Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On Nuclear Weapons

Hot Air excerpts and comments on a major new development in American nuclear weapons policy:

Drudge’s breathless red-font headline: “NO NUKES: EVEN IN SELF-DEFENSE!” As I read the story, though, the new policy still leaves open the possibility that we might initiate a nuclear exchange. It all depends on whether the target country has nukes of its own and whether it’s in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Let’s explore the nuance.

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the Cold War. For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons, or launched a crippling cyberattack

White House officials said that the new strategy will leave open the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reaches a level that makes United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.

Mr. Obama’s new strategy is bound to be controversial, both among conservatives who have warned against diluting America’s most potent deterrent, and among liberals who were hoping for a blanket statement that America would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Unless I’ve misunderstood, we reserve the right to nuke the following, whether in self-defense or otherwise: (1) nuclear states, (2) non-nuclear states that are in violation of the NPT (i.e. Iran), (3) non-nuclear states that attack the U.S. with bioweapons, but only if they possess a stockpile large enough to pose a risk of a “devastating strike.” I hope I’ve misunderstood that last one; the idea of Obama explaining to Americans that, yes, 50,000 people may be dead of smallpox but we can’t nuke country X because they don’t have a big enough stockpile of the virus yet is dark comedy gold.

Eh, I dunno. These are the same people who generally support the idea of eugenics, abortion-on-demand (and some even advocate forced abortions of undesirables), and destructive environmental policies that would push us back to the stone ages. I'm not at all convinced they'd bat an eye at losing another 50,000 Americans, especially if they were all from a group of political adversaries. But maybe I'm just cynical. Anyway, reading on...

The idea here, of course, is deterrence — comply with the NPT and you have nothing to fear — but (a) no one, least of all Iran, thinks Barack Obama’s going to use nuclear weapons against targets inside a non-nuclear state whether it’s following the NPT or not, and (b) everyone, including Iran, understands that a devastating attack on the U.S. by whatever means will create such unbearable pressure on the president to retaliate that these rules will be revisited instantly. It’s the nuclear equivalent of his interrogation protocol, essentially. America does not and will not torture captured terrorists as a matter of national policy — but if the CIA really, truly believed that a bomb was about to go off somewhere, don’t be surprised to see that policy politely ignored, to great public acclaim for Obama afterwards for having done what he needed to do to try to get the information.

All this is, really, is a symbolic gesture of good faith to put pressure on Russia and China to reduce their own stockpiles. Why we think they can be trusted to do that, especially when the United States is handing them a tactical advantage by reducing its own stockpiles unilaterally, is beyond me. But then it’s also beyond me why Obama would suspend development on any new forms of nuclear weapons, which the new policy also demands.
Again, Allahpundit at Hot Air is giving a lot more credit to Obama than I am. He seems quite content to let a bad policy stand, as long as we all ***wink wink, nudge nudge*** know that that policy would be ignored when it came down to the brass tacks.

Again, maybe I'm cynical, but I just don't see it. Obama is an ideologue, and thus more or less insulated from the normal pressures of a pragmatic politician. He doesn't care about the polls, he doesn't care about political suicide, and he doesn't care about damage to anyone but himself...all he cares about is achieving his agenda, no matter the cost. Has he done anything in the past 15 months that would lead us to believe otherwise? No.

On the same subject, I like what John at Powerline has to say:

On its face, that is unbelievably stupid. A country attacks us with biological weapons, and we stay our hand because they are "in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty"? That is too dumb even for Barack Obama. The administration hedged its commitment with qualifications suggesting that if there actually were a successful biological or chemical attack, it would rethink its position. The Times puts its finger on what is wrong with the administration's announcement:

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war.

That's exactly right. The cardinal rule, when it comes to nuclear weapons, is keep 'em guessing. We want our enemies to believe that we may well be crazy enough to vaporize them, given sufficient provocation; one just can't tell. There is a reason why that ambiguity has been the American government's policy for more than 50 years. Obama cheerfully tosses overboard the strategic consensus of two generations.

Or pretends to, anyway. Does anyone doubt that the administration would use nukes in a heartbeat if it considered such measures necessary? I don't.
I do. But John then goes a step beyond Allahpundit, and I couldn't agree more (emphasis mine):
The problem is that when the time comes to actually use nuclear weapons, it is too late. The danger here is not that the Obama administration has really gone pacifist. On the contrary, the significance of today's announcement appears to be entirely symbolic--just one more chance to preen. The problem is that our enemies understand symbolism and maybe take it too seriously. To them, today's announcement is another sign that our government has gone soft, and one more inducement to undertake aggressive action against the United States.
To Barack Obama and the hopelessly naive liberals who think that negotiating with religious zealots will work if we just smile big enough at them, this is a game of politics on a giant life-sized chess board. To our enemies, this is a gigantic loophole through which they can fly a Boeing 747 and destroy thousands of lives. Or, maybe next time they'll launch a few missiles from a tanker sitting 100 miles off the East Coast. Or maybe they'll coordinate an attack of 1,000 suicide bombers all across the nation in a psychological blow that touches every state in the union. Who knows? The point is that this isn't a game - real lives are at stake.

But Obama and the other libs don't get that. By the time they do and are finally willing to entertain the notion of playing hardball, the damage will already have been done. It's irresponsible, reckless, and dangerous leadership of the highest magnitude.

There's my two cents.

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