“It’s kind of like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, ‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.'”
This is the metaphor that Sarah Palin used to explain President Obama’s new nuclear strategy on FOX News Wednesday evening, but the snipe at Obama’s new policy is absolutely baseless. Contrary to what Republican attacks would have you believe, the position outlined in Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review leaves the government more prepared to handle security challenges of the 21st century. The Nuclear Posture Review replaces America’s outdated nuclear policy, whereby nuclear deterrence was the primary tool used to preserve a Cold War standoff.
Today, terrorists and non-state actors pose the most significant threats to homeland security and the Nuclear Posture Review is designed to respond to these new concerns. The policy strengthens America’s commitment towards countries that have signed and are in compliance with the nonproliferation treaty by promising not to use nuclear weapons against them. The treaty further isolates countries that have not signed or who violate the treaty like Iran and North Korea. These measures incentivize disarmament in a way that is far from radical. For example, Obama has rejected the “no first use” policy that many Democrats advocated, reserving America’s right to preemptively use nuclear force upon a foe. At the same time, however, he has taken steps to follow through on his promise of reducing America’s nuclear stockpile by negotiating a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia whereby each nation vows to reduce their stockpile to less than 1,550 nuclear warheads.
Obama’s position on nuclear weaponry is in fact, highly reflective of the opinions of the greatest defense and security thinkers from both parties. As President Obama pointed out sardonically in an ABC interview last week, Sarah Palin does not qualify for this category because she’s “not much of an expert on nuclear issues.” The Nuclear Review Posture adopts the counsel of George Shultz (Reagan’s Secretary of State), Henry Kissinger (Nixon and Ford’s Secretary of State), Bill Perry (Clinton’s Secretary of Defense) and Sam Nunn (former Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee), all of whom agreed in a January 2007 Wall Street Journal op-ed that “reliance on nuclear weapons for [deterrence] is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.” The four statesmen laid out specific measures that appear in Obama’s policy “with the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates and all the service chiefs on the Joint Chiefs of Staff also support Obama’s nuclear initiative.
When analyzing Obama’s new nuclear policy, it is best to ignore those who attempt to politicize issues of security and safety. Security experts are almost unanimous in their belief that the most secure path for global security is disarmament.