Anyone who remembers the nuclear war drills when they were in elementary school should know how significant President Barack Obama’s changes days ago in America’s nuclear strategy really is. The sheer futility and folly of the world’s safety in the 1950s and 1960s and beyond was borne out by the drill that asked school children to get under their desks in the event nuclear war broke out.
There has been a long and meandering history of nations trying to set rules to prohibit nuclear warfare since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and, sadly, for most of that time the result has been unsatisfactory.
There have been efforts—the Geneva Disarmament Conference of 1962, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, detente between the Soviet Union and NATO in the mid-1970s, SALT I and SALT II (Strategic Arms Limitations Treaties) of 1969-72 and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991—but during most of that time the Cold War raged on.
With the Soviet Union and NATO pointing thousands of nuclear warheads at each other, for nearly 50 years the only true doctrine in play was MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). That meant, “if you shoot yours I’ll shoot mine and we’ll all die.”
Strangely enough there were many politicians, some heads of state, some American, who actually believed MAD was a good thing.
That’s why Obama’s shift from negotiating ways to prevent a nuclear exchange between nations to curtailing the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states and terrorists is so important.
The Russians agreed with the policy, as do all of the major countries that count, except maybe Israel, India and Pakistan. But those nations are not the real problem, nor are they the focus of the new policy.
It is countries like North Korea and Iran, which are not signatories to the NTP and pose a threat to their neighbors and the rest of the world, that are under the microscope, and they should be.
Because where they would not get into a suicidal nuclear exchange with the U.S. or any other major nuclear power, they would be more likely to pass nukes to terrorists who don’t care if they live or die as long as they can create a grand catastrophe (Sept. 11, 2001). These countries, and maybe Pakistan—if more nuclear technology leaks from there as it did with A.Q. Khan—have to be checked.
“I’m in favor of that,” said U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, “we need to protect ourselves.”
Most importantly, Obama’s shift in policy corrects the move away from nuclear non-proliferation that occurred in the George W. Bush administration.
Cracking down on the small threat that’s most likely to be slip through defenses is just the smart thing to do.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)