Nuclear strategy can be as vague as it is dangerous. The good news is that the new Obama Doctrine turns out to be a lot vaguer than first, unreliable reports indicated. The administration may talk of restricting the use of nuclear weapons to those cases in which nukes are used against us, but it has left a loophole in its Nuclear Posture Review large enough to launch a nuclear-tipped missile through.
For example, the president specifically exempted rogue states like North Korea -- and, soon enough, nuclear-armed Iran -- from any assurance that they would enjoy immunity against nuclear retaliation should they attack this country or our allies, whom this president has made nervous enough already.
This new policy paper, it's reported, has been in the works for months and months, and is the product of some 150 meetings, including 30 initiated by the president's own National Security Council. That doesn't count the rewrites he himself has a tendency to throw in. So you can imagine, after that many cooks, how murky this broth is. Which is a comfort. Our strategic doctrine should not be too clear, certainly not to our enemies.
Strategic ambiguity has its uses. Those who think about making war on the West should know that there's no telling how those cowboys in Washington would react. Why give potential aggressors a step-by-step guide to our responses?
In the end, instead of declaring that the "sole role" of America's nuclear arsenal would be to deter nuclear attack, the final version of the policy paper refers to the "fundamental" role of nuclear weapons in our defense. Which leaves open the possibility of using relying on it in general.
Surely more refinements, ad-lib responses to unpredictable circumstances, quiet warnings and loud posturings are yet to come in the months and years ahead. It's that kind of world.
Rest assured, any administration that includes Joe Biden is not going to be short of snap reactions. He could yet come in handy just to confuse matters. For the first principle in the tricky and all-important game of nuclear deterrence is never to tip your hand. Fear is a good thing -- on the part of potential aggressors. Those who would defend freedom must summon another quality: courage.