‘A WORLD WITHOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS’…. In October 2007, then-candidate Barack Obama tackled the issue of nuclear proliferation, and explained why the U.S. should drastically reduce its stockpiles to lower the threat of nuclear terrorism, as part of the larger goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in the world. The Obama policy was largely in line with a bipartisan proposal offer a few months earlier by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, and Sam Nunn.
In Prague today, Obama followed up on this by reiterating his commitment and sketching out his vision to an international audience.
Obama made his pledge before 20,000 flag-waving Czechs outside the gates of picturesque Prague Castle. He chose a nation that peacefully threw off communism and helped topple nuclear power Soviet Union as the backdrop for presenting an ambitious plan to stop the global spread of dangerous weapons.
“Let us honor our past by reaching for a better future,” Obama said.
Shifting on an eight-day European trip from the economic crisis to the war in Afghanistan and now nuclear capabilities, Obama said his goal of “a world without nuclear weapons” won’t be reached soon, “perhaps not in my lifetime.”
But he said the United States, with one of the world’s largest arsenals and the only nation to have used an atomic bomb, has a “moral responsibility” to start taking steps now.
Administration officials sought to use North Korea’s missile launch as part of the strategy — with the U.S. president calling for a reduction in nuclear arms, and ultimately the elimination of the weapons, Obama will presumably have added leverage on the issue. “We are trying to seek the moral high ground,” Gary Samore, Obama’s arms control coordinator, said.
The plan reportedly includes a variety of short- and long-term tasks, including U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, a nuclear weapons summit, strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a new treaty with Russia on arsenal reduction, a new initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear material, and the creation of an international fuel bank as part of a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation.
As for the politics of this, I suspect the right will dismiss much of this as fantasy. I recall one far-right blogger arguing in October 2007 that Obama’s counter-proliferation was literally laughable: “It’s almost like the Obama is a child’s toy, who has been programmed with nothing but Hallmark Card greetings and random snippets from All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. You pull the string once and it’s, “I love puppies and warm milk!” You pull it again and … it’s, ‘Let’s get rid of all the world’s nuclear weapons because we can’t hug each other with nuclear arms!’”
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were similarly foolish reactions today. I’d just remind our friends on the right that there was one famous liberal who called for the abolishment of “all nuclear weapons,” which he considered to be “totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.”