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The Folly of Disarmament

Morgen on July 14, 2009 at 9:19 am

During the campaign, Barack Obama took some heat from conservatives for a taped speech he gave in 2007 outlining his national defense priorities. Among other things he said:

I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems…I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons; I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material, and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals.

In short, he promised to eliminate our strategic military advantage – if not disarm America completely. And I regret to report that somewhat lost amongst a crowded news slate, and the 4th of July holiday, the President made a significant initial step towards the achievement of these goals during his recent visit to Russia. From The Washington Post:

President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reached a preliminary agreement Monday to cut the American and Russian nuclear arsenals by as much as a third while exploring options for cooperation on missile defense…

A new nuclear weapons treaty is seen as the first step toward Obama’s goal of sharply reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles. The administration considers cuts by Russia and the United States, which together control more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal, crucial to marshaling stronger international opposition to nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

Obama also sees the treaty as part of a larger nonproliferation effort that could lead toward the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons around the world.

I guess the “smart” underlying foreign policy here is that in order to enlist Russia’s help in dealing with Iran, we must commit to reducing our own strategic capabilities relative to Russia. Except there is nothing “smart” about this, since Iran has made it very clear that they have no intention of halting their nuclear program. And left unsaid in all of this is that this level of arms reduction would be tantamount to a unilateral disarmament of the U.S. relative to China. But I suppose since we need their assistance in dealing with North Korea, this is a fair price to pay.

Are they completely out of their minds? I have a hard enough time believing that Russia and especially China are not feverishly building up their own military capabilities with an aim to matching and ultimately superseding the U.S. But to think that they would assist in any meaningful way to disarm Iran and North Korea would require a suspension of disbelief beyond my capability. And it’s not as if this strategy of diplomacy has not already been tried over the past 15+ years. Last I checked, both Iran and North Korea have only increased their capabilities – and leverage – as a result.

We are truly facing dual threats to our long-term security as a nation. We’re in the midst of a financial crisis which may ultimately pale in comparison to the impact of a rapidly growing national debt. And there are a complex array of foreign adversaries aligning against us and our allies (not to mention the continued threat posed by Islamic Terrorism).

To be fair, of course these threats did not just suddenly materialize on January 20. But in ramping up federal spending at an unprecedented level, and moving to reduce our strategic military capabilities, and negotiate with our enemies, I believe this Administration has greatly increased the risks posed by these threats. Elections have consequences. I only hope they aren’t as dire as I fear. (The mid-term elections next year are going to be very, very important.)

Update: Right on queue, the Russians apparently see this for the naive and amateur strategy that it is.

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Category: Foreign Affairs, Politics |

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