Nuclear arsenal poised to be cut under Obama’s plan

Posted on September 21, 2009



The UK Guardian reports that President Obama has rejected a Pentagon nuclear review as “too timid” and ordered a more radical review to pave the way for deep cuts in America’s nuclear weapons arsenal. The President’s eventual goal is the abolition of all nuclear weapons, and to that end the article lists a few options towards that goal:

• Reconfiguring the US nuclear force to allow for an arsenal measured in hundreds rather than thousands of deployed strategic warheads.

• Redrafting nuclear doctrine to narrow the range of conditions under which the US would use nuclear weapons.

• Exploring ways of guaranteeing the future reliability of nuclear weapons without testing or producing a new generation of warheads.

The broader strategy is produce disarmament momentum ahead of Obama’s chairmanship of a UN session that will see a push for tougher non-proliferation treaties and more radical disarmament from the present nuclear powers. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband writes that the stakes are high:

“This is one of the most critical issues we face,” the foreign secretary writes. “Get it right, and we will increase global security, pave the way for a world without nuclear weapons, and improve access to affordable, safe and dependable energy – vital to tackle climate change. Get it wrong, and we face the spread of nuclear weapons and the chilling prospect of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists.”

This move isn’t a surprise to any who saw such “no-nuke” tendencies in Obama the candidate, and while nuclear non-proliferation is a laudable goal, unilateral disarmament isn’t the way to go about it. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said chances are “quite high” for a deal on Russian arms reduction, but it’s by no means a sure thing, and Moscow won’t feel much pressure to compete with a Washington establishment that seems all too willing to hobble itself first in the hopes that others will follow. Leading by example won’t inspire other nations, particularly Iran and North Korea, to do the same as they’ll be only too glad that America has taken to disarming itself.

Even under the proposed cuts, it’s true that America will still have a few hundred nukes, each of which are potent enough weapons. But as Ed Morrissey writes, nuclear disarmament in this fashion is a relic of Cold War thinking since the most potent nuclear threat comes not from massive nuclear exchanges but from rogue states and terrorists. Nuclear non-proliferation ought to be focused in those areas instead of fulfilling a stale 30-year-old dream that has little to do with substance and reality and more to do with naive ideology.

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