Obama's "Unilateral Disarmament" is Neither

Why the only thing worse than a world with nuclear weapons is a world without them.

When Republicans and Democrats agree on a factual matter, it is for one of two reasons. Sometimes it's because a certain fact is true. And sometimes it's because both sides hope to gain from promoting an obvious fiction.

As it happens, they concur on one thing about the arms control agreement with Russia: It is a big step toward denuclearization. President Obama, who goes to Prague this week for a signing ceremony, says the accord advances the goal of "a world without nuclear weapons."

Republicans think that is the problem. Through the "New Start" agreement and other policies, claims former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney Jr., Obama is "condemning the nation to unilateral disarmament."

Those are the claims. The reality is that the United States, after this treaty takes effect, will have 700 missiles and bombers carrying 1,550 warheads. That's enough to turn any country on Earth into smoking, radioactive rubble, and then turn the rubble into gravel.

Yet for the critics, the only thing better than too much is even more. They somehow imagine that an enemy willing to risk being visited with 1,550 nuclear blasts will back down at the prospect of 1,560.

The treaty is supposed to slash arsenals by 30 percent. In reality, it will fall well short of that because of strange counting rules. A B-52 is assumed to carry only one bomb, for example, even though it is equipped (and will be allowed) to carry 20.

Pavel Podvig, a physicist at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, says almost all of the advertised cuts "will be accomplished by changing the way warheads are counted." It's like saying I'm going to lose 20 pounds, with each actual pound counting as 10.

In practice, reports the Federation of American Scientists, the United States will have to get rid of just 100 warheads, while the Russians will scrap 190. It's not disarmament, and it's not unilateral.

The main value of the treaty is that it obligates both governments to inform the other of how many weapons it has and where they are located, while imposing verification requirements to keep them honest.

It also opens the possibility of deeper cuts. Those make sense because neither side needs such a huge stockpile or the expense that comes with it—and because the more weapons, the greater the risk of a disastrous accident.

The deal represents a modest improvement over the status quo. So why the pretense that it's a big step toward the abandonment of nuclear weapons?

Both sides have their reasons. Republicans want voters to see Obama as an appeaser bent on weakening our security. Obama wants to induce other countries to forgo nukes by showing that the U.S. and Russia will eventually do the same.

Neither depiction is convincing. Both Moscow and Washington will retain unimaginable destructive capacities. We regard nukes as essential to our security, and we don't intend to give them up anytime soon, if ever.

Good thing, too. Obama is not the first president to envision the abolition of nuclear weapons—Ronald Reagan tried to negotiate toward that end with the Soviet Union. But the only thing worse than a world with nuclear weapons is a world without them.

Why? Because they create a huge incentive for major powers not to attack each other. The danger that a conventional war might escalate to doomsday is so horrifying that no one wants to take the chance. It is impossible to win a nuclear war. So the paramount goal of every nuclear state is to avoid one.

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  • Kolohe||

    claims former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney Jr., Obama is "condemning the nation to unilateral disarmament."

    Gafney also thinks that Obama is unilaterally imposing sharia, and so should not be used as a source in any argument, pro or con.
    http://biggovernment.com/fgaff.....-crescent/

    Team Obama’s anti-anti-missile initiatives are not simply acts of unilateral disarmament of the sort to be expected from an Alinsky acolyte. They seem to fit an increasingly obvious and worrying pattern of official U.S. submission to Islam and the theo-political-legal program the latter’s authorities call Shariah.


    He makes Mark Levin look fully hinged.

  • zoltan||

    Good god that man is nuts.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    I hate to be rude, but I've read Cathy Young columns that were better than this one.

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    A word, sir, if you don't mind, there are issue afoot!

  • ||

    Vanneman, you ignorant slut. This column made a small but important point. Who cares if it wasn't interesting?

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    Methinks that reference is too old for the average comment section reader. Nice, though.

  • DoDoGuRu||

    Nor is any of them (or any future nuclear state) likely to, because it would invite utter annihilation.

