Missing the Target

In his slightly more than one year in office, President Barack Obama has sought to change how America does business. Even his detractors must concede that he has left an indelible thumbprint on the American style of governance. Not content to simply change America’s domestic affairs, he has also sought to reset America’s relationship with the world. From Cairo to Prague, he has spoken of the need for new ways forward, for “change,” to use the cliché. Nowhere has the President sought greater changes than in how America, and by extension the free world, seeks to minimize the dangers of suffering a devastating attack with nuclear bombs or other weapons of mass destruction.

The President’s hopes for a world one day free of nuclear weapons are well known. How he wants to get there, however, is problematic. He canceled plans to deploy a formidable system of anti-ballistic missile systems in Eastern Europe, dealing a serious blow to close allies in the region while opting for a far less ambitious program of limited missile defenses stationed aboard Navy warships. His Administration has in the past several weeks announced plans to sign a new treaty with Russia to reduce the number of nuclear weapons held by both nations (a laudable goal, but one undercut by worrying signs that the treaty’s math is faulty).

Most worrisome was the recent release of the Obama Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NRP). This assessment, conducted during every presidential administration, examines the role that nuclear weapons play in American military and foreign policy, sets future goals and identifies problems. It also lays out, in measured bureaucratic language, the view that a president personally has to the most fearsome weapons at his disposal.

The new NPR seems determined to limit when America would (and would not) use nuclear bombs — they would not be used against countries that do not possess their own arsenals, even if that country has undertaken a devastating biological, chemical or cyber attack upon America or an ally. The Administration has left itself some wiggle room, reserving the right to respond to a massive biological attack, made possible by rapidly advancing medical science, with nuclear weapons, if the casualties warranted such a retributive taking of life. (How the Administration would respond to an electromagnetic attack is not specified.)

There is nothing inherently objectionable to these proposals — everyone should fear the terrible power of nuclear weapons, and no one in their right mind would ever wish to see America forced to deploy such a weapon against any other nation, nuclear-armed or not. But in so clearly articulating under what circumstances America would use nuclear weapons, America has denied itself one of the most useful tools in deterring a hostile attack — unpredictability and ambiguity. While many on the left might be uncomfortable with such assertive displays of strength, a large part of nuclear deterrence is the unspoken truth that America had the ability to utterly crush an enemy if it ever became necessary.

Whether or not it intended to (and it of course didn’t) is irrelevant. The possibility existed, and that alone made America safer. That advantage has been thrown away for the sake of yet more happy rhetoric from an Administration that seems to have little else to offer. What does the Administration hope to accomplish by publicly declaring that it would only use nuclear weapons in the face of a terrible crisis from a powerful enemy?

Promising never to nuke a non-nuclear power unless provoked (Somewhat akin to a sane man proudly promising not to murder his neighbor) will have little impact with the rogue states that the President needs to worry about the most. The NRP isn’t aimed at any US ally, or benign states like Ghana or Mongolia. It’s aimed directly at Iran, North Korea, Syria — countries who might be temped to use, or threaten to use, a nuclear weapons against America or an ally. It’s doubtful that they’ll be much moved by yet another show of good faith from a doggedly friendly President.

When questioned on that point, Gordon Chang, Forbes.com columnist and author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On the World, said, “The leaders of the rogues probably took little note of that. Why? President Obama’s policies against them have been so ineffective in the first place.  Kim Jong Il, for instance, went on his spree of provocative acts last spring.  The U.S. did almost nothing then — and has done almost nothing since. The Iranians are no doubt relieved that Obama policy toward them has been just as feeble as Bush’s. The Syrians? We have not even tried to punish them for their North Korean-reactor-in-the-desert maneuver.

“The rogues will take notice if — and only if — the administration does something effective.  In his pursuit of a grand strategy, he is taking his eye off more pressing issues.” Mr. Chang’s suggestion on how to get serious without taking military action, something President Obama would be loath to do? “A complete embargo on commerce with Iran enforced by a naval blockade, air patrols, and an unprecedented diplomatic offensive. And one on North Korea as well.”

Good advice on how to make the world a safer place and truly bring about a world free of nuclear weapons. Whether or not the Administration will take such a stand, or will continue to buy the world’s favor by putting limits on its own behavior, is yet to be seen. Given developments in U.S. foreign policy since President Obama took office, however, there is little cause for optimism.

