risk. Secretary Gates alluded to that, even as he attempted to explain away the NPR as cited above.
Ronald Reagan understood the importance of ambiguity regarding nuclear deployment, and the imperative of the U.S. maintaining peace through strength. He said in 1983, “Since the dawn of the atomic age, we've sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. Deterrence means simply this: Making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States or our allies or our vital interests concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength. Weakness only invites aggression. This strategy of deterrence has not changed. It still works.”
The NPR coincided with President Obama’s agreement with Russia to reduce nuclear arsenals by 30%, which is a step toward his promise in 2008 to “rid the world of nuclear weapons.” Since that will never happen, it’s tantamount to domestic gun control efforts to make guns illegal so that after law-abiding citizens are disarmed, the only guns remaining are in the hands of criminals and thugs. If we disarm, you can bet Iran and North Korea will not.
Of course all this plays very well with the “blame America first” crowd. Those who, apparently like Obama, think America is to blame for if not all, at least most, of the problems of the world. Those who think if we dismantled our arsenal, every other country would follow our “moral” lead, are delusional. Rogue nations like North Korea (which already has them, confirmed through seismological and spectral analysis) and Iran (which is on the verge of having them) would be undeterred and unfettered in their misuse.
Which brings us to the Presidents’ summit at the White House this week where he said, “The prospect of nuclear terrorism is the single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term and long-term.” If he truly felt that way, he wouldn’t be telegraphing to the world, especially our avowed enemies, our nuclear deterrence strategy, reducing our deterrence stockpiles, refusing to fund development of advanced deterrence technology, eliminating funding for a missile defense shield, and allowing the terrorist states of North Korea and Iran to continue unabated in developing their nuclear programs.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was obviously not impressed and mocked the new policy. He declared, “American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately resort to their weapons like cowboys. Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer. Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended.” It appears he was not motivated to abandon his nuclear ambitions by Obama’s idealism. The miscreants of the world never are.
According to the Center for Defense Studies, “The message being sent to the rest of the world is that the United States finds nuclear deterrence distasteful and wants to get out of the nuclear weapons business….The result may be a more volatile and dangerous world.”
Columnist and former Carter administration official Charles Krauthammer explains, “Nuclear doctrine consists of thinking the unthinkable. It involves making threats and promising retaliation that is cruel and destructive beyond imagining. But it has its purpose: to prevent war in the first place…A nuclear posture is just that - a declaratory policy designed to make the other guy think twice. Our policies did. The result was called deterrence.”
Referring to the new Obama policy, Krauthammer continues “This is quite insane. It's like saying that if a terrorist deliberately uses his car to mow down a hundred people waiting at a bus stop, the decision as to whether he gets (a) hanged or (b) 100 hours of community service hinges entirely on whether his car had passed emissions inspections. Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the U.S. without fear of nuclear retaliation?”
You don’t have to be a foreign or military policy expert to see the flaws in this nuclear posturing. Common sense would lead anyone to realize that America is weakened when we promulgate our weapons usage policy, and inflict self-imposed limitations with our deterrent system. We are now more at risk now than we were a week ago, to the very thing Obama said constitutes our greatest threat.