    It's a good thing we always deal with rational actors.

    On a slightly related note, I wonder if the collectivist mega-murderers of the 20th century might have done less damage if we didn't have nuclear weapons: if, without the threat of nuclear war, the Communist grinder might have directed its violence outward and been opposed instead of directing its violence inward and churning through 170 million people.

    Nukes may deter "war", but war isn't what killed in the 20th century.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "the Communist grinder might have directed its violence outward and been opposed instead of directing its violence inward and churning through 170 million people."

    So it would have been better if we had had to fight a bloody conventional war against the Soviets and Chinese (which would have caused massive casualties on our sides) than those states killing their own people?

    I don't think so.

  • DoDoGuRu||

    As a sum of dead? Maybe. The number of people killed by war last century is much lower than killed by democide.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The Communist block killing millions of their own people is a far superior outcome than the United States suffering millions of casualties to prevent them from taking us over.

    I doubt you would find many Americans who think otherwise.

  • ||

    A human life is a human life. Besides, the Soviet Union was a paper dragon.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The evaluation of whether it is better to have nukes or not is evaluated on whether it would be better for the United States and it's people.

    No nation on earth would ever subscribe to the ridiculous notion that it's strategy should be based on saving the most people around the world rather than having a primary obligation to protect it's own citizens.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Actually, it sounds like Tristan would rather it be American lives than anybody else.

    How liberal of you.

  • ||

    the Communist grinder might have directed its violence outward and been opposed instead of directing its violence inward and churning through 170 million people.

    Its my impression Totalitarian regimes slaughter their own when they are consolidating power, not as a substitute for expanding.

  • ||

    But they have National Health Care, so it's OK.

  • ||

    The Commies did turn their violence outward. That's how they got Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, etc. A good chunk of that democide wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for Commie imperialist expansion.

  • ||

    Opine
    Nucs control and verification issues are the most important issue to be dealt with, in the future. Use of Nucs is insane, and we are well rid of as many as possible
    We Will Prevail
    Semper Fi
    end

  • The Ghost of Harry S Truman||

    It is impossible to win a nuclear war.

    Wanna bet?

  • ||

    That's only because they brought a battleship to a nuke fight.

  • ||

    It's a funny game
    only one way to win it
    just don't try to play

  • Hippy||

    You can't hug your children with nuclear arms!

  • Homer||

    It's "Nook-you-ler."

  • DJF||

    And the 1,550 warheads they are talking about are just the ones on long range missiles and bombers, it does not count the thousands more that both the US and Russia have which are not “strategic”. Both the US and Russia have at least another 10,000 “tactical” nuclear weapons.

  • Chris||

    Thank you for quoting "tactical." Few things irk me more than trying to make implications that are impossible. Tactical and nuclear are oxymoronic.

  • Tony||

    It's so odd what libertarians choose to get pragmatic about.

    A government that allegedly is so inept it can't even regulate healthcare should be trusted with the trigger to thousands of doomsday devices?

  • Nuance||

    Hi.

  • ||

    It's so odd what libertarians choose to get pragmatic about.

    Its never odd what statists choose to be stupid about.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Its never odd what statists choose to be stupid about."

    Particularly since choosing to be a statist is pretty stupid to begin with.

  • ||

    If it means anything Tony, I'm pretty consistent on both fronts.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Yes Tristan, I think you are a far lefter with libertarian clothing on.

  • MJ||

    Having care of the doomsday devices is within a government's area of competence, running a health care system is not. The former is a relatively simple task, the latter is too complex for even a large organization to comprehend.

  • Tony||

    Woah now... so giving one man the literal power to destroy worldwide civilization passes libertarian muster, but imposing regulations on healthcare is beyond the pale?

  • MJ||

    No, simply that the former is possible for the government to do that well, not that it's a good idea. The government running health care efficiently is like a perpetueal motion machine, it defies how the world works.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    +2

  • MJ||

    Secondly, there are at least two men in the world with the power to destroy civilization. I am more than comfortable with the American president having that kind of power than I am with Putin and his successors having it alone.