  • Pierce Smith

    Obama continues to do things that make no sense. I really get a kick out of him, he has an opinion about everything and anything and at times comes across like he is a yahoo.
    The other day the White Sox(Chicago) played baseball in Cominsky Park, when it was Comisky Park. Oh well, he is our PRESIDENT.

  • gwiz

    Yes, he is the President and I have respect for the office but I will dance in the streets when he is out and giving hollow fundraiser speeches (with his teleprompter of course, you know, like the kindergartners) of no significance. I believe he will be viewed as the only President more destructive to the US than Carter. Perhaps then he can go back to his homeland as Michelle put it.

    • Jim C.

      "Like the kindergarteners," really? So when Obama handed congressional republicans their ass when he visited their retreat in Baltimore last February, was he using a teleprompter? Think Bush could have pulled something like that off? He wouldn't and didn't have the guts!

      Every president in the age of teleprompters has used a teleprompter. Your teleprompter "jokes" only serve to lower your IQ each time by 10 pts. Keep it up!

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

        Jim, does it bother you when we attack YOUR president's intelligence? Do you remember 2001-2009?

        Get used to it …

        • Jim C.

          I'm the rare sort who thinks Mr. Bush's intelligence (and integrity) was unfairly attacked as well. I greatly question his judgement because he made some seriously wrong decisions. But in my heart I know he did what he thought was best for the U.S.

          At any rate, I'll defend Obama's intelligence and integrity with concrete proof–which I did, above. That episode is a matter of record that you can view for yourself. His judgement of course, is yours to question.

          Now Mr. Cheney was unquestionably intelligent, but his integrity….

          • eerie Steve

            hmmm. I know this argument well, my fellow conservatives. Watch as the cynic, like Cicero, divides himself to death. He outreaches to common ground, but he is lukewarm and has none.

            Let's start with this, JC. If Obama really was an anti-American person, what would he do different? So far, he has written the playbook:
            1. Campaign into the Senate on the backs of dead Americans in 2006
            2. Campaign into the White House on the backs of dead Americans in 2008.
            3. Give an entire federal budget as simple tribute with no return
            4. Start your opening gambit with the Russians as disarmament.
            5. Might give Iraq and Afghanistan to the Iranians/Pakistanis, making a new evil empire.
            6. Took missile defense off the table AFTER WE GOT THE FRIGGIN THING WORKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            To me, 2000 to 2010 were kick ass years for America. Two nationalistic enemies off the map. Unemployment lower. The rise of derivatives. The rise of broadband and mobile. Think that would have happened under big spend, big regulation Obama? It wouldn't. Look at what's happening with Bittorrent. That's going to be gone. Just pray they don't get 4 more years or we in for a hell which runs on red tape and memorandum.

  • Rick

    I envision the old scenario of a man who is with his wife and kids traveling somewhere, hasn't a clue where he is at and simply won't admit he's lost. He puts on the face, the self pride, acts like he is in total control and still he is completely lost. That's Obama.

  • CBreeze

    National defense is predicated, in large part, on the concept of deterrence. Clearly, the threat of nuclear annihiliation is a major part of that.

    You NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, tell a potential aggressor what you are NOT prepared to do them in response to any attack. What possible upside to the national security interests of the United States is there to doing so???!!!

    This president's primary goal is not upholding his oath of office, it's to "fundamentally change this country".

  • Steve

    He grew up in the 70's, when the 60's counterculture was established. Hating America was what he was taught at a young age. I'm about the same age, and understand exactly why he hates his own country. This is our first president who has no memory of the pre-60's, pre-counterculture, pre-hippie, world. Having been taught that America sucks from an early age, it's no wonder he wants to destroy it.

    Good work 60's radicals. You've bred a monster.

  • ApolloSpeaks


    Obama's announcement on April 5th of the changes being made to a 50 year old nuclear strategic doctrine fell on the 59th anniversary of the sentencing to death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for nuclear espionage. This "coincidence" was emblematic of Obama's perilous deconstructing of our national security and strategic defense systems and making the world a more dangerous place..

    Google my name ApolloSpeaks (one word, on Townhall) and read my piece: The End of Nuclear Deterrence and the Dismantling of the Reagan Revolution.

  • USMCSniper

    While dismissing the sanctions threat, Iran has also warned against any military steps against its nuclear program. After several warnings that it would hit back at Israel if attacked from there, Iran's military chief said Thursday he would target U.S. forces stationed in the Middle East if Washington attacked. "If America presents Iran with a serious threat and undertakes any measure against Iran, none of the American soldiers who are currently in the region would go back to America alive," Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. U.S. troops are engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which border Iran.

