October 17, 2017

Council roundtable – Obama’s nuclear doctrine

Note to readers: One idea I had was to get the Council’s view on topics of the day and then publish an exchange of those opinions. In the future these may also take the form of an e-mail chat. Here is our first Council roundtable.

A few weeks ago President Obama announced that he had agreed to an arms reduction treaty with Russia. At the time council member JoshuaPundit expressed his skepticism:

As I write this, the Russians are actively working to get Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant and a number of other facilities up to speed and blocking any major efforts by the West to stop the Mullahs from getting their hands on deliverable nuclear weapons.

It would seem that cutting back on America’s nuclear deterrent in an effort to stop proliferation is an pretty futile way ineffective way of accomplishing that.

This is eerily reminiscent of the Kellog-Briand treaty in 1929, which featured arms limitations with the idea of ‘outlawing’ future wars. It helped accomplish just the opposite.

Last week another element of President Obama’s nuclear strategy made news. Or more precisely, it was leaked to the New York Times. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates wrote a memo observing that the United States had no effective mechanism from preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. JoshuaPundit once again.

It’s been obvious to me for some time that the Obama Administration not only had no concrete plan to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons but had apparently decided at some point that they could live with a nuclear armed Iran. What that means is that the Israelis are going to have to do the job for their own survival…

Council member Wolf Howling adds a more general critique of the President:

The Obama Administration has countered criticism on this issue by saying that Reagan sought nuclear disarmament. True, but there is a very substantive difference between Reagan the realist and Obama the fantasist. Reagan sought a reduction of arms, not a “world without” nuclear weapons. Reagan wanted to build a defense against nuclear weapons – Obama has reduced funding for such a defense and, indeed, negotiated a new START treaty with Russia contingent on our not pursuing further such a defense. Reagan strengthened our conventional arms – Obama is cutting them.

In contrast to the revelation of the Gates memo, columnist Jim Hoagland lavished praise on President Obama for helping to develop America’s Nuclear Posture Review. I wondered if this was appropriate:

I would assume that the Nuclear Posture review is supposed to be a “professional” document, written by military and strategic professionals. By inserting himself into the document, President Obama has made it a political document.

The effect of these stories is to portray an administration with a utopian view of the world. The council has spoken and it’s worried that implementing this view only serves to encourage our enemies.