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« Nation's Debt "Unsustainable" Claims CBO Head | Main | Um...So...It Isn't Un-American In Hindsight? »
Tuesday
Apr062010

Obama Puts Limits On U.S. Nuclear Response

NEW YORK TIMES

President Obama announced Monday that he has instituted a new nuclear weapons policy. The new policy essentially says that the U.S. would pledge to never use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries even if they attacked America or American interests with biological or chemical weapons.

It eliminates much of the ambiguity that has deliberately existed in American nuclear policy since the opening days of the cold war. For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.

Meanwhile, Obama has resigned himself to the reality of a nuclear Iran.

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    ... הובלת דירה - כמו בתחומים רבים כגון מכון היצוא, לשכת עורכי הובלות דירה פתח תקוה, ארגוני סוכני המכס הובלות דירה ירושלים, איגוד שלכות ועוד. אם אתם משפחה גדולה שזקוקה להובלה של תכולת בתים פרטיים... Obama Puts Limits On U.S. Nuclear Response - Blog - Watch for ... ...

Reader Comments (59)

Thank you Mr. President for increasing the likelihood we'll be targeted for a chemical or biological attack.

Smart. Power.

April 6, 2010 at 10:48 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

Um...guys, you do realize that we have enough conventional weaponry to reduce most of the world's nations to rubble, right? Saying that we won't turn anyone into a sheet of glass is NOT saying that we won't blow them away via other means.

You'll also note this (emphasis added):

For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [...]
Thus, this doesn't apply to most of the big players at current flashpoints; specifically, it doesn't apply to North Korea or Iran.


This is directed toward states, not stateless terrorist groups.

April 6, 2010 at 11:01 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Wes;

Part of the equation of a nuclear deterrent is keeping your enemies 'guessing.' It's worked now for oh' 60 years but the smartest guy in the world now has changed the equation. I HOPE TO GOD this needs Senate approval but I fear Obama carrying the mis-placed title of Commander-In-Chief has the constitutional authority to do this act of madness.

April 6, 2010 at 11:14 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

We understand all that, Wes. The point is that making such an unnecessary announcement weakens our military and defense stature in the eyes of our enemies.

April 6, 2010 at 11:17 | Registered CommenterGrayRider

My only question is this:

Who exactly is Obama going to rely upon to decide if an attacker is in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?

The UN?

A bunch of unelected lawyers?

April 6, 2010 at 11:40 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

TM wrote:

Part of the equation of a nuclear deterrent is keeping your enemies 'guessing.'
I would agree that such is part of the equation where NUCLEAR states, such as China/Russia/India/Pakistan, are concerned--and you'll notice that this announcement did not apply to them--but I don't believe that it hasn't been a big part of the equation where NON-NUCLEAR states are concerned. Do you think that Saddam really thought that we might go nuclear? Do you think that Kim Jong Il has conducted his long obstructionist game with the thought that we might go first-use? Do you think that we threatened the Taliban with nukes before invading? How did the nuclear deterrent work for us in Korea or Vietnam?


GrayRider wrote:

The point is that making such an unnecessary announcement weakens our military and defense stature in the eyes of our enemies.
Why was it unnecessary? I actually ask the opposite question: why was it necessary to keep a first-use option on the table where non-nuclear states are concerned?


Machiavelli wrote:

Who exactly is Obama going to rely upon to decide if an attacker is in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?
That's a decent question; I suspect that the answer will be "the IAEA," in conjunction with our own intelligence operations.


I also note, in general, that nothing in this announcement prevents us from responding to chemical/biological attacks with responses in kind - and I'm pretty sure that we still have LOTS of VX/Sarin around, as well as tons of less lethal agents and the means by which to deliver them.

April 6, 2010 at 12:23 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

I also think that a big piece of this announcement will have the effect of reassuring allies and potential allies. Few countries would be willing to join us in sanctions (or military operations) if they sat in the potential fallout zone, right?

April 6, 2010 at 12:25 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

I suspect that the answer will be "the IAEA," in conjunction with our own intelligence operations.

That may not be as easy as you think.

April 6, 2010 at 12:55 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

I never said it would be easy. Nothing at that level is ever easy.

