The lead editorial from the Wall Street Journal today takes on President Obama’s vision of a “world without nuclear weapons,” claiming his disarmament agenda is out of touch with “the real nuclear world.” Despite being on the verge of signing a new START treaty with the Russians, the Journal claims that his disarmament agenda is not going “so well.”
The editorial that follows is amazingly contradictory. After spilling lots of ink fear mongering about Russia and arguing that a new START treaty (which no one has seen) will not put in place adequate verification and monitoring measures, the Journal changes its mind and concludes that these measures aren’t really important, since a new START agreement is just an “unnecessary arms control pact.” This last line reveals what the Journal is really arguing for: a world with lots and lots of nuclear weapons.
And they are right. This is the “real nuclear world.” We live in a world in which the United States and Russia – two countries no longer at war – continue to possess more than 20,000 nuclear weapons (96 % of the nukes in the world), representing an arsenal that can destroy the world hundreds of times over. This is the case despite the fact that these weapons, in the words of the late Robert McNamara, “serve no military purposes whatsoever” and are “totally useless — except only to deter one’s opponent from using them.” The Journal is right this is the “real nuclear world” and this world is insane.
The nuclear world of today is an unnecessarily dangerous place. The threat of nuclear war has greatly declined with the end of the Cold War, as Russia is no longer an enemy, yet as President Obama noted in Prague:
In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.
While we are hurtling towards a proliferation cliff, the WSJ and those like Senator Kyl on the right are aggressively seeking to obstruct efforts to reduce these dangers, favoring to continue as if it’s still the Cold War and the current nuclear world can somehow be stabilized by building new nuclear weapons. Instead of working to move the nuclear world of today into the 21st century, they remain firmly rooted to the world of 50 years ago. Their outdated and dangerous extremism is only further exposed by the fact that stalwart Republican Cold Warriors, such as Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and back Obama’s vision. In their famous oped in the same Wall Street Journal nearly three years ago, Schultz, Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and Bill Perry, conclude:
In some respects, the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons is like the top of a very tall mountain. From the vantage point of our troubled world today, we can’t even see the top of the mountain, and it is tempting and easy to say we can’t get there from here. But the risks from continuing to go down the mountain or standing pat are too real to ignore. We must chart a course to higher ground where the mountaintop becomes more visible.