On Tuesday at noon, President Obama is unveiling his plan for drastically
scaling back the presence and threat of nuclear arms across the globe.
He has previewed the Nuclear Posture Review (as the White House calls
it) with reporters ahead of time. Obama has long emphasized his aim to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the United States and
elsewhere. Here's what's in the plan, what it means, and some judgments
on whether it's any good.
- What's in The Plan The New York
Times' David Sanger and
Peter Baker explain, "Obama described his policy as part of a
broader effort to edge the world toward making nuclear weapons obsolete,
and to create incentives for countries to give up any nuclear
ambitions. To set an example, the new strategy renounces the development
of any new nuclear weapons, overruling the initial position of his own
defense secretary. Mr. Obama’s strategy is a sharp shift from those of
his predecessors and seeks to revamp the nation’s nuclear posture for a
new age in which rogue states and terrorist organizations are greater
threats than traditional powers like Russia and China."
Purpose of Nukes: Deterrence Self-declared "arms control wonk" Jeffrey Lewis tweets, "Looks like the NPR [Nuclear Posture Review] will embrace the 'fundamental purpose' of nukes is to deter nukes; will
work to create conditions to say 'sole' purpose." The New York Times' Sanger and Baker elaborate,
"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
- Except With Rogue States--But Who
Determines That? Conservative blogger William Jacobson notes
that the NPR allows nukes to be used against states that violate the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But who, he asks, determines the
violators? The U.N.? President Obama? "What if the country in question
disputes 'alleged' non-compliance? Shouldn't the people of that country
be entitled to some measure of due process?"
- Clarifying Our
Policy Makes Us Weaker Commentary's Jennifer Rubins balks, "Why
foreswear defensive use of nuclear force? Why remove strategic
ambiguity?" She argues that, by keeping our nuclear policy ambiguous, it
makes potential enemies second-guess any action that could potentially
provoke a nuclear response.
Nukes Over Nuke-Wielding States Spencer Ackerman sees
Obama's plan as "declaring that the principle nuclear threat to the U.S.
is from proliferation — that is, not just from a nuclear-armed enemy,
but from the existence of the weapons themselves." That places the
emphasis on reducing the number of nuclear weapons rather than
constraining the states that possess nuclear weapons.
Tough on Iran? Flynt and
Hillary Mann Leverett read the review as giving the U.S. "the
prerogative to use nuclear weapons against the Islamic Republic of Iran,
even as Iran remains a non-nuclear-weapons state. [...] More
specifically, the Administration will reserve the prerogative for the
United States to use nuclear weapons first, at its discretion, against
non-nuclear-weapons states that are not, in Washington’s view, in full
compliance with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
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