Did Obama try for a “middle ground” on nukes?

posted at 12:48 pm on April 6, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

What exactly was Obama trying to do with his restatement of America’s nuclear policy?  ABC’s Rick Klein asked for a response on Twitter this morning:

what do you think of Obama’s attempt at middle ground on nukes? genuine? an area where new approach is needed? #TopLine ? of day

Allahpundit offered a good analysis of the actual impact of the new policy, which doesn’t go as far as some might think.  It didn’t really change much in pragmatic terms.  The US was not going to launch nuclear weapons against countries without a nuclear provocation anyway, not during an Obama presidency at least, and maybe not even with a nuclear provocation.  All it did was remove the uncertainty.

However, the uncertainty was a key strategic asset for the US until now, as John Hinderaker points out at Power Line:

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.

John’s post title asks, “Does it matter?”  The answer is: probably not, although not just for the reasons John gives in his conclusion.  If America gets attacked by a nation using WMD and enough people die from it (hundreds of thousands or more), the pressure to respond with a nuclear attack would be too great to resist, perhaps even for Obama.  But that’s not likely to happen, either.  Our greatest security threats at the moment don’t come from states but from non-state actors (as Allahpundit pointed out last night, too).  No matter what happens, we’re not going to drop nukes on Waziristan to go after al-Qaeda.  Not only would it be a less-than-effective method for killing the terrorists, whose location is not firmly known, it would kill tens of thousands of people who are unfortunate enough to live in the same area as a relatively small band of terrorists– and that’s just not who we are as a nation.  Thankfully.

The question remains, though, as to what Obama was thinking.  The policy can be seen as an attempt to split the middle on nuclear policy, since the Left wanted an outright declaration of no use of nukes at all.  However, the rest of the country wasn’t interested in a recalculation of nuclear policy.  For one thing, what we have been doing for 60 years has worked pretty well; that ambiguity was enough to keep our enemies guessing.  But even more along the same point, no one but the Left thought that this was a big priority for reform.  We haven’t lobbed a nuke in anger for 65 years, and we’re nowhere near the kind of nuclear threat that we faced for more than 40 of those years during the Cold War.

Put simply, this is a big non-sequitur, a fixing of what wasn’t broken in the first place, much like the Obama focus on the START treaty over real threats like Iran and North Korea.  It’s almost literally a move from left field, playing on the progressive turf in a game that no one else bothered to play.  Only a Leftist would do this thinking it was a move to the middle, and it shows just how out of touch this administration is with the mainstream of American thought.


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No, Obama tried for a bone to toss the left wing. This was nothing more than a misguided attempt to regain some support from the left after kicking them to the curb on off-shore drilling. Obama will sell out anything for a political advantage.

Hawthorne on April 6, 2010 at 12:52 PM

Obama has said he could go to his right, but he prefer his [far] left. There is no middle for him.

Enoxo on April 6, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Realistically, you and Allah are probably right Ed. It likely does very little to change what actually might happen.

The problem, though, in my opinion, is that in perception, it appears to be one more statement or action that tries to bring down United States strength.

I have moved into the camp that the President does not love this country like most of us do. I firmly believe that he holds this ideal that no one country should be “better” than another, including the U.S. And I think honestly believes that we cause most of the world’s problems instead of being a shining example for others.

Just my two cents.

JamesLee on April 6, 2010 at 12:54 PM

This is a pattern for the Obama “administration”.

He mocks, distrusts and disparages American citizens regularly. As do Congressional Democrats.

Americans who disagree with his “adminstration” are the enemy.

Worldwide though? Lunatic Islamists, Chinese hackers/pirates, or crazy Russians?

Just friends we haven’t met yet. They probably hate middle America too, so it’s all good.

NoDonkey on April 6, 2010 at 12:56 PM

His foreign policy abilities mirror his throwing abilities.

thomasaur on April 6, 2010 at 12:56 PM

PRESENT!

csdeven on April 6, 2010 at 12:57 PM

We have an administration that is going to force through their ideas even if it is to the detriment and destruction of our republic! I would no more value their ideas as protections for us than I would for an infant to protect me from a bear

ConservativePartyNow on April 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Between this, the START treaty, the hissy fit over Israeli housing, the dissing of D-Day and the Polish memorials, the treatments of allies like England and Canada, it’s like Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing foreign policy wise….

