Obama’s “Bizarre” Nuclear Policy Isn’t

The nuclear treaty with Russia is separate from America’s nuclear diplomacy with Iran and North Korea.

It has become a familiar mantra of the political right in recent months: President Barack Obama is projecting weakness by engaging enemies and estranging allies. Even a bold new START agreement signed with Russia earlier this week which if anything sends a strong message to the rest of the world that the United States is committed to a secure balance of nuclear power, is being lambasted by some conservatives as though it were to leave the country exposed to imminent attack.

Charles Krauthammer for instance, who previously opined that the Obama Administration is furthering America’s decline, complains in The Washington Post that under the president’s new policy, the United States will refrain from retaliating with nuclear weapons against aggressors who attack with biological or chemical agents.

Krauthammer describes the promise as both “morally bizarre” and “strategically loopy” while conveniently neglecting to mention that the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) to which he refers, explicitly excludes rogue states as Iran and North Korea from the arrangement.

“The ultimate aim,” according to Krauthammer, “is to get to a blanket doctrine of no first use.” Which is true, though not quite so “deeply worrying” as he might think. If we are to believe Krauthammer, American nuclear weapons represent nothing short of an “existential protection” of NATO allies. “What are they to think?” he wonders.

Had he bothered to read up a bit on recent European press coverage, Krauthammer could have known better than to pretend that NATO finds the nuclear arms reduction treaty particularly worrying. All the more so because the NPR reads that any decision as to the future of the tactical warheads currently on forward deployment in Europe will be made in council with the allies. The United States won’t unilaterally decide to remove these weapons; a move that would, indeed, leave Europe more vulnerable.

Slightly less intellectual criticism of the administration’s nuclear policy came from the direction of former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin who spoke at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Thursday. Palin reiterated that the president has been “soft” on dictators and blamed him for barely mustering support for Iranian revolutionaries last year. The “Obama Doctrine,” which she praised in December, suddenly entails “coddling enemies and alienating allies,” apparently.

Now President Obama, with all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer and as a full-time candidate — still no accomplishment to date with North Korea and Iran.

That, of course, is coming from the woman who believes that all people living on the American side of the Bering Sea are by definition Kremlinologists.

It may be tempting to use the news of the START treaty and the latest NPR to blame the administration for having made little progress with regards to Iran and North Korea. But while the two are related, they deserve to be treated separately at the same time. Reducing America’s nuclear stockpile with a third leaves plenty of warheads sitting in silos all across the country to blast both regimes to oblivion many times over. The diplomatic failures of the Obama Administration in Iran and North Korea are worrisome, but to mix them together with nuclear arms reduction and then portray the president as a weakling is unbecoming of intelligent commentators.


  1. let me play devil’s advocate here:

    The NPR is based on the premises that a) a world in which no country has nukes is not only desirable but also practically possible (it is neither); b) the unilateral nuclear disarmament of the US will make the world safe and peaceful; c) renouncing the use of nukes while others do not do so will prevent an attack against the US; d) big rivals like Russia and China don’t threaten the US; e) there’s a significant risk that nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists.

    the premises on which the NPR is found are flawed and thus the whole NPR is flawed.

    furthermore during the 1920s and the 1930s, the world tried to prevent war by signing disarmament treaties and war-prohibiting treaties like the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The Versailles Treaty imposed disarmament obligations not only on Germany, but also other countries, and paved the way for universal disarmament. The London Naval Treaty and the Washington Naval Treaty also reduced the weapon arsenals of many countries, including the US, Britain, and France. But Germany and Japan eventually abrogated these treaties, and instead of preventing war, these disarmament treaties caused the bloodiest war this planet has ever witnessed.

    Britain, France and the US found themselves disarmed while Germany and Japan were building up their militaries. The result? Germany inflicted a series of humiliating defeats upon Allied countries, which were forced to catch up with Berlin. Japan created such a strong military that it wasn’t until Sep. 2nd, 1945, that it finally surrendered.

    It’s not the specific technical aspects of this or that disarmament treaty that are the most worrisome – it’s the fundamentally flawed premises on which they’re all based.

  2. Not only do I agree with the sound points made by Fareed, I also worryingly agree with Palin “The “Obama Doctrine,” which she praised in December, suddenly entails “coddling enemies and alienating allies,” apparently”
    Whilst a very minimalistic explanation of Obama-Clinton Foreign policy isn’t far fetched. Obama does seem to be slackening US input on traditional security partnerships in exchange for seeking new ones. The balance is something which needs tweaking. The US has no permanent friends or enemies, to paraphrase Lord Palmerston, and I were American I’d probably be all for it. But I’m not, so the rehashing, albeit small, of American military foreign policy isn’t something which inspires confidence in erstwhile NATO members and US security partners.

  3. Secondly, look how evil Medvedev looks in that picture.

    I know. There must be something fishy about those drinks.

  4. “There must be something fishy about those drinks.”

    The blood, sweat and tears of their constituents.

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