Obama Exerts Nuclear Leadership
“Two decades after the end of the Cold
War, we face a cruel irony of history – the risk of a nuclear
confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear
attack has gone up,” said President Obama at a Nuclear Security Summit
of 47 nations this week.
“Nuclear materials that could be sold
or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of
nations. Just the smallest amount of plutonium – about the size of an
apple – could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
Terrorist networks such as al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material
for a nuclear weapon, and if they succeeded they would surely use it.
Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world.”
What’s encouraging is that Obama was
persuasive with a number of countries.
For example, Canada,
Mexico, and Ukraine committed to eliminating their surplus weapons-grade
materials or to give them to the United States. Russia closed a
plutonium reactor it had used to make weapons-grade fuel. Other
countries agreed to convert research reactors to a fuel that could not
be used for weapons.
Of course there were critics. “The
summit’s purported accomplishment is a nonbinding communiqué that
largely restates current policy, and makes no meaningful progress in
dealing with nuclear terrorism threats or the ticking clock represented
by Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” said Sen. John Kyl, a Republican who
opposes Obama’s New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed with
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week.
However, both initiatives are being
praised by Evangelical Christian leaders. “I can hardly imagine a more
important foreign policy goal for Christian citizens of the United
States than pursuing a realistic, comprehensive strategy to reduce the
number of strategic nuclear weapons – weapons which cannot be used in
any conceivable scenario in accordance with the principles of just war,”
said Andy Crouch, senior editor of Christianity Today International.
He called the New START treaty a
significant step towards “greater security, stability, transparency and
predictability and toward the ultimate goal of shaping a world where the
use of nuclear weapons, by anyone, is truly impossible.”
George Shultz, former Secretary of
State and Treasury under Republican Presidents, thinks the deterrence
value of nuclear weapons has run its course. “As more countries have
nuclear weapons, as people worry more about the fissile material that
may be lying around that can lead to a nuclear weapon, the less
confidence anybody can have that deterrence can be relied on as a way of
keeping them from being used,” he says.
Why? It is impossible to deter a
non-state terrorist with the nuclear threat. Terrorist groups lack a
return address upon which deterrence now depends.
However, al Qaeda terrorists could
bribe the guards of enriched uranium and plutonium in scores of
countries, and hire Mulim scientists to make a small bomb that might be
shipped to America in a box of grapefruit. That’s the danger that Obama
and 47 nations openly addressed this week.
Republicans like Sen. Kyl who denounce
such a step seem to have forgotten that 23 years ago, President Reagan
and Soviet President Gorbachev talked of their desire to eliminate
nuclear weapons entirely. “Let’s do it!” Sec. Shultz exhorted them at
Shultz and other fellow Cold Warriors –
such as Henry Kissinger and former Sen. Sam Nunn plus 16 top Reagan
Administration officials shocked many by penning a January, 2007 Wall
Street Journal op ed column calling for nuclear abolition. Almost
overnight, an idea previously dismissed by some as utopian became a
viable policy option.
Clearly Obama seized it during his
campaign for President and is now at center stage, building
Shultz told Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, the
Christian creator of the “Two Futures Project,” that this effort “has to
be done with great, great care because you’re talking about the security
of countries.” Months ago he outlined four steps that America need to be
ready to take:
follow-on agreement to the START I treaty, taken last week.
Increase the warning time for U.S. and Russian ballistic missile launch
Engage in a multinational enterprise to secure fissile material, started
Engage the Senate to secure U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test
As Wigg-Stevenson asks,
“Who would Jesus bomb?”
END TXT Copyright © 2010
Michael J. McManus
April 25, 2019: Column 1966: Life
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