New nuclear policy ‘strategically loopy’

April 9, 2010


— Nuclear doctrine consists of thinking the unthinkable. It involves making threats and promising retaliation that is cruel and destructive beyond imagining. But it has its purpose: to prevent war in the first place.

During the Cold War, we let the Russians know that if they dared use their huge conventional military advantage and invaded Western Europe, they risked massive U.S. nuclear retaliation. Goodbye Moscow.

Was this credible? Would we have done it? Who knows? No one’s ever been there. A nuclear posture is just that — a declaratory policy designed to make the other guy think twice.

Our policies did. The result was called deterrence. For half a century, it held. The Soviets never invaded. We never used nukes. That’s why nuclear doctrine is important.

The Obama administration has just issued a new one that “includes significant changes to the U.S. nuclear posture,” said Defense Secretary Bob Gates. First among these involves the U.S. response to being attacked with biological or chemical weapons.

Under the old doctrine, supported by every president of both parties for decades, any aggressor ran the risk of a cataclysmic U.S. nuclear response that would leave the attacking nation a cinder and a memory.

Again: Credible? Doable? No one knows. But the threat was very effective.

Under President Obama’s new policy, however, if the state that has just attacked us with biological or chemical weapons is “in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” explained Gates, then “the U.S. pledges not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against it.”

Imagine the scenario: Hundreds of thousands are lying dead in the streets of Boston after a massive anthrax or nerve gas attack. The president immediately calls in the lawyers to determine whether the attacking state is in compliance with the NPT. If it turns out that the attacker is up-to-date with its latest IAEA inspections, well, it gets immunity from nuclear retaliation. (Our response is then restricted to bullets, bombs and other conventional munitions.)

However, if the lawyers tell the president that the attacking state is NPT noncompliant, we are free to blow the bastards to nuclear kingdom come.

This is quite insane. It’s like saying that if a terrorist deliberately uses his car to mow down a hundred people waiting at a bus stop, the decision as to whether he gets (a) hanged or (b) 100 hours of community service hinges entirely on whether his car had passed emissions inspections.

Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the U.S. without fear of nuclear retaliation?

The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes.

On the contrary. The last quarter-century — the time of greatest superpower nuclear arms reduction — is precisely when Iran and North Korea went hellbent into the development of nuclear weapons.

It gets worse. The administration’s Nuclear Posture Review declares U.S. determination to “continue to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.” The ultimate aim is to get to a blanket doctrine of no first use.

This is deeply worrying to many small nations who for half a century relied on the extended U.S. nuclear umbrella to keep them from being attacked or overrun by far more powerful neighbors. When smaller allies see the United States determined to move inexorably away from that posture — and for them it’s not posture, but existential protection — what are they to think?

Fend for yourself. Get yourself your own WMDs. Go nuclear if you have to. Do you imagine they are not thinking that in the Persian Gulf?

This administration seems to believe that by restricting retaliatory threats and by downplaying our reliance on nuclear weapons, it is discouraging proliferation.

But the opposite is true. Since World War II, smaller countries have agreed to forgo the acquisition of deterrent forces — nuclear, biological and chemical — precisely because they placed their trust in the firmness, power and reliability of the American deterrent.

Seeing America retreat, they will rethink. And some will arm. There is no greater spur to hyper-proliferation than the furling of the American nuclear umbrella.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com


Corey Williams 8 years, 1 month ago

barrypenders (anonymous) says…

"I'm with Mahmoud."

April 8, 2010 at 4:49 p.m.

jmadison 8 years, 1 month ago

President Obama is obtaining "peace in our time"

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

No man is great if he thinks he is. (Will Rogers)

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

America can carry herself and get along in pretty fair shape, but when she stops and picks up the whole world and puts it on her shoulders she just can’t “get it done. (Will Rogers)

Scott Drummond 8 years, 1 month ago

The military/industrial complex cannot abide diminished access to the public trough and has sent its minions out to protect future revenue streams. The taxpayer must be scared in to submission and no tactic will be out of bounds. Behold the corporate propaganda arm of our fascist government in action.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

scott, you forgot to use the phrase "running dogs of imperialism" in your rant. You'll never get that Order of Lenin at this rate.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

Snap made me laugh out loud.

