In Seoul, South Korea on Monday, President Obama enthused once again about his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. It’s a dream he has had since he was a radical leftist studying at Columbia University in the early 1980s. And, in the hope of advancing it now as Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, he declared that – since he was convinced we had more of these weapons than we need – he is going to reduce our arsenal. According to some accounts, he has in mind cutting it to one roughly the size of Pakistan’s.
In his address at Hankuk University, Mr. Obama suggested that he would get the Russians to do the same. That surely will come as a surprise to their once-and-future president, Vladimir Putin, since he has been quite aggressively beefing up the Kremlin’s nuclear forces. In fact, Putin recently unveiled a $770 billion defense modernization plan which would, among otherthings, buy 400 new long-range ballistic missiles. It is a safe bet that they will be outfitted with modern nuclear weapons, probably multiple, independently targetable ones at that.
It seems no more likely that the Russians will agree to reduce their vast monopoly on tactical nuclear weapons or their undisclosed and “non-deployed” stocks of strategic nuclear weapons – two other initiatives Mr. Obama declared he wanted to take. Even if they would, any such agreement would be wholly unverifiable.
If the Russians won’t play ball, it’s a safe bet no one else will either. Mr. Obama’s subordinates are signaling, however, that he is prepared to disarm us unilaterally through what one of them, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller recently called “executive action.”
In short, the President seems to be replacing his notorious “lead from behind” strategy in Libya with a “lead with no one behind” approach.
Mr. Obama has sparked disbelief and outrage on Capitol Hill with the revelation that he has tasked the Pentagon with developing options that would eliminate as much as 80 percent of the deployed weapon levels set just two years ago by his seriously defective “New START” Treaty. On March 7, 2012, Rep. Mike Turner who chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee wrote in Politico: “Traditionally, a president has directed his military advisers to determine, chiefly, what level of our nuclear force is needed to deter a potential adversary from attacking us or our allies. The answer to that question should be what drives the strategy — not a president’s political ideology.”
In addition, on February 17, 2012, Chairman Turner and 33 other Members of Congress threw down the gauntlet in a letter to Mr. Obama. It said, in part: “We seek your assurance that in view of the ambitious nuclear weapons modernization programs of Russia, communist China, Pakistan and others, the deep cuts to U.S. conventional capabilities per the Budget Control Act, and your failure to follow through on your pledged [modernization of the deterrent], that you will cease to pursue such unprecedented reductions in the U.S. deterrent and extended deterrent.”
The legislators’ point about the President’s failure to honor the commitment made to secure Senate approval of New START in a cynical and heavy-handed power play during the 2010 lame-duck session is particularly apt. Even if Mr. Obama can’t get away with the sweeping reductions he has in mind, all he has to do to accomplishAmerica’s unilateral disarmament is perpetuate the atrophying of our increasingly obsolescent nuclear forces – most of which are over twenty-five years old and have not been realistically tested through underground detonations for two decades.
Later this week, a new push will be made for a treaty that would lock our deterrent permanently into just such a death-spiral. The National Academy of Sciences will release a study that is expected to deem the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) verifiable and further underground testing unnecessary. Much evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, proponents of the CTBT and advocates of “Global Zero” – the multimillion campaign to eliminate all nuclear weapons that can, at most, rid the world of ours (and perhaps those of other, Free World nations that honor their international commitments) – hope to use the Academy’s analysis to prevail upon the U.S. Senate to reverse its previous rejection of this accord.
At the same time as the Obama administration is wreaking havoc on our nuclear deterrent, it is undermining the other insurance policy we need against catastrophic, potentially country-cratering attacks like thoseinvolving ballistic missile-delivered electromagnetic pulse strikes: effective national, or better yet global, missile defenses. Policy decisions and budget cuts are taking their toll on our anti-missile programs. So is the President’s willingness to cede technology or vetoes to the Russians.
In the latter connection, Mr. Obama was overheard telling outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Seoul on Monday: “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for [Putin] to give me space…. This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Translation: If President Obama is reelected, we should expect even more U.S. disarmament – whether or not anybody is following our lead. Shouldn’t that grim prospect be a centerpiece of the campaign this year, and the American people offered a robust alternative come November?
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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