If only he had a wise VP, like, oh, I don’t know, Joe Biden to help him out through the minefield that is foreign policy/relations…..

mjk on April 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Ads by Google, “Master of Arts in Diplomacy. Norwich University.”

Maybe O should sign up for some classes. LMAO!

kagai on April 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM

I have moved into the camp that the President does not love this country like most of us do. I firmly believe that he holds this ideal that no one country should be “better” than another, including the U.S. And I think honestly believes that we cause most of the world’s problems instead of being a shining example for others.

Just my two cents.

JamesLee on April 6, 2010 at 12:54 PM

Welcome to our camp, we have marshmallows and are making “Smores” later.

thomasaur on April 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Any odds on this treaty getting 67 votes in the Senate?

Or would Obama just issue an executive order directing what the treaty says anyway.

Wethal on April 6, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Why I feel a tad more insecure now? Must be my imagination./Sarc

El Coqui on April 6, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Narcissists are bad chess players. They hate to lose so they avoid the game.
I seriously doubt this guy knows the stakes or the rules of the nuclear arms race. The Russians are good at chess and good at the arms race game.
Obama’s weakness and lack of game is mocked by them.

FireBlogger on April 6, 2010 at 1:01 PM

The refusal to develop new nuclear weapson can be dangersous, as the US would be stuck with an aging stockpile while China, North Korea and Iran raced to develop more sophisticated systems.

Wethal on April 6, 2010 at 1:02 PM

The far left wants no nukes. Well what good is anything to anyone, if we’re attacked by nukes, but have nothing to attack back with? Being dead kinda limits any good intentions anyone has for the world.

It’s a no brainer. They want what they want, but they never think things thru. If we’ve dropped the ball, Iran would be more than happy to pick it up, and I have no doubts, Achman is more than ready to try that pretty red button.

capejasmine on April 6, 2010 at 1:02 PM

Yes, welcome to the camp.

Alana on April 6, 2010 at 1:02 PM

…..to preserve, protect and DEFEND the Constitution of the United States.

Is he fulfilling his oath of office?

If not he should be impeached and removed.

PappyD61 on April 6, 2010 at 1:03 PM

Next thing you know he’ll be having a phone call with PUTIN and MR. KGB will tell him that those troop photos massing on the border with Poland, Iraq

PappyD61 on April 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM

….or Afghanistan are just for “security”.

PappyD61 on April 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM

Strategic ambiguity has done well for us, why the need to add more ambiguity except to send the message we are open for any kind of attack NBC or conventional. Some things are better left unsaid.

fourdeucer on April 6, 2010 at 1:06 PM

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.

Again, reflect back on 9/11/01 later that day, and into 9/12/01. You had leaders of several nations including Castro, Kadaffi and Arafat falling over themselves to specifically NOT claim credit for the attacks.

By removing even just the slightest bit of uncertainty, Obama’s making it easier for another large-scale attack.

And quite frankly, if an Al-Q member sets off a chemical weapon killing thousands, tens or hundreds of thousands, someone really DOES need to get nuked. Start with countries that harbor and abet them. I feel sorry for the innocents killed who are having a tough enough time as it is, but the world needs to know we won’t tolerate mass-murder of our citizens.

DrAllecon on April 6, 2010 at 1:08 PM

thomasaur on April 6, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Heh…
Wish he’d just stick to campaigning and stay the hell outta’ foreign policy.

OmahaConservative on April 6, 2010 at 1:08 PM

and it shows just how out of touch this administration is with the mainstream of American thought.

Just don’t call them socialists, or marxists. That will make you a racist.

Logic 101 is indignant.

Schadenfreude on April 6, 2010 at 1:09 PM

…or at least the world needs to still THINK that.
(See what I did there?)

DrAllecon on April 6, 2010 at 1:09 PM

If not he should be impeached and removed.

PappyD61 on April 6, 2010 at 1:03 PM

The Progressive Republicans who refused to vote to convict W.J. Clinton during his impeachment hearings ripped the teeth from any future impeachment proceedings. The ‘Good Ol’ Boys’ club on the Hill are in business to protect each other. A prime example of that is Coburn telling us that Pelosi is a “nice lady” when we all know better. The HC fight is over so they have all begun to mend fences in order to rape us in the next session.

thomasaur on April 6, 2010 at 1:10 PM

I think you nailed it. Obama, spineless schlock that he is, will almost surely find it far too hard to stick to his ‘middle ground’ if we actually do get hit by a nuke. This is just another campaign promise that he’ll throw out the window the moment it becomes inconvenient.