Krauthammer starts his argument with an incredibly weak analogy. Sorry Charlie, but incurring the wrath and the military attack that would come from our forces is never the equivalent of "100 hours of community service." While it's not the same as the immediacy and total annihilation a nuclear attack would render, I don't believe any country wants to take our forces on for a prolonged war. 'Course, the real threat comes from expatriates and shadow entities like Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but nuclear attacks against such entities are already a non-issue. Iran and North Korea won't attack us with biological weapons or any other weapons, at least not directly. Their posturing is self-serving for the most part; they know they can blackmail us 'cuz the rest of the word will decry any action or sanctions in due time.

Nope, we have to start looking at the world in new ways. I don't see anything wrong with the way the President is proceeding here.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 1 month ago

Obama again demonstrates why he is the most dangerous president to America in its history.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

Charles never fails us-- there's never a problem that can't be solved by massive violence and destruction, or the threat thereof.

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago

Agreed. We have only been in Iraq for longer than any US war in history. Idiocy!

Olympics 8 years, 1 month ago

When I think about American conservatives, I often think it must suck to live in fear all the time. Bunch of Barney Fife's.

Scott Drummond 8 years, 1 month ago

No, Barney was a decent human being. Most wingers aren't at all decent humans.

rhd99 8 years, 1 month ago

This President need to be questioned about everything. That flap about the VA. governor the other day, the governor apologized. Why does this President need to re-hash history. MOVE ON ALREADY!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

"This President need to be questioned about everything."

Every president and every governor shouldn't be questioned about everything. But the "questioning" by idiots like Krauthammer merely because Obama isn't part of his perceived team is of absolutely no value.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Remember bozo's last post the next time he gets all huffy about someone else going to name-calling.

georgiahawk 8 years, 1 month ago

What president has not been a "presidential trainee"? Do you even think about what you write? I know that stupid puppet politicians (Reagan, Bush) are what you repub's prefer and intelligence scares you, but we have already let "stupid" guide us, lets give intelligence a try. I know that you won't be able to keep up, so just try your best!

Ricky_Vaughn 8 years, 1 month ago

I've heard it's much like Reagan's plan back in the day....isn't he the favorite conservative hero from the past?

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago

Reagan was not as black man of Kenyan ancestry named Barack Hussein Obama.

whats_going_on 8 years, 1 month ago

What does a country have to do to be in compliance?

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago


The president is near! The president is near!

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago

Hey little barrypampers,

Barack Hussein Obama, your president, is a black man of Kenyan ancestry. Suck on that binky.

Take to the streets! rebel, teabaggers! Take your country back! Hutareeeee!

feeble 8 years, 1 month ago

This treaty is a continuation to START I, as proposed by Reagan, and keeps within the goals and guidelines outlined by Reagan's proposal.

Given the conservative caterwaulin' going on over the new START treaty, I can only conclude that Reagan was a closet socialist, bent on selling out the U S of A to his soviet overlords.

This is the man, after all, who famousl claimed that he would tell Yuri Andropov "The only way there could be war is if they start it; we're not going to start a war" .

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago

Reagan was not as black man of Kenyan ancestry named Barack Hussein Obama.

Richard Payton 8 years, 1 month ago

Barrypender needs to remove his picture and word jihad because the Blessed One doesn't want us to use this term anymore. Future censorship and new world order should be hurled. Who needs nukes we have stronger more dangerous bombs if needed. Nobody use the F----bomb.

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month ago

Well, lets see. I know have the promise of a guy that has broken what some people consider promises (more to come). Will he pass me by or turn me into a cinder??

preebo 8 years, 1 month ago

One thing that "The Hammer" fails to acknowledge is that George Shultz, President Reagan's Sec. of State has commented that President Reagan would have endorsed this maneuver. Just another example of how the ol' part of the Grand Ol' Party is being reduced to a bumper sticker campaign alongside the Confederate Flag.

Nixon was for a mandate, and now it is Socialism, Reagan was for reducing "loose nukes" and now that is seen as weak.

For those of you who believe fmr. AK half-term Gov. Palin is the second coming of Reagan, I bid you and your relevance, adieu.