    I suppose it would be nice if nuclear weapons did not exist, but they do. And handling weapons in defense of the people is part of the government's job description. Trying to micrmanage a sector of the economy is not.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Exactly.

  • ||

    Lets see Tony:

    Government has had a hand in about 50% of health care costs for a while now. And look at the mess we're in. Now we're gonna get more.

    The government has had nuclear weapons for about as long, and we haven't had a nuclear war yet. National security IS one thing we can do somewhat right, especially if we're not going on the offensive for dumb reason.

    Results, not idealism. But don't let pesky things facts get in the way...

  • Tony||

    Blah-dee-blah-blah. In what stone is it etched that governments can handle national security expertly but virtually nothing else? That makes absolutely no sense.

    Libertarians need to stop being such hypocrites. If you're a pro-city-destroying-weapons war hawk then don't say a goddamn word to me about wanting equitable access to healthcare. You're not for freedom. You're for blowing shit up and pissing on poor people because you're a douche bag. Period. That goes for most of you.

  • ||

    Whoa, calm down there guy everything is going to be OK, I promise.

    I'm not a pro-city destroying-weapons-war-hawk, just the opposite actually. I was simply pointing out that I did not agree with your comparison of health care to nuclear weapons. I think most Libertarians want equitable access to health care, we just go about it in a different way-and it seems like people with left leaning views can't handle that. No debating, just call people names. One thing I've learned in my vast life experience is that when someone resorts to name calling, it means they've lost and have no real point. You'll be alright, relax.

  • ||

    I would love to see a reduction of our nuke supply, but I do agree that it is the government's job to protect its citizens from annihilation or subjugation from foreign powers. I'm not comfortable with a huge standing army either, but I suppose it is necessary to avoid true anarchy.

    Nuclear weapons should never be the first response, or even the 11th, but it is kinda necessary to have them sitting around to deter the really crazy people. It irks me, though.

  • LarryA||

    A government that allegedly is so inept it can't even regulate healthcare should be trusted with the trigger to thousands of doomsday devices?

    I trust any of the thousands of people who have completed my handgun classes with a pistol. If I need an appendectomy, I’m going to a physician.

  • ||

    www.TeaPartyRevolution.com

    Please give us your opinions about saving this country from Marxists who are in power and destroying our capitalist free market system as we speak.

  • Kroneborge||

    It's a good thing?

  • ||

    Marxists? Better let Geitner, Summers, Bernanke et al in on this, they apparently didn't get the memo.

  • Tim||

    "Both sides have their reasons. Republicans want voters to see Obama as an appeaser bent on weakening our security. Obama wants ..." to appease those Democrat special interests bent on weakening our security.

    Fixed.
    "

  • ||

    My God, where do these conservatives keep coming from?

  • Stereo Apple||

    The inverse of the place the liberals keep coming from.

  • Chris||

    No, they come from the exact same place: Big Government Land.

  • Chris||

    Annoying isn't it?

  • ||

    More to the point, nuclear weapons are poor substitute for trade. Trade will promote peace, without requiring weapons that will blow up half the world.

  • ||

    +1

  • Norman Angell||

    The idea that states will go to war against their economic interests is the Great Illusion. That's why I won a Nobel prize!

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Nuclear weapons have never been substituted for traded as far as I know.

  • ||

    "In the 65 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no country has used the Bomb. Nor is any of them (or any future nuclear state) likely to, because it would invite utter annihilation."

    I completely agree, and that's why we need to leave Iran alone. Given our long hostility towards that country in addition to our recent behavior in the region, Iran would almost be crazy to not develop nukes. Then we'll probably leave them alone, a la N Korea or Pakistan.

  • ||

    That is true only if they believe that using a nuke will invite utter annihilation.

    Iran has a long history of not being held responsible for what its proxies do with weapons that it supplies them, after all.