  • Kendrick1

    The only way to have global peace is to get rid of humans! Humans are inherently evil! We may
    desire peace. Other nations may desire peace. However, there are some nations we can't trust, so it behooves us to be FULLY prepared ! Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, and:

    "The Scorpion and the Frog is a fable of unknown author. The story is about a scorpion asking a frog to carry him across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion reassures him that if it stung the frog, the frog would sink and the scorpion would drown as well. The frog then agrees; nevertheless, in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, 'I'm a scorpion; it's my nature.' "

  • Big Elk

    Black racist Obama told the mohammedans on his stepp 'n fetchit, bowing and scraping to mohammedan thugs, slavers and dictators, that he would always defend mohammedanism; and the Kenyan is doing exactly that, i.e., defending mohammedanism against truth, justice and the American way.

  • Peter E. Coleman

    We are looking at policy changes that float right along with all that disproportional use of force rubbish.

    Are we to assume the policy change will only allow us to respond in kind?

    It is like open season on America. If we get hit with a Bio or Human Pesticide weapon. All we will do is respond in some conventional manor with an Army, Air Force and Navy our current fearful leader is systematically dismantling?

  • badaboo

    Too bad , that when someone writes a piece like this , facts are conveniently LEFT OUT ., and worse outright lies are incorporated .
    First a bit of history , none other than Ronald Reagan himself stated "he envisioned a world free of nuclear weapons ", and proposed a 1/3 rd reduction of nuclear warheads ..hmmm…that's what Obama said , and also proposed a 1/3 rd reduction of warheads. Secondly , it HAS BEEN US Nuclear Doctrine , that we would not use Nukes in a FIRST STRIKE , they would be RETALIATORY .
    And Thirdly , if anyone would have bothered to actually listen to the words , Nuclear retaliation WAS NOT CATEGORICALLY RULED OUT IN THED CASE OF A BIOLOGICAL OR CHEMICAL ATTACK . The fact that Newt gingrich , went on national tv , and repeated that LIE , is especially disturbing , and of course Murdock / Fox Shill -Hannity , enjoined this lie .
    If anyone does not believe this , then simply GOOGLE IT , and hear the words of Obama'sStatement for yourselves . I'm no fan of Obama , but I'll criticize the things he actually DOES , not what someone LIES ABOUT .

  • 9-11 Infidel

    US nuclear deterrence is what kept the Soviets out of Western Europe for 60 years. It is why Western Europe remained free all that time. It scared the bejesus out of our enemies and gave our friends a protection that they needed. Unilateral disarmament is not going to make our enemies like us any more or less than they do now. And as far as the First Strike use of nukes, I was a part of that strategy during the cold war and participated in one really nasty confrontation between the Soviets, armed while armed with tactical nukes, deployed and ready to fire. All the Soviets had to do was cross the Fulda Gap and they would have received those tactical nukes right up their a$$es. Anyone who believes that the US would not have used nukes as a First Strike weapon in the Cold War is wrong.Irrespective of the desire to reduce nuclear arms, while our enemies grow stronger (NK, Iran, China), this is not the time to grow weaker. On the bright side, it'll take 67 votes in the Senate to ratify the treaty. Good luck with that one in an election year.

  • badaboo

    MAD is STILL in effect , and as long as the US and Russia have both enough nukes to destroy the planet 3xs over , deterrence is still what it's all about . The stated US policy during the Cold War WAS IN FACT -no first strike . That is FACT , If missle launches were detected by the D.E.W. system we would launch . OR if we simply changed our minds , we would no doubt strike first . But THAT WAS the stated US policy . If you want to sit there and revise history , go ahead . As for "tactical nukes , as in the "nuclear canon " , yes, if the Soviets ,with overwhelming tank power, made that move in Germany , US strategists would consider that a "first strike " on their part and would consider the use of tactical nukes —retaliatory .That was the US Nuclear Doctrine of the Cold War . China has about 300 , the US and Russia roughly 2 to 3 thousand . Stick to the FACTS , and AGAIN , take some time to READ the statement ,rather than to reat on youyr own suppositions . This treaty will pass . And the notion that the US wiill be weakened while our enemies are stregnthened is simply FALSE , because it is based in misinformation .READ THE TREATY .

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