Opinion Brief

Does Obama's nuclear policy make us less safe?

The President has significantly limited the role of nuclear weapons in future defense policy. Will it help rid the world of nukes, or put America in danger?

President Obama has revamped America's nuclear strategy to dramatically reduce the role of nuclear weapons in future defense policy. The 50-page "Nuclear Posture Review" released Tuesday states explicitly for the first time that the United States "will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," not even in response to chemical, biological or cyber attacks. The President hopes the policy will create an incentive for others to give up their weapons. Could Obama's plan make nuclear weapons obsolete — or does it just weaken America's defenses?

This move will make us all less safe: Americans should be "horrified" at this strategy, says Frank J. Gaffney Jr. in the National Review. Such "wooly-headed declaratory policies" only serve to maintain the "steady obsolescence of [America's] deterrent" and the "atrophying of the skilled workforce needed to sustain it." Is "disarming the U.S." really a good idea when not one of the other nuclear states has even considered doing the same?"Disarmer-in-Chief"
Finally, a nuclear policy for the post-Cold War age: This is a "big, postive step forward," says Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear nonproliferation expert quoted in Mother Jones. Obama's move marks a transition from the 1940s and the Cold War to the "post 9/11 security environment" and "the elimination of the one weapon that can destroy our nation." The President has finally set the US on a "rational common sense path" towards nuclear disarmament."Is Obama pushing Iran toward nuclear weapons?"

It is empty rhetoric — we'll still use nukes if needed: This doesn't change anything, says Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy. Our enemies have no particular reason to believe the US will "stick to its declared policy in the event of a crisis." If an unthinkable attack occurred, there is "absolutely nothing to stop the United States from changing its mind." Beyond its limited "public relations value," this "posture review" is "largely meaningless.""Pros and Cons in the Nuclear Posture Review"

But it's the first step in a long road to a nuke-free world: This policy doesn't amount to disarmament, says an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Critics shouldn't forget the US approved $7 billion to maintain our nuclear arsenal this year. But this limiting of the role of atomic weapons is "probably as far as the administration can go" towards disarmament with the military on its side. Even for a committed anti-nuclear President like Obama, getting rid of nukes is "a marathon, not a dash.""Setting nuclear limits"

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