President Obama’s new Nuclear Policy Review has been met with both pronounced applause and the seemingly rehearsed disapproval from the conservative right. Beginning with his agreement with Russia, signed alongside the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in Prague this morning, Obama plans to cut the American arsenal by thousands of weapons, and has outlined more conservative guidelines for when to deploy nukes. His policy calls for no new development of nuclear arms, a greater dependence on missile defense and investment in the development of non-nuclear options. The approach is sound and measured, methodical and progressive.
In an age where the Cold War has been replaced by terrorist extremism, President Obama is seeking greater cooperation with nations like Russia and China, in order to defend ourselves against the possible threats posed by the nuclear ambitions of states like North Korea and Iran. What, therefore, are the loopholes he has been accused of over-looking? Or is any attempt at diplomacy by Obama’s White House always to be met with unreasonable accusations that his approach is naïve and ultimately counter-productive, making America less safe? It seems the latter is true.
The U.S. and Russia currently hold 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal between them. Naturally, with such a clear monopoly on the market they are leaders, uniquely positioned to shape both attitudes and policy. President Obama’s aim is to encourage the other nuclear states to follow suit. These include our allies the United Kingdom, France and Israel as well as China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. And herein lays the ultimate dilemma: what about everyone else? Many small states that have no realistic prospect of ever having nuclear weapons resent a world order in which they must embrace abstinence while the more powerful or more daring do not. This is the double standard Obama is seeking to address, while maintaining the pragmatic recognition that the USA must remain the premiere nuclear power in order to provide the ultimate deterrent in the face of an increasingly dangerous world. Naturally, there is sensitivity about sovereignty among our UN member states, but this can never be fully alleviated. In a world where terrorists seek nuclear capability both in the fictitious realm of 24’s Jack Bauer, as well as the real modern day Iran, we can lead toward the ideal whilst maintaining our military prominence.
WATCH KEITH OLBERMANN’S REPORT ON OBAMA’S NEW NUCLEAR POLICY:
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The truth of the matter is unpredictable leaders like Iran’s Ahmadinejad literally believe in the coming of the Iman Mahdi and Armageddon in the end times and are happily willing to usher in that arrival. With this reality ever-present, President Obama’s Nuclear Policy Review is both progressive and practical. In answer to the critics on the far right who claim this is not the time to be limiting nuclear capability, I answer simply that Obama’s plan will make America capable of destroying the world fifty times over instead of one hundred times over. Is that making America less safe?
Another key element to this approach is an acknowledgment that the way to deal with the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea is not America’s bully pulpit: the tactic most used by the Bush administration. Nor is it to alienate those nations who appear to be seeking nuclear capability by dismissing them as “rogue states”. The best action is diplomacy. Of course, critics will claim that the diplomatic approach to seemingly extremist leaders is unpractical, but we sign treaties and must be governed by their terms and conditions. The USA is no exception to that rule, nor should it be. To that end, it is in Obama’s best interest, as a seeker of peace and a strong commander-in-chief, to garner broad international support for an American embargo against nations like Iran, instead of acting defiantly and independent of the diplomatic process.
The president has already developed a platform addressing these issues, which is both credible and coherent. First, the US-Russian reduction of arsenals, this week’s revelation of an Obama doctrine reducing the scope for American use of nuclear weapons, and even Obama’s stated objective (realistic or not) of a world free of nuclear weapons. With such bows in its quiver, the United States will not be seen as the schoolyard bully, brandishing nuclear weapons even as it asks weakling states to knuckle under and eschew them. In response to a U.S. narrative of aiming for a world free of nuclear weapons, this concrete American action to reduce its nuclear arsenal will make other countries more inclined to renounce their own nuclear aspirations (however notional and academic) and to support action against scary states like Iran.
WATCH OBAMA AND MEDVEDEV SIGNING THE START TREATY HERE:
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To that end, President Obama should be lauded. He has been derided as weak, but stood strong against Israel’s recent abuse of their agreements with Palestine. He was open to talks with Iran, but responded in kind to Ahmedinejad’s insistence on developing nuclear warheads. He has breached the 60-year gap left by Cold War tactics and actually created a dialogue with Russia, solidifying steps toward achieving real nuclear disarmament. If that is weakness, then I endeavor to know the meaning of strength.