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April 06, 2010

Obama's No-Nukes Policy: Hungry for "Accomplishments"

I don't want to defend Obama, and, thankfully, I don't have to; I'm critical of his idiotic non-decision decision.

But, at the outset, I have to say it doesn't change a hell of a lot. On 11 September 2001, a terrorist group supported by the Islamofascist government of Afghanistan attacked United States civilians with what could be deemed a "nuclear-level" attack. I have read analyses that claimed the energy released by the bombing, in the form of collapsing buildings, reached the lower levels of a nuclear attack. Of course, a nuclear attack would have added that energy of falling buildings to its total energy, too; but it terms of death and destruction, certainly the attack was nuclear-like. If four bombs have ever managed to kill 2996 people in one attack, I don't know about it, and certainly this is nearly unprecedented if not completely so.

From what I gather, the Bush Administration put out the word that "all options" were on the table, and there was some leaking that nukes were being considered, but I doubt that was ever very serious. Within weeks we were planning a conventional attack. The reason given for setting the nuclear option aside was that the Taliban had nothing big enough to bomb with nukes, but that turned out to be not quite true: Certainly the forces gathered at Tora Bora could have been killed with a small nuclear attack (and likely bin Ladin as well).

But even in the face of such a horrific attack, a terrorist attack directed mostly at civilians, an attack that seemed to blur the boundaries between a conventional-level and nuclear level attack, we never seemed to seriously consider the nuclear option ourselves, and the only talk about it seemed to be for purposes of diplomacy and internal politics, bluffing our enemies and appeasing the large swaths of the American public that wanted irradiated blood.

Some argue that we needed to "preserve the ambiguity" about the use of nuclear weapons that has been maintained since the start of the Cold War. But that begs the question: Is there any genuine ambiguity about our actual policy? From what I can tell, we have a pure negotiating position, a pure bluff, that says, on paper, maybe we'll use them. Our actual policy is that we won't under virtually any circumstances. For there to be some "ambiguity" here, a number of foreign actors would have to believe the bluff, and I'm not sure any do.

Obama carved a special exception for Iran and North Korea. Do they believe Obama would ever nuke them under any circumstances? I don't think they do. So he continues maintaining a fiction which no one believes. I suppose this is to placate the right and national-security minded liberals. But I know for a fact Bush (and bloody-starved monster Dick Cheney) ruled out a nuclear counterstrike against Afghanistan, and I cannot believe Obama, the Downy Dove, would be even willing to have a serious cabinet debate over it.

Obama, on the other hand, is claiming that this is some sort of serious policy move. The way he will sell this to the left and the doves is some sort of substantial victory for the principle of no-first-use. But note, in almost the same breath, he denies that, noting this isn't such a big break with Bush policy; as usual, he's trying to have it both ways. For one audience, this is a substantial change and Obama should be praised for his courage; for another audience, this is pretty much a continuation of previous policy with some minor tweaks to the wording.

This argument reminds me of the dispute between Bush/Bolton and Obama and the Democrats over talking with Iran. I never cared if we talked with Iran. Talk is cheap. My problem was always that Obama was substituting "talk" for an actual policy which could plausibly change Iran's behavior -- which is to say, escalating coercion, beginning with a destabilizing gas embargo and escalating up, if necessary, to strikes on command and communications and Revolutionary Guards HQ's and nuclear sites.

But if it were just "talking" while those other real policies were being pursued? Who cares if we talk or not? The important thing is the stick, not the talk, whether it's hard talk or soft talk.

And for that reason I didn't really give a crap about the Bush/Bolton "policy" of not talking to Iran either. Whether we are fetishizing talking, or fetishizing not talking, we are still talking about talking, which is pointless, and not talking about action, which is the only plausible method to compel a rogue state to change its behavior.

I feel that both Bush/Bolton and Obama and the liberal Democrats were basically merchants dealing in human waste, but both trying to differentiate their stock in trade -- crap -- by talking up how much better their shit was from the other guy's. "Hey, our human waste has 33% more sulfur content!" "But wait -- our human excrement has 22% more nitrogen, and is therefore better for the environment!"

At the end of the day, you're both still peddling shit. I strain mightily to give a shit whether one pile of shit has more shitty sulfur in it or more shitty nitrogen. Neither side was discussing something non-shitty.

And so it is with this policy. At the end of the day, those who think that we should actually maybe really use nukes in the appropriate case (and on four days every week, I'm one of them) are still being sold some shit about either "strategic ambiguity!!!!" or "clarity of intention!!!," as if some words on piece of paper have much to do at all with our actual, settled, notorious policy of no-first-use.

But Obama will nonetheless continue his game of claiming this is merely a continuation of Bush's policy... except on those days, in front of the right audience, where he claims he's made a bold new commitment to not using nukes first and therefore created a "moral imperative" for other nations to make similar (meaningless) vows. He's clarified our policy on nukes, you see.

Except he hasn't. Even within his bold new piece of shit, he says that he won't use nukes to respond to a bio or chem attack... except if someone actually does attack us using such methods, he'll "reconsider" his policy.

That's "clarifying"? We won't use nukes in response to a bio or chem attack, but if you attack us with bio or chem weapons, we'll reconsider the policy and maybe we will use nukes after all?

When asked why Obama was so determined to focus on health care rather than the truly pressing issue of jobs and the economy, Kirsten Powers had a sensible answer-- because he can do something about health care. A legislator can always pass legislation. Now, the public doesn't want legislation -- they want jobs and a positive growth rate -- but legislating legislation is what legislators know how to do.

That made sense to me. Obama is hungry to have "accomplishments." He will not have any of the usual accomplishments of actual foreign policy victories and leaving the world a safer place than he found it. He will not have the big accomplishment of prosperity or economic security.

But he wants to fill out his resume, make it "look good" by making it longer, and so he is stacking the bullet-point list of "accomplishments" with a bunch of nonsense that isn't really accomplishing anything at all. "Health care reform" is his version of the resume-bullshit-padder "facilitated intercollegial communications" and "coordinated with various mission-statements."

Announcing a new non-policy with regard to nukes is his version of "interfaced with action-oriented directives in the Human Resources Policy manual."

Yeah-- but what did you actually do at your job, Mr. President? "I interfaced proactively with policy-rendering committees ."

The President's first job is to protect the American public and make them safe -- and if he can't make them actually safe, make them safer than they were. As he has all but announced his job is to be handmaiden to the Iranian nuke program, he fails in that first job. But hey -- he's facilitating various action-points and agenda-items in security-enhancing context.

The President's second job is to create the conditions under which growth and prosperity are likely, or at least possible. He has failed at that. But hey -- he's coordinating with action-managers to synergize proactively with health-care incentivizations.

When Iran gets the bomb -- which they will -- Obama will claim that by ruling out a first-strke (kinda sorta) he has thereby "strengthened" us and "protected" us by erecting a moral barrier to Iran's own use of nukes.

Oh, sure-- perhaps now we are now threatened by actual nukes detonating in America, or Israel, or in our big bases in Kuwait or Diego Garcia. But think, Obama will say, of how much more danger we would have been in had I not signed a piece a paper saying we probably wouldn't use nukes first, unless we really felt like it!

Since he can't -- or at least won't -- actually do his job, he'll come up with job-like accomplishments to tout in 2012.

Let a smile be your nuclear umbrella, as they say.

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posted by Ace at 02:44 PM

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