Yesterday, the Obama administration released its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), a congressionally-mandated report that outlines the administration’s nuclear strategy and nuclear arsenal policy. The new strategy, which did not contain any radical changes to previous administration’s policies, took a “middle course” and “keeps first-strike strategy.”
The Wonk Room’s Max Bergmann noted yesterday that the right-wing freak out had already begun before any real details emerged from the new NPR. Now that the details are known, many conservatives are completely misrepresenting them. Led by the Drudge Report, the new talking point is that the U.S. will refuse to retaliate against a chemical or biological attack with a nuclear strike. To wit:
JOHN BOLTON: But it’s a big mistake because it basically says that for countries that have biological and chemical warfare capabilities, the Obama administration is not prepared to use nuclear weapons in retaliation.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Let me tell you one scenario they brought up exclusively, and that is if the United States is attacked by a country with a biologic or chemical weapons…the White House lawyers would ascertain if that country is in compliance with the NPT. … If it is, if it is kept up with the IAEA inspections, it gets immunity from the massive nuclear retaliation.
RALPH PETERS: [M]ost worrisome is the public declaration that, if the US suffers a biological, chemical or massive cyber attack, we will not respond with nukes.
“If there was a biological attack, which killed over a million Americans, is this president really saying we would not retaliate?” Newt Gingrich asked last night on Fox News. “That’s what he said,” host Sean Hannity replied. “I agree. It’s what he said,” Gingrich said. Watch the compilation:
First, nowhere in the NPR does it say that the U.S. will not “retaliate” against a chemical or biological attack. Of course, the U.S. reserves the right to act militarily in self-defense if attacked. Apparently, some conservatives, like Krauthammer, don’t seem to have confidence in the capabilities of American conventional forces to effectively retaliate. Instead, they would seemingly prefer keeping the option of outright annihilation against anyone on the table. Are conventional forces “a credible threat [of deterrence]?” Krauthammer asked. “Who knows,” he said.
Moreover, neither Obama nor the strategy itself said the U.S. won’t use nuclear weapons in the event of a chem/bio attack against a country that is violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In fact, while the NPR “narrow[s] the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons,” the President specifically stated that there are exceptions for “outliers like Iran and North Korea.”
Even former Bush administration Homeland Security official Fran Townsend refused to advance the right’s new false NPR talking point. “I think it is smart to actually explicitly articulate that the primary concern here right now…is the control of nuclear materials and preventing nuclear terrorism,” she said. Moreover, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said he “wholly endorses” the new NPR.