Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the U.S. without fear of nuclear retaliation?
The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes.
On the contrary. The last quarter-century -- the time of greatest superpower nuclear arms reduction -- is precisely when Iran and North Korea went hellbent into the development of nuclear weapons.
It gets worse. The administration's Nuclear Posture Review declares U.S. determination to "continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks." The ultimate aim is to get to a blanket doctrine of no first use.
This is deeply worrying to many small nations who for half a century relied on the extended U.S. nuclear umbrella to keep them from being attacked or overrun by far more powerful neighbors. When smaller allies see the United States determined to move inexorably away from that posture -- and for them it's not posture, but existential protection -- what are they to think?
Fend for yourself. Get yourself your own WMDs. Go nuclear if you have to. Do you imagine they are not thinking that in the Persian Gulf?
This administration seems to believe that by restricting retaliatory threats and by downplaying our reliance on nuclear weapons, it is discouraging proliferation.
But the opposite is true. Since World War II, smaller countries have agreed to forgo the acquisition of deterrent forces -- nuclear, biological and chemical -- precisely because they placed their trust in the firmness, power and reliability of the American deterrent.
Seeing America retreat, they will rethink. And some will arm. There is no greater spur to hyper-proliferation than the furling of the American nuclear umbrella.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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