Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Obama's Nuke Speech

By Cernig

TPM has the full speech, and the bit about nuclear disarmament isn't quite what it was cracked up to be over on the hawkish side of the street.

Make no mistake: we must always be prepared to use force to protect America. But the best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons – it’s to keep nuclear weapons and nuclear materials away from terrorists. That’s why I’ve worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. And that’s why I’ll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials during my first term in office.

But we need to do much more. We need to change our nuclear policy and our posture, which is still focused on deterring the Soviet Union – a country that doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan and North Korea have joined the club of nuclear-armed nations, and Iran is knocking on the door. More nuclear weapons and more nuclear-armed nations mean more danger to us all.

Here’s what I’ll say as President: America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons.

We will not pursue unilateral disarmament. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we’ll retain a strong nuclear deterrent. But we’ll keep our commitment under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty on the long road towards eliminating nuclear weapons. We’ll work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert, and to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material. We’ll start by seeking a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons. And we’ll set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global.

As we do this, we’ll be in a better position to lead the world in enforcing the rules of the road if we firmly abide by those rules. It’s time to stop giving countries like Iran and North Korea an excuse. It’s time for America to lead. When I’m President, we’ll strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don’t comply will automatically face strong international sanctions.
Now, most of this has been said before - even Bush came in promising to reduce America's nuclear stockpile - and most of it is copperplate Beltway wisdom, even if Obama wants us to believe otherwise. Indeed, one could convincingly argue that both Edwards and Robertson have been there first. But there are two major parts to Obama's policy platform being signalled.

The first is that America's nuclear policy has to change to something because at the moment, in a post-Soviet world the hawks are still not caught up on, there isn't a policy at all. That's why the House has demanded that America get one before it will agree to funding any new nuclear weaponry. Obama's clearly putting himself in the camp that believes any concept of what is called by its supporters "extended deterrence" and by others "running with nuclear scissors" is a non-starter. In that, again, he has plenty of company from the likes of Edwards, Richardson and a whole host of foreign policy wonks inside the beltway.

I'm not sure Obama is even serious about the other policy plank I see in his speech - it's almost a throwaway line and it may well be that he, like so many others, doesn't really mean it in a universal, no exceptions sense.

"When I’m President, we’ll strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don’t comply will automatically face strong international sanctions."

If by non-compliance he includes not being a member of the NPT at all, as he should, then the only nations that aren't currently signatories are India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.

While I for one would be delighted to see an American president who would finally do away with this particular bit of looking the other way and making excuses for allies with nasty habits, there are many powerful movers and shakers who would be very unhappy indeed.

Could someone ask Obama to clarify please? And while they're at it, could they ask Obama to pledge that under his presidency, America would cease to be among the very last of nations to pay its IAEA contributions in full every year?

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