MyName 8 years, 1 month ago

And once again good ol' Chuck proves that there is no issue that the GOP hacks can't try to turn into some kind of political spin contest.

Nevermind the fact that Reagan, Nixon, Eisenhower, Clinton and many other past Presidents were in favor of limiting the number and potential to use Nukes, we've got an election to win so it's time to make up another bogeyman to scare people with!

yourworstnightmare 8 years, 1 month ago

But 4125, I thought you and the GOP were better than the demon-rats. LOL!

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 1 month ago

What country are we at war with??? I am confused??

Mixolydian 8 years, 1 month ago

Not one single country, not Iran, not North Korea, not Libya, not anyone, will sign the non-proliferation pact because of this. Not one.

All Obama did was make us weaker.

2012 cannot come soon enough.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

"That's the only way to take on the US, as we have no stomach for prolonged war."

True dat, 75, that's certainly the other side of the coin. It's all good if we can swoop in and save the day, but it has to be lightning quick with little to no loss of U.S. soldiers, ala Desert Storm. 'Course, not cleaning up afterwards by pulling out so quickly gave us our latest rendition. Makes me want to read Catch-22 all over again.

"No, Barney was a decent human being. Most wingers aren't at all decent humans."

Yet another example of how you lose all credibility with a single sentence, scott. "Most wingers...?" Isn't that along the same lines as 'most homosexuals are pedophiles' or 'most blacks are untrustworthy'? Doesn't take any discretion, rationality, nor intelligent thought to drum up such blanket accusations, does it now? Pathetic, brother.

Scott Drummond 8 years, 1 month ago

Nonsense, Jay. The examples you posit involve aspects that are not a matter of choice. Adopting the right wing outlook and philosophy, however, is, by definition, a matter of choice and those who gravitate toward that outlook do all share a broad range of distasteful characteristics. True, all may not fall to the sorts of psychotic depravity of a dick cheney or a don blankenship, but I am comfortable is my statement that the average right winger of today shares nothing of the essential decency of a Barney Fife.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

Matter of choice? What are you talking about? It's not a matter of choice to hold a bigoted attitude toward a race or to smear gays? Stand by it if you like but it's still an incredibly foolish generalization, particularly since you have no idea who you're talking about. The "average right winger"? Know an incredibly large number of them do you? That's the kind of brilliant deductive logic my 11 year old niece uses when she declares she doesn't like a certain meal even though she's never tried it. The fact is, you have no clue how "decent' any of these people you'd like to smear are. Like I said, pathetic. What happened to the tolerance of liberals? What happened to the revulsion of stereotyping the left is supposed to champion? Do unto others, brother. lest you become a porch person.

Olympics 8 years, 1 month ago

Let's play the hypocrisy of the conservatives game (again). Obama policy = Ronald Reagan policy, but Obama's a socialist/marxist.


Stop being afraid right wingers!

Scott Drummond 8 years, 1 month ago


In my observation, over the last 30 years, Newt suffers from a severe case of idioTomShewmonism, i.e. the uncanny ability to be incorrect in virtually every public pronouncement.

Let's parse the statement:

"I mean for maybe 40 percent of the country..." More like 25% according to a recent CBS poll. And remember even george w. bush had similar levels of support no matter how bad he performed. A fourth of the country is so hopelessly brainwashed that they'd vote for a dead, plucked chicken carcass if Faux "News" told them they should.

"she personifies courage," OK, I am trying to be fair here. What has she done that required courage? Stare down Katy Couric? Newt, you're losing it here.

"clarity,....." Wow, I just snorted milk through my nose. Really? clarity?

"She's attractive," OK, I'll give you this one. To many I am sure she is the hottest thing they see in politics. Chinless Mitch McConnell, John "Tan Man" Boner or manly man Lindsey Graham, of course, are not much in the way of attractive competition. And then there's Newt himself. Gotta give him this point.

"she's articulate," OK, I'm calling bull here. Prove it.

"she has energy," Again, compared to the worn out old white guys, maybe so.

