Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Does Obama’s Vision of “Nuclear Zero” Score a Zero?

Posted by K.E. White on May 21, 2010

Having no nukes might be the last thing America—or the world—needs right now.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Abram Shulsky (a better if outdated bio is here) and Douglas J. Feith slam Obama’s goal “nuclear zero” (a commitment to eventual global disarmament).

Douglas J. Feith

While Shulsky and Feith point out logical flaws with the Obama paradigm, they conflate wonkish policy discussion with diplomatic strategy.  Contradiction is no stranger to American foreign policy: look to the Bush Doctrine that combined commitment to expanding global freedom with reliance on authoritarian regimes like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  Likewise, a world without nuclear arms does present problems.  But the question remains, does this policy plank bring American closer a more secure world.

If the vision of “nuclear zero” corrals Chinese and Russian support for curbing Iran’s nuclear program, or prevents a nuclear tripping point, we can save concerns over a “nuclear zero” world for a distant, and far more secure, future.

Abram N. Shulsky

From Feith and Shulsky’s editorial:

Endorsing nuclear zero makes it even harder for the U.S. government to maintain the nuclear  infrastructure that the president says is essential for our security. Why should a bright young scientist or engineer enter a dying field—especially when innovation is discouraged by support for a permanent ban on weapons testing, and by the renunciation of new weapons development? The NPR states that the administration aims to “enhance recruitment and retention” of technical personnel, but its policies seem sure to drive them away.

The NPR stresses that the world’s nonproliferation regime requires a strong U.S. nuclear umbrella. Yet the proposal can hardly increase confidence in America’s determination to maintain its longstanding global role. U.S. friends overseas worry about their security in a world where America seems determined to shed its burdens as a nuclear power. This will likely spur nuclear proliferation—not discourage it.

President Obama has constructed U.S. nuclear-weapons policy on the assumption that it is helpful to set our goal as the complete abolition of such weapons. But the NPR makes clear that not even the Obama administration can really imagine a world without nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the president’s visionary notions appear likelier to undermine rather than further his own goals of nuclear nonproliferation and stability.

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