Obama Nuclear Plans Trigger Conservative Warnings

(Feb. 23) -Former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney has criticized President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms control goals (Alex Wong/Getty Images).
(Feb. 23) -Former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney has criticized President Barack Obama’s nuclear arms control goals (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Conservative analysts warn that the Obama administration's nuclear arms control goals could adversely affect U.S. national security, the Boston Globe reported yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 17).

President Barack Obama has listed the global elimination of nuclear weapons as a policy goal and has directed officials to begin nuclear reduction talks with Russia, to prepare for the U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and to work for a treaty to ban the production of fissile materials for weapons.

These efforts are "a principal priority for the president," deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough told the Globe.

Critics, however, have cautioned that major U.S. nuclear reductions could embolden smaller nuclear powers, which would move toward nuclear parity if U.S. and Russian arsenals are decreased bilaterally. They have also warned that some non-nuclear nations could be tempted to pursue such weapons if the United States loses its global dominance. In particular, nations under the U.S. nuclear "umbrella" could pursue their own strategic deterrents if they perceive that U.S. protection has become less credible, the critics have argued.

"The problem is that [the Obama administration is] betting the physical survival of the U.S. on nothing more than the hope that other nuclear-armed states and any states or nonstate actors that join the nuclear club will follow suit by disarming," said Baker Spring, of the Heritage Foundation. "This gamble involves the highest possible stakes and has an exceedingly low likelihood of success."

Former Reagan-era defense official Frank Gaffney also criticized the disarmament goals.

"Every other declared nuclear-weapon state is modernizing its stockpile and the most dangerous wannabes -- North Korea and Iran -- are building up their offensive missile capabilities and acquiring as quickly as possible the arms to go atop them," he wrote in a recent paper. Obama's plans risk transforming the United States "into a nuclear impotent, with possibly catastrophic consequences."

Obama is not without supporters, however.

His plans "are all achievable goals," said U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). "The debate is at a point where it is a question about when we achieve these goals, not if."

"It is going to require a herculean effort," added Ploughshares Fund President Joseph Cirincione. "It is completely doable, but it will require the sustained attention of the president himself" (Bryan Bender, Boston Globe, Feb. 22).

February 23, 2009
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Conservative analysts warn that the Obama administration's nuclear arms control goals could adversely affect U.S. national security, the Boston Globe reported yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 17).