So, Barack Obama, in pursuit of a world in which nuclear weapons are “obsolete,” just announced that he is “revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions” under which the United States would use such weapons. To set an “example” to other nations, the president also announced that the United States was renouncing the development of any new nuclear weapons.
What sort of “example” do you suppose this sets? To begin to comprehend what the president has in mind, contemplate these two declarations, just reported in The New York Times:
For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.
Got that? A “crippling” cyberattack, an attack with biological or chemical weapons: go for it Ahmed, your country (assuming you have a country) has promised, cross your heart, not to develop or use nuclear weapons so you’re home (almost) free.
We infidels needn’t worry, though, because the president, though he said in one breath that the United States promised not to respond with nuclear weapons even if it suffered a crippling biological, chemical, or cyberattack, said in the next breath that any such threats
could be deterred with “a series of graded options,” a combination of old and new conventional weapons. “I’m going to preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure.”
Are you feeling safer now? 1. We are going to renounce the development of new nuclear weapons even as our enemies around the world eagerly pursue every possible refinement for use in their arsenals; 2. We are abandoning our policy of deliberate, and deliberately off-putting, ambiguity about when and how we would retaliate, stating boldly that we would not respond to a biological, chemical, or cyberattack with nuclear weapons; 3. But we are also going “To preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure.”
How do you spell “contradiction”?
One common way of spelling it is “wishful thinking.” That’s how Rudyard Kipling spelled it in his harrowing poem “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.” They’re a wise lot, those gods of the copybook headings, but humanity has trouble heeding their lessons:
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
And where did that lead?
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
I wondered, frankly, whether there wasn’t a comedian lurking in the White House, for the new Obama doctrine is called the “Nuclear Posture Review.” The posture in question, though, is self-abasement. Nuclear weapons are fearsome things. We wish they didn’t exist. Therefore we will take steps to reduce our threatening posture in order to appear more emollient. Has no one in Obama’s inner clique heard of the Roman military historian Vegetius: “Si vis pacem, para bellum“: “if you want peace, prepare for war.” The possession of weapons facilitates war: no doubt. But history demonstrates that pacifism and signs of weakness precipitate war. The choice, in other words, is between rhetoric that celebrates peace and comity, and policies that actually achieve it. Obama has once again plumped for the former. The result?
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!