April 6, 2010 at 12:59 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Why was it unnecessary? I actually ask the opposite question: why was it necessary to keep a first-use option on the table where non-nuclear states are concerned?

Secrecy on our nuclear response policy served us well for decades, why make such a foolish announcement now?

April 6, 2010 at 13:04 | Unregistered CommenterGrayRider

I couldn't disagree with you more Wes. Our allies, knowing now we no longer have their back or show the willingness to severely counter any and all attacks dealt by the enemy, have even more to fear today than they did yesterday. Some are continuously left to live in "the fallout zone", but had the reassurance that we would have their back in extreme circumstances. With Obama at the helm they're left questioning this president's resolve and whether or not they feel safe enforcing sanctions on anything. Your point seems mute.

Makes me wonder, was Obama trying to reassure our allies, our enemies or his kook base ?

April 6, 2010 at 13:21 | Unregistered CommenterImpeach Washington

In light of Dear Leader's decision, and the subsequent argument here...

I have to wonder what some on the left's opinion would've been had Truman revealed the existence of the bomb prior to Hiroshima.

Things that make ya go, "hmmmmm..."

April 6, 2010 at 13:41 | Unregistered CommenterThe Dude Abides

I suspect Israel is wondering about our so-called nuclear umbrella right about now...

April 6, 2010 at 14:19 | Unregistered CommenterZoy Clem

Um, Zoy, are you really suggesting that Israel doesn't have a nuclear umbrella of its own?

April 6, 2010 at 14:20 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

I couldn't disagree with you more Wes. Our allies, knowing now we no longer have their back or show the willingness to severely counter any and all attacks dealt by the enemy, have even more to fear today than they did yesterday.
Really? You don't think that we can "severely counter" a non-nuclear attack without going nuclear?
Some are continuously left to live in "the fallout zone", but had the reassurance that we would have their back in extreme circumstances.
What allies live under nuclear threat today?

All Obama said was that we wouldn't escalate to nukes. As I said in an earlier comment, there's nothing in this announcement to stop us from unleashing everything from cruise missiles to stealth bombers against any nation that attacks us with biological or chemical weapons. That response would include whatever chemical or biological weapons we might possess. Do you really think our conventional forces so paltry that they cannot constitute an effective deterrent in and of themselves? I live within driving distance of tons of nerve gas, sufficient to kill the entire population of several major cities...you don't think THAT a deterrent?

I note that none of this applies to those nations which might launch a nuclear attack themselves. Iran gets a nuke and uses it? Well, then, we aren't the first-use people, are we? Ditto for the DPRK...or any other state that might be working toward nuclear weapons.

April 6, 2010 at 14:32 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS! And to Skinny for coming out on top in our little group and me for coming in second.

And to all you losers who fell so quickly and do not want to broach the subject ththththththpppphphphphp, or something like that. :)

April 6, 2010 at 14:58 | Unregistered CommenterTijuana

So a country attacks us with a biological agent through a third party but the original country is a participant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and we can't attack them back with nuclear weapons now per Obama? I under estimated how DUMB Barack Obama really is.

For Wes and the other libs who continually live in Unicornia, if you think for a second that this makes China, Russia or any other thug country with nuclear or other WMD weapons pause for a second on their respective programs your out of your friggin' minds. Does everyone know that Obama won't even authorize the moderation of our nuclear weapons!! So we have some 40 year old nukes getting moldy in the silos and that's one leg of our triad going to shit.

I think Obama just sunk this nuke treaty that he wants the Senate to ratify. I know of at least 41 Republicans and probably 10-15 dems that are done with this loser.

November 2, 2010 is coming tick-tock.

April 6, 2010 at 15:37 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

Wes,

You don't recall our Secretary of State offering to shield Israel from attack with out 'nuclear umbrella'?' I think Israel figured the offer was meaningless, and our President appears to have confirmed it.

April 6, 2010 at 16:28 | Unregistered CommenterZoy Clem

Wes;

Why stop with Israel? Let's throw South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada and most of the Middle East over the cliff to. The shit storm this guy has raised is almost incomprehensible.

April 6, 2010 at 16:37 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

Guys, you didn't answer the question - don't you think that Israel has its own nuclear umbrella?