Dark-Star on April 6, 2010 at 1:12 PM

NO.

He started in left field and then went through the left field bleachers.

jukin on April 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM

Our greatest security threats at the moment don’t come from states but from non-state actors (as Allahpundit pointed out last night, too). No matter what happens, we’re not going to drop nukes on Waziristan to go after al-Qaeda. Not only would it be a less-than-effective method for killing the terrorists, whose location is not firmly known, it would kill tens of thousands of people who are unfortunate enough to live in the same area as a relatively small band of terrorists– and that’s just not who we are as a nation. Thankfully.

It’s a bunch of crap when Allah said it, and it’s a bunch of crap when Ed says it.

Our biggest enemies are China, Japan, and Russia. I think those countries calling in debt or manipulating the dollar would be far more disasterous than a building getting blown up and a couple thousand dead Americans.

Besides, most of these different Islamic Terror groups are offspring of The Bear. They are funded by Russia, many started by Russia. Russia has never, ever, ever, ever given up her dreams of being the sole Global Superpower.

The Cold War never ended. As things stand today, it’s even more likely that the United States lost the Cold War.

uknowmorethanme on April 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Welcome to our camp, we have marshmallows and are making “Smores” later.

thomasaur on April 6, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Heh. I sort of was there all along, but finally admitted to it over the Haiti Flag fiasco.

It’s really sad when we don’t want to think the worst of someone, yet over and over they prove it.

JamesLee on April 6, 2010 at 1:16 PM

what a minute “it would take 100,000′s” of Americian deaths for our govenrment to even think about responding with nukes?

Our government is insane. If they will not protect the homeland from any attack what the hell good are they.

unseen on April 6, 2010 at 1:18 PM

The temptation to invoke the old Saturday Night Live and start “Ed, you stupid slut …” is overwhelming. But I’ll settle for

Ed, you fricking RINO,

The question remains, though, as to what Obama was thinking. The policy can be seen as an attempt to split the middle on nuclear policy, since the Left wanted an outright declaration of no use of nukes at all.

What question? Why are you still making excuses for Obama? This policy does not reject an outright declaration of “no nukes,” it is the first step on the way to declaring no nukes.

Jane, it’s as obvious as the vodka on your breath.

doufree on April 6, 2010 at 1:19 PM

The Cold War never ended. As things stand today, it’s even more likely that the United States lost the Cold War.

uknowmorethanme on April 6, 2010 at 1:15 PM

Well considering that the marxists now rule Congress and the whitehouse you might be correct

unseen on April 6, 2010 at 1:19 PM

OMG Ed! Obama can’t even get near the plate when he is trowing from the mound. I can’t even imagine him in the outfield. But if here were to play out there it would definitely be left field.

Hawthorne on April 6, 2010 at 1:20 PM

know this if we give up our nuclear deterrence we will be attacked and destroyed.

unseen on April 6, 2010 at 1:21 PM

We haven’t lobbed a nuke in anger for 65 years, and we’re nowhere near the kind of nuclear threat that we faced for more than 40 of those years during the Cold War.

I couldn’t disagree with you more on that final point. From my perspective, we are probably closer to experiencing the ultimate “Slap in the Face of the Great Satan” then at any time in our history.

When the enemy considers dying as the greatest singular act of honor and obedience, the rules are changed just a tad.

oldfiveanddimer on April 6, 2010 at 1:22 PM

No matter what happens, we’re not going to drop nukes on Waziristan to go after al-Qaeda. Not only would it be a less-than-effective method for killing the terrorists, whose location is not firmly known, it would kill tens of thousands of people who are unfortunate enough to live in the same area as a relatively small band of terrorists– and that’s just not who we are as a nation. Thankfully.

That’ll be cold comfort when it happens and we’re watching those thousands of Waziristani’s dancing in the streets while we watch a US city burn, eh?

It occurs to me that while I may largely agree with your comment, you just did what Obama did, though on a smaller scale.

