That Crazy Reaganite Zero Option for Nuclear Weapons

There’s one area of federal spending where, unsurprisingly, many elements of the Right think Barack Obama has been a horrendous penny-pincher: defense, and more specifically, nuclear defense. Check out this saber-rattling piece from Bill Gertz of the Free Bac–er, I mean Free Beacon:

President Obama has decided to seek deeper cuts in deployed strategic nuclear weapons to as few as 1,000 warheads, sharply below the target of 1,550 warheads required under a 2010 U.S.-Russia arms treaty, U.S. officials said Monday.

Critics say the steep cuts, which the administration will seek in new talks with a growing anti-U.S. government in Moscow, would undermine U.S. strategic deterrence for the United States and its allies in Asia and Europe.

“Critics,” of course, turn out to be a few retired generals plus those universally respected voices of sanity Frank Gaffney and John Bolton. There’s ominous talk about Obama’s desire to “unilaterally” reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which is a bit undercut by the fact that the whole premise of the idea the article is about is a tentative proposal to be made to the Russians for arms reduction negotiations.

But the richest line of attack is aimed at Obama’s stated interest in the eventual goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons (again, by negotiation).

Obama did indeed express that goal in a 2009 speech in Prague.

In doing so, he followed in the footsteps of a predecessor, who said nearly three decades ago:

In our approach to negotiations, reducing the risk of war, and especially nuclear war, is priority number one. A nuclear conflict could well be mankind’s last. And that is why I proposed over 2 years ago the zero option for intermediate-range missiles. Our aim was and continues to be to eliminate an entire class of nuclear arms. Indeed, I support a zero option for all nuclear arms. As I’ve said before, my dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.

That predecessor, of course, was Ronald Reagan.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.