Zoy, Clinton suggested that we might extend our nuclear umbrella over any number of countries in the Middle East if they were to surrender their own nuclear weapons programs.

Anyway, you might find this 2008 analysis by Ha'aretz interesting. Pay particular attention to the Israeli and Bush Administration sources; they're unnamed, as usual, but their questions are provocative.

April 6, 2010 at 17:54 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Wes;

The issue is Israel doesn't want to use their nuclear weapons unless it’s to stave off total annihilation. Two reasons they have relied on the U.S.

1). Israel has never acknowledged them and therefore the mystique of there existence has kept Iran and Syria at bay over the years.

2). The U.S. nuclear umbrella keeps the Israeli nukes low in number and on the shelf. Iran I believe gets the MAD philosophy and knows a U.S. counter attack on Iran will position there country as the “former state of Iran.”

Now that's gone. Who now doesn't agree that Israel should have bombed Iran's nuke sites a year ago when they wanted too? The Iran nuclear issue would have been at least set back five-ten years ago and the other Middle East states although they would not have acknowledged it publicly would have been thanking the Israeli's for slowing down at least the Iranian nuke problem.

April 6, 2010 at 18:29 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

TM, read the article!

For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even if they attacked the United States with biological or chemical weapons or launched a crippling cyberattack.
Let's break it down into cases, taking it at face value:

a) If Iran (or anyone else) goes nuclear, they are no longer a "non-nuclear state," they certainly aren't in compliance with the NPT, and the US nuclear deterrent applies in all its megatonnage. I assume that you have no problem with this; I know I don't.

b) If Iran (or anyone else non-nuclear) goes biological or chemical, this policy says that we won't go nuclear in response; that doesn't stop us from using everything/anything else in our arsenal, including our own chemical and/or biological weapons.

c) None of this applies to the currently acknowledged nuclear states (Russia, China, India, Pakistan, UK, France, DPRK (maybe)), so the nuclear deterrent is still in full force where those nations are concerned. (South Africa is in the mix as a once-nuclear state, but they dismantled their weapons and joined the NPT.)

So, the only "tough case" is (b), and the question is whether a biological or chemical attack against the US merits a nuclear escalation in response.

April 6, 2010 at 23:04 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

The full-blown Nuclear Posture Review Report (PDF here) has been released. It's only 72 pages, and looks like some interesting stuff...

April 7, 2010 at 00:12 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Wes;

You dodged my questions. I read the article and Iran would get a pass.

April 7, 2010 at 07:34 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

President Obama to Iran- January 28, 2009

"If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,"

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to United States- April 7th, 2010

"American materialist politicians, whenever they are beaten by logic, immediately put their finger on the trigger like cowboys," he said. "Mr. Obama, you are a newcomer (to politics). Wait until your sweat dries and get some experience. Be careful not to read just any paper put in front of you or repeat any statement recommended," Ahmadinejad said in the speech, aired live on state TV. "(American officials) bigger than you, more bullying than you, couldn't do a damn thing, let alone you."

15 months WASTED and were still a cowboy and now openly mocked by Ahmadinejad. But we will not punish Iran even if they sponsor terrorism in the U.S. where WMD’s kill millions.

America, I give you the idiocy of the Obama administration.

April 7, 2010 at 10:18 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

Yeah, it's wrong to call Islamic extremists what they are, but its okay to put a memo out about right wing extremists, and with a vague enough description of them that it covers a significant percentage of right wingers conservatives.

April 7, 2010 at 10:45 | Registered Commenterskinnydipinacid

TM:

You dodged my questions. I read the article and Iran would get a pass.
Get a pass on what? I pointed out that if they went nuclear, we could still respond in kind. I pointed out that if they went chemical/biological, we have more than enough non-nuclear weaponry to wipe them out. At what point do those options become "get a pass?"


Impeach Washington: I think we should call Islamic extremist groups what they are, but I also think it important to be clear that the entire Muslim world isn't tainted by the clowns. (I thought it interesting that the Fox News article you linked favorably compared Obama with Reagan...)

Skinny, are you really going to set that one off again? *laugh* We ran the gamut responding to it last time...

April 7, 2010 at 11:28 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Jesus Wes;

I've only SAID three times now if they sponsor a third party with WMD they get a pass. If you can't figure that out I'm done trying to spend all week making that point clear to you.