All in all, a typical Newt statement, mostly wrong.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

Meh. Any country that attacks us with chemical or biological weapons can be decimated with air blast ordinance, which are comparable in effect to small nukes. A few MOABs hitting five major cities simultaneously would get the point across pretty quick.

Obama may be a rookie wannabe, but the military won't let him put our country at risk.

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month ago

How fitting. The left and the right are at it again here in Lawrence. Mr. Obama will destroy us all by increasing the nuclear threat. No, Mr. Obama will save us all by reducing the nuclear threat. Great. When, faced with a nuclear policy question we go on about prose.

Just exactly what did Mr. Obama do? Just exactly what is there that would keep him from changing his mind in the future. Is some petty tyrant somewhere going to complain to the UN after Mr. Obama crisps him for killing a whole bunch of innocent Americans with a nasty biologic? Don’t you think they realize he can change his mind at any time?

I suspect this whole thing is for domestic consumption. The Democratic Party base did not get a national health care program. OK, let’s give them a perceived positive “change” in nuclear policy. I suspect there will be more of these initiatives. I can only hope the next one has a more substantive impact.

jaywalker 8 years, 1 month ago

"defending an incident that got Don Imus kicked off the air for nine months"

That's a lie.

"Jaywalker said if Sonia Sotomayor had been white, she would not have gotten "this far""

That's a lie.

You're a liar, porch. Period. You can re-post the quotes for the thousandth time, but it still won't make them mean what you want them to. Don't blame me for your dementia. I've attempted to set you straight, you refuse to heed the words. Bully for you for taking the casual nature of a forum and twisting someone's words; you're an innovator, pal.

To follow will be the Porch Playbook:


quotation represented out of context preceded or succeeded by "they're your words"


more repetition of points from an argument long ago lost


more blahblahblahblahblah......retch........

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

"You're a liar, porch. Period. "

When * quotes me, I always look at it as giving him a way of posting original thoughts instead just spitting up the logically weak product of his own mind.

We should be happy to help out the intellectually challenged.

"You're a liar, porch. Period. You can re-post the quotes for the thousandth time, but it still won't make them mean what you want them to."

90% of people on this forum are smart enough to see the lies in *'s posts. I wouldn't worry too much about them.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

", just quote me. At least that way you will get what I say right and sound a lot more interesting.

"Anyhoo, not surprised to see you coming out in defense of a racist statement made by jaywalker."

I'll defend the right of anyone to make a racist statement that doesn't incite an eminent threat to the rights of others. You should know that by now. Racist speech is protected speech in America. That wascally First Amendment always twips you up.

Whether any speech on this forum is racist is at the sole discretion of the editorial staff. On their property, I defer to them regarding the matter.

"I took a poll " Did it hurt?

"You did say you were from South Carolina, didn't you?" Yes. I am proud to have been born in the first state to declare it's independence from England and the first state to secede during the civil war. I'm not sure why that matters though.

"The other thing that people notice about you is that you have no honor." I am the only arbiter of my honor.

"How you expect to retain respect" Respect of others is optional unless you want something from them or you need their approval to prop up your weak opinion of yourself. You are a good example of the latter.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

Obama job approval since this story hit the press:

Gallup 4/8 - 4/10 Agree 45 Disagree 48 Rasmussen 4/8 - 4/10 Agree 47 Disagree 53


Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

"iberty, problem is 90% of posters are too stupid to know they are being manipulated by Fox, Beck and the druggie."

I'm not sure I see a connection between people believing right-wing news organizations and entertainers and people recognizing that ^ supports his arguments with inaccurate information, outright lies, out of context quotations and logical fallacies.

The only way I see to parse your statement (disregarding that you might just be commenting on irrelevant coincidences) is that the 90% group are the same, and therefore being manipulated by fox beck and limbaugh make you more able to spot someone that routinely uses deficient strategies in an attempt to prove their point.

I know you don't believe that. I also know you are one of the 90% capable of recognizing *'s faulty arguments. To remove the conflict from those two statements, I can only surmise you are trying to provide cover for him because he's playing on your team. That's OK I suppose, but it's sad to to see you disregard honesty to cover for a liar-by-various-methodologies.

If I have a premise wrong, or you intended some other logical connection, fill me in.

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

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