When I was a little girl, at the height of the Cold War, I used to wish, deeply and fervently, that nuclear weapons had never been invented. An accompanying fantasy placed me at the center of world events. Just as the two superpowers were preparing to launch a devastating exchange of nuclear weapons, I would step between the two. Seeing an innocent child, the hard-boiled men of the world would soften and reconsider their terrible course.
In other words, at the age of 7 or 8, I was a liberal. As I grew, I came to understand a) that it was not possible to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle, and b) that the way to safety lay not in arms control but in strength prudently pursued.
Liberal approaches to foreign policy continue to rely more on wishful thinking than on realism or maturity. But even in the context of liberalism, President Obama's recent policy declarations on the matter of nuclear weapons are juvenile and disturbing.
Speaking in Prague, the president declared, "I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
Has the president really thought this through? Here's a thought experiment: Imagine that all of the existing nuclear powers agreed that their weapons were more of a threat to "peace and security" than they were worth, and voluntarily destroyed them all. Would the world immediately become a safer place? No. It would become far more dangerous. The North Koreans would have lied about destroying their weapons, just as they lied repeatedly about building them for years. So one outcome might be that North Korea would instantly become a superpower. And surely the prospect of becoming nuclear-armed would be all the more enticing to the mullahs of Iran if they would have only North Korea in possession of similar weapons. Who would want to live in that world?
"I'm not naive," the president continued. "This goal will not be reached quickly ... But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, 'Yes, we can.'" That's security policy by bumper sticker.
The president followed up by signing a pact with Russia limiting warheads and launchers in April and is now planning to sign a new pact on civilian nuclear cooperation.