Our Postmodern President Tosses Ambiguity On The One Issue It Matters
Only two years after after he was first sworn in as a US senator, Barack Obama began to hit the campaign trail, beginning in February of 2007. His first step was securing his far left, anti-war base, before the inevitable faint towards the center starting in the summer of 2008. This ad was presumably shot sometime in or before the fall of 2007, based on the October 22nd, 2007 date stamp of the earliest posting of this YouTube clip:
Of course, as we've seen since shortly after taking office, Obama's main battlefield has been the domestic one, with a belief that he can shape and reshape the American people and its core institutions as a sort of inverted Von Clausewitz.
So how important is America's strategic defense against outside attacks to our radical, ambitious, but likely overwhelmed new president?
This important: "Obama Was Not Briefed on Nuclear-Defense Plans Until 'Some Months' In Office," Gabriel Malor writes at Ace of Spades:
There's a certain thing I do where I know I've got mail that I should open sooner rather than later, but instead I throw it on a counter and pretend to forget about it because I don't want to deal with it. As long as I don't actually open them, I can ignore them. It's a bury-my-head-in-the-sand maneuver and it's dumb, because I know what's in most of those letters.According to a knowledgeable source who would not be identified discussing sensitive national-security matters, President Obama wasn't briefed on the U.S. nuclear-strike plan against Russia and China until some months after he had taken office. "He thought it was insane," says the source. (The reason for the delay is unclear; the White House did not respond to repeated inquiries.)
Warning: the rest of that Newsweek article is partisan trash, including comparisons between Obama and President Reagan and more public knob gobbling than anyone should be comfortable with.
But those three lines jumped out at me because it seems pretty damned important that the President doesn't just bury his head in the sand when he gets uncomfortable. Republicans have been pointing out for a year just how neglectful Obama has been addressing national security concerns. After every major blunder Democrats try and reassure the public that it's not neglect, but rather subtlety.
So apparently as an afterthought, President Obama recently decided to return to an issue that's near and dear to his base. Yesterday, John Hinderaker wrote at Power Line:
Today President Obama announced a new strategic policy with regard to the use of nuclear weapons. The New York Times reports:President Obama said Monday that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. ... To set an example, the new strategy renounces the development of any new nuclear weapons, overruling the initial position of his own defense secretary. ...
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.
On its face, that is unbelievably stupid. A country attacks us with biological weapons, and we stay our hand because they are "in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty"? That is too dumb even for Barack Obama. The administration hedged its commitment with qualifications suggesting that if there actually were a successful biological or chemical attack, it would rethink its position. The Times puts its finger on what is wrong with the administration's announcement:It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war.
That's exactly right. The cardinal rule, when it comes to nuclear weapons, is keep 'em guessing. We want our enemies to believe that we may well be crazy enough to vaporize them, given sufficient provocation; one just can't tell. There is a reason why that ambiguity has been the American government's policy for more than 50 years. Obama cheerfully tosses overboard the strategic consensus of two generations.
Or pretends to, anyway. Does anyone doubt that the administration would use nukes in a heartbeat if it considered such measures necessary? I don't. The problem is that when the time comes to actually use nuclear weapons, it is too late. The danger here is not that the Obama administration has really gone pacifist. On the contrary, the significance of today's announcement appears to be entirely symbolic--just one more chance to preen. The problem is that our enemies understand symbolism and maybe take it too seriously. To them, today's announcement is another sign that our government has gone soft, and one more inducement to undertake aggressive action against the United States.
Roger L. Simon, whose politics, it seems safe to say, are somewhat more centrist than Hinderaker's isn't too pleased, either:
This is indeed astonishing. The President of the United States — whose most important duty is to protect the citizens of this country — is publicly abjuring the use of nuclear weapons if we are attacked by chemical or biological weapons — both of which are known to all of us as Weapons of Mass Destruction, the dreaded WMDs.
What are we to make of this and the man who is adopting this policy? Does he hate us? Does he hate this country? What would he do if there was, for example, a massive small pox attack on the U.S.? Send in the infantry? Call in the Marines? Try to reason with whoever did it and recommend they negotiate as the fatal disease spreads to millions of people?
Now I detest nuclear weapons as much as the next person, but this approach seems — I hate to repeat myself, but I will — deranged. It also has very little to do with actually reducing nuclear weapons in the world. Again, it seems like the act of an extreme narcissist, someone who wants to parade himself as anti-nuke while ignoring the checks and balances that have, in fact, kept nuclear weapons in their silos for decades.
Deterrence has worked. And now Obama wants to abandon or diminish it at the very moment Russia is modernizing their arsenal. What a strange person. President Weirdo, indeed. As I said in my previous post, “good luck to us.”
And Rudy Giuliani, who served as mayor to a city that was attacked almost ten years ago, isn't happy, either:
President Obama’s revamping of American nuclear policy is the mark of an “inept” leader intent on living a “left-wing dream,” says Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, in an interview with National Review Online. “A nuclear-free world has been a 60-year dream of the Left, just like socialized health-care. This new policy, like Obama’s government-run health program, is a big step in that direction.”
“President Obama thinks we can all hold hands, sing songs, and have peace symbols,” Giuliani says. “North Korea and Iran are not singing along with the president. Knowing that, it just doesn’t make sense why we would reduce our nuclear arms when we face these threats.”
“The president doesn’t understand the concept of leverage,” Giuliani continues. “He’s taken away our military option and it looks like he would prevent Israel from using a military option. He also hasn’t gotten Russia or China to agree. With Russia, he should have made them put their cards on the table. Instead, like with the missile shield, he gave up and got nothing for it. He negotiated against himself. That is like reducing the price of your house before you get an offer.”
Shouldn't be too surprising -- reducing America's strength, and apparently, its GDP as well seem like they've long been goals of the president, sometimes explicitly stated, as the clip at the start of this post highlights. He's short-selling the nation; if he has to short himself in the process, so be it.
But hey, on the plus side, at least he can say he's kept a campaign promise.