Look – you take nothing off the table; remember “keep ‘em guessing”? There’s NO VALUE OR MERIT to making the kind of statements that Obama or you just made in terms of enhancing national security.

All it does is send a signal – Obama’s large, yours smaller – that there *are* limits to what we’ll do, and that does nothing but encourage some folks that want to do us harm.

I’d much rather they believe – if only a little – that we’d not hesitate to nuke them, their families, their pets, their cities, and everything they’ve ever remotely cared for – and then quite a bit of stuff they’ve never cared for – should they choose to try and attack us.

Seriously – can you grief Obama for removing ‘uncertainty/ambiguity’ and then follow with comments like, “No matter what happens, we’re not going to drop nukes on…”?

Midas on April 6, 2010 at 1:22 PM

How many remember Jimmy Carter and his bans? And his canceling the B1 program. And his canceling the ALCM … You think Obozo and his bozos aren’t trying to bring back from the dead Jimmy Carter.

Relive the yesteryear and all it’s misery, read Jimmy Carter history, and how his pappy was a full fledged “Fullbright segregationist”.

tarpon on April 6, 2010 at 1:22 PM

RE: Did Obama try for the middle ground?

No, Obama tried to be cute, show off, display his awesome intelligence and god like peaceful nature.

He has no idea what he has done. His apologists, enablers, and fanboys will be walking back his policy for a month or more.

Skandia Recluse on April 6, 2010 at 1:23 PM

Eh, why bother? President M.T. Suit and his Socialist Congresstitutes are more interested in running this country into the Third World than maintaining any form of strategic advantage. Once there, M.T. can declare himself ‘President for Life!’ while his slithering sycophants in his Best Little Whorehouse on the Potomac can become dictators over their little ‘subjects’.

SeniorD on April 6, 2010 at 1:26 PM

know this if we give up our nuclear deterrence we will be attacked and destroyed.

unseen on April 6, 2010 at 1:21 PM

We’re under attack right now and they haven’t fired a single shot, they’ve just infiltrated our capital in every manner necessary. There isn’t a single place in our govt. that they haven’t infiltrated and in many cases taken over.

thomasaur on April 6, 2010 at 1:27 PM

“What exactly was Obama trying to do with his restatement of America’s nuclear policy? ”

Follow the money…

1. Obama is in campaign mode, trying to raise peacnik $$$$$$$ for the fall elections.

2. Watch the other hand… He’s proposing a huge cut back on defense spending by distracting the debate to other defense proclamations. Once defense spending is cut back with pay-go in place, defense spending will never recover since Obamacare needs funding first to keep from going broke… Obama is (correctly) betting that the RINO whimps in charge of the GOP Senate will never be able to figure out how to eliminate pay-go to increase defense spending without a tax increase, should they ever regain a majority…

— Fine print —-

Would Obama actually follow thru on this whimpy-ass nuke policy? Probably not. He’s Charlie Brown’s “Lucy”. He can’t be trusted to on much of anything. After all, he talked about nice bipartisanship, but dropped the nuke bomb to get Obamacare passed.

drfredc on April 6, 2010 at 1:32 PM

That’s our solid B+ president. Of course, everyone in the educational system knows that a B is the new C since the rubrics have all been scaled down to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. T-Ball without keeping score anyone?

wordsmithy2009 on April 6, 2010 at 1:42 PM

DrAllecon on April 6, 2010 at 1:08 PM

Good point.

This decisions isn’t so much about Obama or our administration, but what this gives our enemies.

Our enemies now know how far and under what circumstances and what pre-requisits exist for their use of a WMD and our non-use of WMD. That is the big take-away from this, regardless of what Obama’s ‘true’ intentions are.

This act deliberately emboldens our countries enemies.

catmman on April 6, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Obama very stupidly laid out exactly how far you can go in attacking the USA before we will destroy your country/region.

The ambiguity was intentional as part of a deterrence to our enemies, since they would not know for certain how we would react (or how we could legally react).

Good job non-Law Professor.

Neo on April 6, 2010 at 2:02 PM

friggin rookie.. way over his paygrade.

abobo on April 6, 2010 at 2:11 PM

A no-first-use policy has been advocated by the Left since the 80s, at the same time they called for a more or less unilateral nuclear freeze by the West. Well, Obow gave them part of their wish.

