Fresh from his vows to "sit down" with dictators and (possibly) invade Pakistan, Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama is now suggesting a "no nukes" pledge as part of his foreign policy platform.
Drudge has the early details, apparently in advance of a wire service story:
"Obama said in grilling with AP reporter Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons 'in any circumstance'... 'I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,' Obama said, with a pause, 'involving civilians' Then he quickly added, 'Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table'...
So much for that nuclear deterrent. Might as well scrap those Minuteman IIIs, Trident ballistic missile subs, and the thousands of tactical nukes in the U.S. arsenal. In a matter of a few seconds, over the course of barely 40 words, the man-who-would-be-president told America's adversaries that our nuclear option is off the table in any scenario. Or maybe just when civilians might be affected. Or, perhaps Senator Obama realized that's he's over his head in discussing national security policy (again), and needs more time to hash it out.
From our perspective, Mr. Obama's position seems clear enough. Under his administration, the United States would move from a "no first use" policy on nuclear weapons (long a cornerstone of our national security strategy), to rejecting their use altogether. Never mind that there are plenty of scenarios which could require a nuclear response, including a North Korean invasion of South Korea; a push by Beijing to take Taiwan, Iranian or Syrian regimes with ICBMs (possible within the next decade), or simply a resurgent Russia.
In a world fraught with perils, maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent makes a great deal of sense; eight successive U.S. administrations have made the necessary investments in strategic and tactical nuclear forces, with the vow to use them if circumstances required. Obama's "proposal" would break with 60 years of national security policy, and reveals thinking that is moronic and absurd. Those faint sounds you hear are champagne corks in Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow, gleefully celebrating the prospect of an potential American president who would willfully surrender his nuclear capability.
In most election cycles (and for most candidates), this trifecta of security policy gaffes would be enough to derail a presidential bid. But with his "rock star" status, Senator Obama will likely retain his standing in the polls, and keep raking in the campaign contributions. After all, the junior senator from Illinois is simply advocating ideas that are consistent with the radical fringe of the Democratic politics--the same element that now controls the party. Mr. Obama may take a few jibes in the next Democratic presidential debate, but it won't torpedo his campaign.
Once upon a time, the party of FDR, Harry Truman, Scoop Jackson and Carl Vinson demanded candidates that were serious about national security. Alas, that day has long since passed; Senator Obama is merely version 5.0 of the Democratic politician who has been on the wrong side of defense and security issues for the past three decades. Not too many years ago, Democratic senators like Joe Biden and Chris Dodd--now running as "second-tier" candidates--openly opposed Ronald Reagan's efforts to deploy nuclear-tipped Pershing IIs and ground-launched cruise missiles to Western Europe, to counter the Soviet threat.
Readers will recall that Biden, Dodd and other Democratic leaders denounced Mr. Reagan's move as "provocative," and "dangerous," predicting that the deployment would lead to a new arms race or a nuclear confrontation. Instead, the basing of U.S. missiles in Europe demonstrated our resolve, and helped bring about the end of Soviet communism.
But the Democrats never learned from that mistake, preferring (instead) to burnish their image as the anti-military, "weak-on-national-security" party of the American left. And, given that ideological foundation, is it any surprise that a leading Democratic politician--a serious presidential candidate--would someday suggest that, as president, he would never use nuclear weapons, under any circumstances?
Mort Kondracke of Roll Call describes Obama's vision as both exciting and naive. He's being far too charitable. We'd say the senator's comments are naive and dangerous, proving that he's far too inexperienced for the world stage. But, at least he comes by his ideas naturally, incubated by a party that's been drifting toward his position for more than 30 years.
Less than a month ago, retired Air Force Major General Scott Gration signed with the Obama campaign, and stumped for the candidate in Iowa. Some sample comments:
"(Obama's) has the judgment and courage to be the next Commander in Chief," Gration told a crowd of political activists gathered at the Le Mars American Legion Wasmer Post #241 Monday morning. "He's demonstrated this courage when he spoke out against the ill-advised and ill-conceived war in Iraq. He did it before the war started when many others were unwilling to do the same."
"That's exactly the type of courage our next Commander in Chief will need to bring our troops home responsibly," the former Air Force pilot added. "That's exactly the type of courage we'll need to help restore our leadership throughout the world."
"We need Barack Obama,"
"The 2008 presidential election will be framed by who is the best person for the job," he speculated, "and who will the most effective leader."
"In my opinion," Gration remarked, "that is Barack Obama."
We should be thankful that General Gration is retired.