  • Stereo Apple||

    To be fair, so does America.

  • Jimmy 'Crack' Corn||

    Also to be fair, no nuclear weapons supplied by the US to it's friends have ever been used.

  • Ron||

    Iran a nation that used it's own children has live mine sweepers when they were at war with Iraq. I don't think they care about retaliation as long as the Devil is hurt.

  • ||

    The problem with this "agreement" is that it is nearly unenforceable and it is the result of an apologetic Obama coming to the Russians with hat in hand.

  • Chris||

    *Barfs*

    What is truly bothersome is that both conservatives and liberals claim the exact same things, only in reverse. To think that Obama really is bent on destroying our security is stupid. Though we may not agree with his methods, he really does care about America. To claim otherwise is simply stupid.

  • ||

    truth,,,,obama people have no idea of the extent to which they have to be gulled in order to be led."
    "The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one."
    "All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it."
    "Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise."pelosi don't see much future for the Americans ... it's a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities ...obama feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance ... everything about the behaviour of American society reveals that it's half Judaised, and the other half negrified. How can one expect a State like that to hold TOGTHER.They include the angry left wing bloggers who spread vicious lies and half-truths about their political adversaries... Those lies are then repeated by the duplicitous left wing media outlets who “discuss” the nonsense on air as if it has merit… The media's justification is apparently “because it's out there”, truth be damned. STOP THIS COMMUNIST OBAMA ,GOD HELP US ALL .THE COMMANDER ((GOD OPEN YOUR EYES)) stop the communist obama & pelosi.((open you eyes)) ,the commander

  • DDavis||

    "In the 65 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no country has used the Bomb. Nor is any of them (or any future nuclear state) likely to, because it would invite utter annihilation."

    For a lot of people who believe in magic books, Armageddon is a good thing, literally the Best Thing on Earth. Some of these people, who seem to have the true courage of their convictions, are running Iran, and about to go nuclear.

    That'll work out well.

  • ||

    Obama and his "crew" aren't competent enough to run a bake sale. Nothing has been really accomplished here because the threat of nukes is not from Russian.

    The REAL, VISIBLE THREAT is from Iran and we are ignoring it. These IslamoNazis are by Western Standards "insane". They will use nuclear weapons if they are allowed to develop them.

    Both Bush and Obama have had the same policy - "kick the can down the road, whistle and hope". Israel is going to have to use nukes on Iran. Then the world "game" changes.

    IDIOTS in our government are going to get tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people killed because they REFUSE TO RECOGNIZE EVIL in today's world. Just like ignoring Hitler and the Nazis.

  • ||

    Steve,
    You could also probably use the example of Pakistan and India. They've had a couple of 'wars' mostly exchanges of artillery since they've both become nuclear, but I doubt we'll see a real conventional war between them lest Pakistan completely disintegrates.

  • Ron||

    President Obama believes in both Gandi's and Martin luther King's ideal of no violence. This is fine within a society that plays by gentlemanly rules, America and Britian. Unfortunately those who hate us will use our manners against us and continue to attack us. Thus my solution to to many nukes is to literally use them. Pull out of Afganistan and let it be know one more attack and we will drop several bombs. If we had done this in 2001 we'd be in a far better place for all the other terrorist would finally see the fear of retribution.

  • Sean Healy||

    Am I the only one who thinks we should use our GDP advantage while we still have it and do the opposite of disarmament, thus frightening our enemies into overspending on defense?

  • ||

    What is most worrisome is the combination of disarmament combined with our neglect of the nuclear enterprise. We are not teaching or training the next generation of weapon scientists and therefore in fact unilaterally disarming through neglect.

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    They've had a couple of 'wars' mostly exchanges of artillery since they've both become nuclear.

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    They've had a couple of 'wars' mostly exchanges of artillery since they've both become nuclear.

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    I think both sides have their reasons. Republicans want voters to see Obama as an appeaser bent on weakening our securit for their country.

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