Cliff May

Since the days of Sun Tzu, military strategists have stressed the importance of understanding one's enemy. America, Israel, India and other free nations are attempting to defend themselves against regimes and movements waging what they call a "jihad," justified by their interpretation of Islamic scripture. Not acknowledging this reality is worse than fighting with one hand tied behind our back. It's fighting with a blindfold over our eyes.

Move on to this week's Nuclear Security Summit. Little progress appears to have been made toward its goal: devising new and better ways to clean up "loose nukes," weapons-grade plutonium and uranium that terrorists could fashion into bombs. And most of the leaders and rulers assembled in Washington chose to willfully ignore the more serious problem: that Iran and North Korea may simply give nuclear devices to terrorists.

Last and maybe least is the NPR which pledges that America will not modernize its nuclear arsenal and suggests the U.S. may refrain from using its aging nuclear weapons even against an enemy who attacks us with biological or chemical weapons. Such decisions actually provide our adversaries with an incentive to accelerate development of offensive capabilities. They clearly do nothing to strengthen deterrence.

And deterrence, along with defense, has long been the core of America's national security strategy. Deterrence requires persuading hostile powers that attacking America will not bring a measured and "proportionate" response; on the contrary, it will give us license to make the rubble bounce.

Defense is being diminished as well. Take missile defense: Vice President Joe Biden said last week: "Because of advances in conventional capabilities and technologies such as missile defense, we need fewer nuclear weapons to deter adversaries and protect our allies than we did even a decade ago." And Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on NBC's Meet the Press last weekend that the U.S. needs "more missile defense."

Yet President Obama has scrapped a missile defense system for eastern Europe, cut the number of planned deployed ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California from 44 to 30 (these provide the only protection to the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missiles), cut $1.5 billion from the missile defense budget (then, curiously, restored about $600 million), and nominated a missile defense opponent, Philip Coyle, as his top missile defense advisor.

What's more, the new START Treaty may limit our ability to deploy additional missile defense. The Russians point to a clause in the preamble declaring that "current strategic defensive arms" may not "undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms." That would seem to imply that America's missile defenses must not provide protection against Russian missiles. Other treaties the Obama administration is negotiating - e.g. PAROS, the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space - unquestionably would restrict America's right to construct a solid missile defense shield.

Assemble all these pieces and an Obama Doctrine begins to take shape. It might be summed up this way: Ignore the great threats and cloak the lesser threats in faux unity, pomp and circumstance; talk incessantly and carry a shrinking stick. Somehow, I doubt that's the change most Americans have been hoping for.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.