Obama plays chicken

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March 16, 2012

A robust nuclear arsenal and a healthy missile defense shield are not invitations to play hard ball, but are rather loud and clear messages that we will not be playing the game of nuclear chicken.

Obama plays chicken

A rather dangerous game of chicken

An editorial in the March 11, 2012 edition of the New York Times, which addresses the Obama Administration’s approach to nuclear weapons, asserts that if “this country can wean itself from its own dependence, it will be safer and will have more credibility in its efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and others.” The editorial titled, “The Nuclear ‘Implementation Study,” appears to support the idea that the nuclear arsenal of the United States acts, not as a deterrent to the aggressions of other nuclear powers, but rather as an invitation to play hard ball.

In the editorial the position held by President George W. Bush, that weapons in the nuclear arsenal have a “critical” role in defending the United States and its allies, is contrasted with the opinion of President Barack Obama, that nuclear weapons have little value as deterrents.  The article cites options being considered by the “Pentagon and national security aides” that would lead to several rounds of negations with the Russians.  These negotiations would incrementally cut the number of our deployed nuclear weapons to below 300.  If this was to occur, that would leave the United States with less than 1% of the nuclear weapons it had in 1967.  The radical “Nuclear Zero” concept, which envisions the United States leading the world in the total elimination of nuclear weapons, has been widely touted in our own State Department, and seems to uphold the notion that President Obama’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the United States’ nuclear arsenal in its entirety.

Although it encourages the President to work with Russia to eliminate 11,000 “nuclear hedge” weapons, and America’s 500, and Russia’s 3,000 or more short-range nuclear weapons, the New York Times piece portrays President Obama’s approach sympathetically.  This race to the nuclear bottom is referred to as a “practical choice to implement his strategy,” to downsize the nuclear arsenal and delay or table plans to repair, replace, or build up nuclear delivery systems such as submarines, bombers, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In a single paragraph the editorial states that “Mr. Obama must lead the way to deeper cuts in all three categories,” and then goes on to describe the desired goal of having no “more (nuclear weapons) than any potential foe, except Russia, possesses.” “China,” states the article, “the only major power expanding its arsenal, likely has 240-300 nuclear weapons, but experts say no more than 50 are capable of hitting the United States.” North Korea’s threat is also minimized in the article which says that it “has fewer than a dozen, none with the ability to hit the United States.” The paragraph ends with the optimistic assertion, “Iran has no weapons, so far.”

This New York Times editorial has made the incongruous and breathtaking implication that as international nuclear powers, enemies and allies of the United States alike, build up and modernize their nuclear arsenals, the only way for the United States to ward off nuclear attack, is for President Obama to cut the nuclear arsenal until it  can no longer be perceived as a threat.  Perhaps the editorial board at the New York Times really believes if the United States disarms itself, that other nations will respond to its good intentions and follow suit.

The March 11 article encourages Obama to slash funding and essentially allow the United States nuclear weapons program to wither away through attrition and neglect. The final paragraph of the editorial states, “A nuclear ‘implementation review’ may sound arcane, and arms control talks may sound like a cold-war anachronism. They are not. This is President Obama’s opportunity to reshape the post-cold-war world to make it fundamentally safer. He needs to seize it.”

The Cold War era was a time of high international tensions. The Soviet Union and the United States were obsessed with nuclear build up, and gaining advantage as the strategic Super Power.  The tensions of the Cold War were indeed high, but not one incident of nuclear aggression occurred during those years.  The military and nuclear supremacy of the United States protected the entire world from the nuclear hostilities of the Soviets and other Communist regimes.  The New York Times editorial writers may want to study history, as well as the natures of despots and rogue regimes, so they may better understand that a robust nuclear arsenal, and a healthy missile defense shield, are not invitations to play hard ball, but are rather loud and clear messages that we will not be playing the game of nuclear chicken.

By Marjorie Haun 3/16/12


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