April 7, 2010 at 11:37 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

One of the bigger take aways from this outrageous proclamation from Obama is the handcuffs he puts on the U.S. military but not allowing the modernization of our nukes. Thankfully Cesar hasn't read the constitution (funny thing for a supposedly brilliant ex-con law prof) doesn't have that authority; Congress does.

April 7, 2010 at 11:42 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

I've only SAID three times now if they sponsor a third party with WMD they get a pass.
I've said, repeatedly, that this policy says nothing of the sort. It merely says that we won't escalate to a nuclear response from a non-nuclear attack. In your "Iran sponsors someone else" scenario were limited to chemical/biological weapons, this policy wouldn't stop us from absolutely leveling Iran with every non-nuclear weapon in our arsenal. If "Iran sponsors someone else" with nukes, it's a nuclear attack, this policy doesn't apply, and a nuclear response is available.

April 7, 2010 at 13:24 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

And so goes the proven deterrent.

April 7, 2010 at 13:26 | Registered CommenterGrayRider

Again, I find myself pondering Truman's use of the bomb on Hiroshima...

I suppose some people today still find themselves absolutely heartsick at the notion America would use such a weapon against innocent people an empire that had it's people ready throwing themselves off cliffs rather than surrender to the Allies.

April 7, 2010 at 13:45 | Unregistered CommenterThe Dude Abides

TM:

One of the bigger take aways from this outrageous proclamation from Obama is the handcuffs he puts on the U.S. military but not allowing the modernization of our nukes.
How's that again? We may not be developing NEW nuclear weapons, but we have a fairly extensive modernization program running for our existing arsenal. That's been the case since 1992. You might find this article interesting.


I think that taking a missile from a 12% chance of target destruction to a 90% chance of target destruction counts as "modernization," yes?

April 7, 2010 at 13:48 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

From Wes's link;

"By narrowly defining "modernization" as the production and deployment of new warheads and delivery vehicles, an inappropriate standard is set by which to judge the health of a nuclear arsenal. What matters far more than the age of warheads and other equipment is whether a country has a reliable, credible deterrent. Viewed in this light, the United States cannot be said to be falling behind: Washington takes continual steps to ensure that its arsenal remains dominant, and indeed, its nuclear arsenal remains second to none."

WTF??

Silly me and the rest of the military for thinking that old nukes and delivery systems need modernizing. It seems if we JUST TELL POEPLE ARE NUKES ARE NASTY MOTHER F**KERS is good enough and no modernization is needed.

Wes, you should have never posted that ridiculous article.

April 7, 2010 at 15:21 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

TM, as the article notes (emphasis added):

Both U.S. submarine-launched and land-based long-range missiles are now undergoing life-extension programs. For example, the air force will soon complete a 10-year, $6 billion sustainment effort to increase missile reliability and extend the life of the Minuteman III missile to 2030. This program is somewhat akin to refurbishing a computer; the actual missile doesn't need to be replaced because the updated components are brand new. From 1997 to 2001, the United States also produced and deployed a new variant of the B61 gravity bomb. Known as the B61-11, it functions as an earth-penetrating weapon (i.e., "bunker-buster").

Since implementing a moratorium on nuclear testing in 1992, Washington has chosen to maintain and refurbish its nuclear warheads through science-based efforts to retain confidence in the safety and reliability of its arsenal absent nuclear testing. A recent non-nuclear refurbishment of the W76 warhead fitted it with a new arming, firing, and fusing mechanism that gives it a hard-target kill capability.

If existing designs, with new parts or new variants, can do the job (or be made to do the job even better), why do we need new designs?

April 7, 2010 at 16:43 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

I'd also note that nothing in this policy prevents us from deploying new/better delivery systems. Obviously, the SSBN-X fits in this category, and there are others as well.

April 7, 2010 at 17:12 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Just watched Obama's speech in Prague. I lost count in the ten minute speech of the number of times he said "me" and "I." You would have thought it was a treaty between Russia and Barack Obama.

Narcissist-In-Chief.

April 8, 2010 at 07:33 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

You can't count to 24 without losing count? No wonder you didn't notice all the uses of "we" and "our" - there were 120 of those!

