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Monday, July 06, 2009

Now they tell us about the pipe dream

A year too late, the New York Times finally does some background checking.
In the depths of the cold war, in 1983, a senior at Columbia University wrote in a campus newsmagazine, Sundial, about the vision of “a nuclear free world.” He railed against discussions of “first- versus second-strike capabilities” that “suit the military-industrial interests” with their “billion-dollar erector sets,” and agitated for the elimination of global arsenals holding tens of thousands of deadly warheads.

The student was Barack Obama, and he was clearly trying to sort out his thoughts. In the conclusion, he denounced “the twisted logic of which we are a part today” and praised student efforts to realize “the possibility of a decent world.” But his article, “Breaking the War Mentality,” which only recently has been rediscovered, said little about how to achieve the utopian dream.
Yes, he's being naive.
Even before those battles are joined, opposition is rising. “This is dangerous, wishful thinking,” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Richard Perle, an architect of the Reagan-era nuclear buildup that appalled Mr. Obama as an undergraduate, wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. They contend that Mr. Obama is, indeed, a naïf for assuming that “the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces.”

In the interview, the president described his agenda as the best way to move forward in a turbulent world.

“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles, the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles, and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”
And how does Obama propose to deal with Iran and North Korea? How else? Negotiations!
“We tried the unilateral way, in the Bush years, and it didn’t work,” a senior administration official said recently. “What we are trying is a fundamental change, a different view that says our security can be enhanced by arms control. There was a view for the past few years that treaties only constrained the good actors and not the bad actors.”

Beyond the first step — deep cuts in American and Russian arsenals — is an agenda that has already provoked stirrings of discontent at home and abroad.

In January, in the journal Foreign Affairs, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, the lone holdover from the Bush cabinet, called for financing a new generation of longer-lasting and more dependable nuclear arms.

He was immediately overruled. Mr. Obama’s first budget declared that “development work on the Reliable Replacement Warhead will cease.”

Another focus of activity early this year was the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Its ratification faces a tough Senate fight. But his aides are already building a case that advanced technologies obviate the need to detonate weapons as tests of the American arsenal and can verify that other countries also refrain.

Critics argue that the North Koreas of the world will simply defy the ban — and that the international community will fail to punish offenders.

“If the implications were not so serious, the discrepancy between Mr. Obama’s plans and real-world conditions would be hilarious,” said Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a Reagan-era Pentagon official who directs the Center for Security Policy, a private group in Washington. “There is only one country on earth that Team Obama can absolutely, positively denuclearize: Ours.”

Even more ambitious, Mr. Obama wants a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which would bar all nations that sign it from making fuel for their atom bombs. But when asked how Mr. Obama would sell the idea to America’s allies — primarily Pakistan, India and Israel — administration officials grow silent.

All this is supposed to culminate, next year, in an American effort to rewrite crucial provisions of the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Mr. Obama wants to strengthen inspection provisions and close the loophole that makes it easy for countries to drop out, as North Korea did in 2003.

Each of those steps would require building a global consensus. It would also mean persuading countries to give up the coveted freedom to make fuel for reactors — and instead, probably, buy it from an international fuel bank.

Most of all, Mr. Obama and like-minded leaders will have to establish a new global order that will truly restrain rogue states and terrorist groups from moving ahead with nuclear projects.

“I don’t think I was that unique at that time,” the president said of his Columbia days, “and I don’t think I’m that unique today in thinking that if we could put the genie back in the bottle, in some sense, that there would be less danger — not just to the United States but to people around the world.”
In The Corner, Andy McCarthy writes:
So now, nearly six months into the Obama presidency, the mainstream media has finally done a bit of the candidate background reporting it declined to do during the campaign — other than in Wasilla — and whaddya know? The New York Times unearthed a 1983 article called, "Breaking the War Mentality," that Columbia student Barack Obama wrote for a campus newspaper. The article shows that Obama dreaded American "militarism" and its "military-industrial interests," while effusing enthusiasm for the dangerously delusional nuclear-freeze movement.

Moreover, while indicating a preference for the political wisdom of reggae singer Peter Tosh over Ronald Reagan or Scoop Jackson, Obama bewailed the "narrow focus" of anti-militarism activists, worrying that they were targeting the "symptoms" rather than the real "disease," namely, America's underlying economic and political injustice:
McCarthy goes on to quote from Obama's original article - available at the Times' web page as an interactive feature - and concludes
Who knew?
Well, obviously someone knew - Obama himself - and the media was happy to make sure that the rest of us wouldn't find out.

Jen Rubin adds:
What is naïve, of course, is to think that Iran and North Korea will be impressed by our disarmament efforts. No consideration is given, just as none was given by the nuclear freeze crowd a generation ago, to the possibility that disarmament will only embolden our adversaries and confuse our allies. But apparently Obama’s worldview has not matured much since his Columbia days:

Mr. Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country” amid “the growing threat of war.” The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”

So little has changed. President Obama, like college student Obama, still fails to grasp the moral and political dimensions of the struggle we are involved in, still lacks any appreciation for the nature of totalitarian despots and of the motives compelling them to seek nuclear weapons. He is still fixated on the notion that weakness can resolve international threats. Unfortunately, the consequences for student Obama were not potentially fatal to his country. The reality is different today.


And really, what excuse is there for Obama’s ludicrous worldview? Unlike student Obama, President Obama knows how the Cold War ended. And it wasn’t by disarming America.
At least if this had been disclosed a year ago, the voters could have debated it. But for it to have been exposed, we would have needed a neutral media that was doing its job.

Speaking of which, I wonder what ever happened to the Rashid Khalidi video. Now that the election is over, can we see it? Or does that have to wait until November 2012?

By the way, the 'pipe dream' picture at the top is of President Obama in a disarmed Russian nuclear weapon. But it's the perfect picture for a pipe dream, isn't it?


At 9:03 PM, Blogger Michael B said...

More evidence, as if more is needed, of a wholesale deluded quality, a la Jimmy Carter I. The difference is that Jimmy Carter II possesses far greater political and rhetorical acumen, arguably at a far more dangerous point in history.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Back in the 80s, when Obama wrote the article, he was only a year older than me - I remember in my youth the enormous pro-Soviet "nuclear freeze" demonstrations throughout much of the West. Had Obama's article been policy, in all likelihood, the Evil Empire USSR and the Cold War would still be part of our lives today. Thankfully, Ronald Reagan didn't listen to such foolishness and did all he could to bankrupt and exhaust the Soviet Union to the point of collapse. His strategy worked. Obama in contrast, is following the Jimmy Carter strategy that will lead to America and its allies being placed in more peril than ever.

Good luck with the "pipe dream."

What could go wrong indeed


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