In the Arena

Obama and Nukes

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This is an excellent choice by Obama, a great issue to emphasize. He will be attacked, no doubt, for arrant high-mindedness by the right, but read the small print:

In setting a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons in the world, Mr. Obama is endorsing a call for “urgent new actions” to prevent a new nuclear era that was laid out in January in a commentary in The Wall Street Journal written by several former government officials. The authors of the article were George P. Shultz, secretary of state in the Reagan administration; Henry Kissinger, secretary of state in the Nixon and Ford administrations; William J. Perry, secretary of defense in the Clinton administration; and Sam Nunn, a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Among the many scandals and depredations of this administration has been the slow-walk given to Nunn-Lugar funding–that is, paying Russia to dismantle its remaining nukes. Indeed, Bush has gone in precisely the wrong direction, making noises about a new generation of bunker-busting theater nuclear weapons.

Nuclear proliferation will be a central challenge for the next President and probably for all those who follow. If there is any hope of convincing the Iranians not to build a bomb–and there may not be–it is essential that the world believes that (a) we (and Israel) are not moving ahead with new generations of theater nuclear weapon technology and (b) that indeed, we are dismantling most of what we do have.

Of course, we’ll never totally eliminate our nuclear arsenal. Indeed, a strong case can be made to keep a few to deter potential adversaries. But a clearly stated intention and action toward drawing down our arsenal would be a major step toward restoring America’s moral standing in the world.