Once again, you're basically making stuff up. A quick visit to any word counter (I used this one and this one, with this transcript) tells us these rough frequencies for some common words:

80 instances of "we"
40 instances of "our"
20 instances of "I"
5 instances of "my"
5 instances of "your"
4 instances of "me"

Either a) you're only hearing what you want to hear, or b) you're just attacking to attack, not caring if the facts reflect it or not.

April 8, 2010 at 10:33 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

Just watched Obama's speech in Prague. I lost count in the ten minute speech of the number of times he said "me" and "I." You would have thought it was a treaty between Russia and Barack Obama.

Narcissist-In-Chief.

Sounds like just another case of Obama Derangement Syndrome. And it's an especially ironic comment coming from someone who worships Rush Limbaugh.

April 8, 2010 at 12:53 | Unregistered CommenterPrimeval

Whoa, hit a nerve here with the Obama sycophants. The only thing missing was a 17 minute answer to a reporter’s question.

April 8, 2010 at 14:59 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller
April 8, 2010 at 19:05 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

Another trip down memory lane

Generally, the narrow focus of the Freeze movement as well as academic discussions of first versus second strike capabilities, suit the military-industrial interests, as they continue adding to their billion dollar erector sets. When Peter Tosh sings that "everybody's asking for peace, but nobody's asking for justice," one is forced to wonder whether disarmament or arms control issues, severed from economic and political issues, might be another instance of focusing on the symptoms of a problem instead of the disease itself.

-- Barack Obama, Student Radical-in-Chief

April 9, 2010 at 10:29 | Unregistered CommenterMachiavelli

Here you go, guys, you can blast Reagan for proposing the very thing that this treaty achieves...

April 9, 2010 at 12:24 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

So you're saying the world's nuclear landscape hasn't changed since the Reagan years. Interesting...

April 9, 2010 at 12:34 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

Rasmussen: Fifty-five percent (55%) of U.S. voters oppose President Obama’s new policy prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons in response to chemical or biological attacks on the United States.

April 9, 2010 at 12:52 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

This happens to be an area in which I have hands-on experience, so I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that a majority of Americans have no idea of what the use of nuclear weapons would actually do. Most folks seem to think that we can turn [insert country here] into a sheet of glass with no ill effects outside that (former) nation's borders.

There's a reason that the Trinity test reminded Oppenheimer of the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the Destroyer of worlds"...

As usual, Michelle Bachmann expresses teh crazy on cue:

"If in fact there is a nation who is compliant with all of the rules ahead of time and they've complied with the United Nations on nuclear proliferation, if they fire against the United States a biological weapon, a chemical weapon or maybe a cyber attack, well then we aren't going to be firing back with nuclear weapons," Bachmann said. "Doesn't that make us all feel safe?"

“No!” shouted the crowd of thousands in Minneapolis.

There you go - Bachmann apparently thinks that a nuclear response would be appropriate against a nation that launched a cyberattack against (picking names out of thin air) ConEd or the NYSE. This is starting to sound like The Princess Bride: "Hello. My name is Michelle Bachmann. You crashed my website. Prepare to glow."


These folks need to learn about fallout patterns, groundwater contamination, and the like (DA Pam 50-3 is a good place to start) before spouting this kind of nonsense.

April 9, 2010 at 13:21 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

So you're saying the world's nuclear landscape hasn't changed since the Reagan years. Interesting...
No, I'm saying that Reagan was FAR more interested in nuclear disarmament that is now (retroactively) being claimed. For instance, when Gorbachev proposed a 30% cut during the treaty talks of that era, Reagan's response was "why not all of them?"

Of course, that doesn't fit the media narrative of Ronald Reagan, Cold Warrior, so it gets very little attention...

April 9, 2010 at 13:26 | Registered Commenterwesmorgan1

These folks need to learn about fallout patterns, groundwater contamination, and the like ...

Did Obama learn about all that when he was rolling spliffs and jamming to Peter Tosh?

April 9, 2010 at 15:03 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

For instance, when Gorbachev proposed a 30% cut during the treaty talks of that era, Reagan's response was "why not all of them?"

Reagan wasn't playing his hand. He was playing the man across the table.

April 9, 2010 at 15:06 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

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