Experts, military brass reject right-wing media claims about Obama's nuclear policy review

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Media conservatives have criticized an Obama administration nuclear policy review provision that would limit the role that nuclear weapons play as a deterrent, claiming that Obama was "undermining our national defense" with a "dangerous" policy. These criticisms have been rejected by nuclear experts, scientists, and military brass, who support a limited and narrow role for nuclear weapons.

Defense Department updates U.S. nuclear policy

Nuclear Policy Review objective: "Reducing the role of nuclear weapons." From the Department of Defense Nuclear Posture Review:

Reducing the role of nuclear weapons:

Declaratory policy has been updated to bring it into alignment with 21st century needs.

  • The United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.
  • The United States would only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.
  • The United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or our allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons. [Defense Department fact sheet, 4/6/10]

        Media conservatives criticize policy as "undermining our national defense"

        Limbaugh: Obama "has done a great job of undermining our national defense." On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh commented that Obama is sending "a message to the world that our conventional weapons is enough of a deterrent." He concluded that Obama "has done a great job of undermining our national defense."

        Beck: Policy is "the most dangerous thing I think I've ever heard a president say." On his radio show, Beck said of the policy: " 'We're never going to use nuclear weapons.' That's the most -- that's the most dangerous thing I think I've ever heard a president say." Beck also characterized the new guidelines as "Barack Obama's nuclear social justice chart." He continued: "If you didn't have a chance, because you don't have enough money to make a lot of chemical or biological weapons -- you just had the opportunity to make a little -- well, then, we're not going to fight unfairly."

        Gaffney: "President Obama is compromising our deterrent to chemical and biological attacks on this country." In a post titled "Disarmer-in-Chief" on National Review Online's The Corner blog, Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney wrote: "Most Americans will be horrified that President Obama is compromising our deterrent to chemical and biological attacks on this country."

        Geller: Obama is "leaving us bare naked vulnerable like a virgin slipped a Rohypnol on her first date with a Chicagoland gangsta." On her Atlas Shrugs blog, Pamela Geller wrote:

        Obama says to our enemies, bring it on, we won't fight ya -- leaving us bare naked vulnerable like a virgin slipped a Rohypnol on her first date with a Chicagoland gangsta.

        Obama is removing nuclear defense at a time when Iran's devout mullahcracy is building their nuclear arsenal with the global objective of a universal caliphate.

        Experts, military brass, support narrow, limited role for nukes

        Adm. Mullen reportedly "wholly endorses" plan, which "includes effective deterrents." An April 6 Associated Press article reported: "Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he 'wholly endorses' the plan and believes it includes effective deterrents." American Forces Press Service stated: "The review has the full support of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen said. 'We believe it provides us and our field commanders the opportunity to better shape our nuclear weapons posture, policies and force structure to meet an ever-changing security environment,' Mullen said. 'This Nuclear Posture Review reaffirms our commitment to defend the vital interests of the United States and those of our partners and allies with a more balanced mix of nuclear and non-nuclear means than we have at our disposal today.'"

        Scientists, retired general advocated for policy that would "clearly narrow the purpose of nuclear weapons." In February, nuclear experts and scholars signed a letter addressed to President Obama that explicitly recommended that the "new NPR should clearly narrow the purpose of nuclear weapons to deterring nuclear attacks on the United States and our allies, and it should assure states without nuclear weapons that are parties in good standing to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) that they will not face nuclear threats from the United States." The letter continued:

        Ambiguity about the purpose of U.S. nuclear forces provides little deterrent value at a high cost; it undermines the credibility of our conventional deterrent, complicates our nonproliferation diplomacy, and can be used by other countries to justify their pursuit or improvement of nuclear weapons.

        Signatories to the letter included retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard Jr., former president of the National Defense University; Council for Foreign relations senior fellow Charles D. Ferguson; and nuclear physicist Richard L. Garwin.

        Cato Institute: "The review wisely clarifies the limited but essential role that nuclear weapons play." Cato Institute director of foreign policy studies Chistopher Preble wrote: "The review wisely clarifies the limited but essential role that nuclear weapons play in safeguarding U.S. national security through deterrence."

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