A WMD strike here by terrorists would leave Americans dead and largely no target to hit–much the same as before this idiot plan.

The most we could possibly do to retaliate is strike Iran’s military bases, which the UN would scream about and Congressional Dems would demand proof Iran was involved before we retaliated. Russia would be a problem, too, if any fallout is blown their way by the winds.

A sticky wicket even without this idiocy, but Obow tipped our hand. I bet that, on Jan. 20, 1981, 444 Americans were freed from illegal captivity in Tehran precisely because Iran had to wonder if Reagan would use the codes in that nice new football of his and turn their sands to glass.

Liam on April 6, 2010 at 2:12 PM

If it’s ‘historical’ or ‘unprecedented’, Obama is for it no matter what.

Barry’s Motto: If it ain’t busted, fix it ’til it is.

tpitman on April 6, 2010 at 2:14 PM

Obama trying to outdo Jimmuh dum dum Carter. Remember Carter canceled the B1 and ALCM delayed the Peacekeeper MIRV missile … So Obozo has a ways to go.

tarpon on April 6, 2010 at 2:16 PM

Maybe some of us Cons should throw a beer and Poker party, and invite Obow. Since he obviously can’t play the game, we could clean him out in no time! LOL

Liam on April 6, 2010 at 2:19 PM

Uh folks… the Russians are spending American tax-payer dollars taking down their dangerous nuclear weapons silos, chemical weapons and biological weapons. Now we are giving away the farm, granting them credibility and status, in exchange for NOTHING.

Oh… except that surrenders missile defense while China and Russia don’t…

DANEgerus on April 6, 2010 at 2:37 PM

One question for Obama: what does he think all of these statements and policy changes are getting him on the world stage?

Is he really so naive that he thinks that other countries will be so inspired by our example that they slash their nuclear stockpiles or stop pursuing them? If so, how many Americans will have to pay with their lives so he can set his moral example?

JohnInCA on April 6, 2010 at 2:38 PM

A no-first-use policy has been advocated by the Left since the 80s, at the same time they called for a more or less unilateral nuclear freeze by the West. Well, Obow gave them part of their wish.

I remember reading a relatively decent book on that topic. “A Fistfull of Ego” by B.H. Topel (sp?)

The gist was that there should be a secret policy of non-retaliation in the event of a Soviet first-strike, the reason being we could basically surrender after the first launch and avert as many deaths as possible. Was a fictional story, and very lefty, but he handled it pretty good.

JamesLee on April 6, 2010 at 2:55 PM

JamesLee on April 6, 2010 at 2:55 PM

I never read that and, really, wouldn’t have.

I have an alternate if it can be found. I forget the title, it being so long ago.

The premise was that the A-bomb failed, so we had to do Operation Olympic as was planned. Terrifying, if you put yourself on the ground invading Japan itself. Based on historical fact, and had it happened, the A-bombs were merciful, so to speak.

Liam on April 6, 2010 at 3:07 PM

um…..I thought he swore to protect the citizens of the United States. HE IS A JOKE!!!!

mobydutch on April 6, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Given President Obama’s dangerous naivete about current and potential adversaries of the US, can anyone now consider Governor Palin unelectable in 2012? Palin is now to Obama, what Reagan was to Carter – the antidote!

Palin will defend our country at all costs. The only question is whether we will make it to the election in 2012 without a catastrophe. We must start by giving Democrats in Congress their walking papers in November 2010. Stay focused and involved folks – our nation’s economic and national security are hanging by a thread.

SheetAnchor on April 6, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Another act of surrender and weakness. Just like Clinton’s non reactions to AQ during the 90s, this will embolden all our enemies (Obama’s friends) and that’s the real point. Obama doesn’t care about all those crackers in US cities getting killed by biologic or chemical means. As long as his home country of Kenya remains safe and he is adored by the world’s worst countries, all is fine in Obamaland.

eaglewingz08 on April 6, 2010 at 4:05 PM

Ed, removing the uncertainty is a big, BIG deal.

I would say Iran feels MUCH safer now considering the prospect of dropping a nuke on Tel Aviv.

Considering recent events with Bibi, it’s does not feel like a risky calculation at all now to postulate that the US (Obama) would simply whimper after such an attack.

ElRonaldo on April 6, 2010 at 4:24 PM