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

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Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

International Law & the Obama Presidency: San Francisco Chronicle Tracks Obama’s Treaty Promises

Posted by K.E. White on December 1, 2008

The San Francisco Chronicle offers a brief report on the various international agreements President-Elect Obama pledged to push towards ratification. The report also details the stiff resistance Obama will face on many of the measures: which include women’s rights, a nuclear test-ban, climate change and law of the seas.

Update: The American Society of International Law offers President-Elect Obama’s response to their presidential candidate questionnaire, covering his views on nonproliferation, the International Criminal Court and various other international law topics.

From the San Francisco Chronicle report:

Obama cited three treaties he would concentrate on ratifying: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Last December, Obama cited a fourth treaty that he said he would sign and ask the Senate to ratify, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Missing from his to-do list, at least so far, are the International Criminal Court – which could subject U.S. officials and military personnel to prosecution – and treaties banning land mines and cluster bombs. All three would face Defense Department resistance, and Obama has said he would consult with military commanders before deciding whether to ask the Senate to ratify the International Criminal Court.

Although the treaties Obama has endorsed may be less controversial, “I don’t see any really easy wins on the list,” said K. Russell Lamotte, a former State Department attorney now in private practice in Washington, D.C.

The article also offers this overview of the treaties Obama intends to submit for ratification. A common thread between the treaties: long and bumpy efforts toward American approval, with Congressional opposition the main roadblock.

International accords on Obama’s agenda

Treaties that President-elect Barack Obama has promised to present to the Senate for ratification:

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty: Would prohibit all nuclear explosive testing. Takes effect only when ratified by all 44 “nuclear-capable” nations, including the United States. Passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 1996 and signed that year by President Bill Clinton. Rejected by the Senate in 1999.

U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea: Defines nations’ rights in managing their coastal zones and sets rules for commercial use of international waters and resources. Passed by the General Assembly in 1982, took effect in 1994. Signed by Clinton in 1994. Approved by Senate Foreign Relations Committee most recently in October 2007, but no floor vote.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women: Declares equal rights for women “in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field” and requires nations to take “all appropriate measures” to ensure equality. Passed by the General Assembly in 1979, took effect in 1981. Signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Approved by Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002, but no floor vote.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Requires nations to abolish legislation, customs and practices that discriminate against the disabled, and to establish policies that promote independent living and full participation in the community. Passed by the General Assembly in 2006, took effect in May 2008. Not yet signed by the United States.

Posted in Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Obama, Obama administration, Treaty | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Answering the Nuclear Hypothetical: Past Due or Faux Pas?

Posted by K.E. White on August 20, 2007


Summary: Okay, okay—we get it: A complete prohibition on US presidents or candidates for the White House, answering hypothetical questions is silly. But where did the original topic go—why does America have a nuclear deterrent and how should it be used? For that we check in with Brookings scholar Ivo H. Daalder.

Michael Kinsley argues in Slate that presidential candidates should answer hypothetical questions:

A refusal or inability to answer hypothetical questions is nothing to be proud of. In fact, it ought to be a disqualification for public office. Anyone who doesn’t ponder hypothetical questions all the time is unfit for the task of governing. In fact, it’s hard to see how any halfway intelligent person can manage to avoid taking up hypothetical questions a dozen times a day.

Okay, but what about what caused all this hubbub—Senator Barack Obama’s commentary on the use (or rather non-use) of nuclear weapons. (Here’s a resource for those not hip to this now dated dispute)

For that Brooking’s Ivo H. Daalder first recaps Hilary’s criticism of Obama’s discussion of America’s nuclear deterrence policy: that today’s main threats come from state actors who must be held at bay through our nuclear ambiguity. But Daalder goes on to write:

There is, however, another view of nuclear weapons—one that recognises how today’s threats are fundamentally different from the cold war days. America no longer fears a deliberate attack against its territory—nuclear or otherwise—from the likes of Russia or China. Nor, given its overwhelming conventional advantage, does it need nuclear weapons to defeat any threat of aggression that might exist.

America’s new nightmare is rather that nuclear weapons and technologies will spread to unstable regimes, and possibly even to terrorists. Nuclear deterrence plays at best a marginal role in curtailing this threat. Instead of emphasizing nuclear deterrence, we must work to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and technologies. We need to build strong export controls, better inspections and safeguards, tougher sanctions against violators and more targeted interdiction efforts.

Daadler closes his article demanding an open debate about the use of America nuclear arsenal. He seems to also indirectly demand candidates discuss the wisdom of having nuclear weapons:

When it comes to nuclear weapons, is the most presidential stance the one that views nuclear weapons as another munition to brandish? Or is it one that accepts the legitimacy of possessing these weapons only to prevent them from ever being used again?

This is a debate worth having. But that requires that we engage with the issues. Our presidents (and presidential candidates) must engage with these issues too, and not shy away from any of the specifics.

How America crafts its deterrent policy, whether its numbers of stock loads or newer warhead designs, will affect how and who may come to hold these weapons—whether other nation-states or non-state actors.

Posted in Brookings, deterrence, Hilary Clinton, Ivo H. Daalder, Michael Kinsley, Nuclear, Obama, Slate | Leave a Comment »