Monday, April 06, 2009

The 52 minutes of Obama magic that changed the nuclear rules.

As right wing bloggers obsess over whether or not Obama has stopped using the phrase war on terror or are lambasting him for observing customs like bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia, a man Bush never bowed to as he much preferred a good old snog, Obama is getting on with doing something much more radical.

I would have thought his aim of ridding the world of many of it's nuclear weapons would have incensed them, but they appear not to have even noticed what he is proposing, as they are so obsessed with trivia. In two recent speeches, both exactly 26 minutes long, Obama has set out a radical plan to rid the world of nuclear weapons:

The president pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted. He spelled out how he would accelerate arms control agreements with Russia, following his first summit meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev last week. The deal to conclude a new arms reduction treaty with Moscow, which would slash stockpiles by about a third was a beginning, setting the stage for further cuts.

Building on the momentum of a new agreement with the Russians, Obama said he wanted to cajole the other nuclear powers into agreeing international arms cuts.

This would include Britain's independent nuclear deterrent as well as France's force de frappe and could run into resistance.

I love the fact that this guy is such an idealist, and that he will take on something like this even though he must know that he will run into considerable resistance. He's doing it, not because it is easy, he is doing it because it is the right thing to do.

And he is signaling such a reversal of the tactics of the Bush years, where Bush actually proposed developing new bunker busting nuclear weapons. The signal Obama is sending simply couldn't be more different than the message sent by the Bush White House.

"It is time for testing of nuclear weapons to be banned," Obama said. He called for a resuscitation of the 1996 comprehensive test ban treaty outlawing all nuclear tests. Obama's Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton, signed the treaty, but then gave up on it after running into resistance from the Republican-controlled Senate which refused to ratify it a decade ago. George Bush did not pursue the issue.

America is the most important country that has not ratified the treaty, although other nuclear countries such as China, Israel and Pakistan, as well as Iran have also declined to ratify.

Obama said he would pursue US ratification "immediately and aggressively".

This is one of my bugbears when it comes to our argument against nations like Iran. Under the NNPT no non nuclear country is allowed to develop nuclear weapons, but there is also an agreement that the countries which do have nuclear weapons will disarm.

That part of the equation is always ignored in this argument concerning Iran and other countries. We demand that others comply with a treaty that the US, under Bush, was clearly in breach of by developing a new range of nuclear weapons, rather than actively acting to disarm as the treaty demands.

Obama is certainly moving in the right direction. The last US president to attempt this was Ronald Reagan:

In 1986 at the Reykjavik summit, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, both passionate about nuclear disarmament, shocked deterrence experts with an unimaginable proposal – total nuclear disarmament. “It would be fine with me if we eliminated all nuclear weapons,” said Reagan. “We can do that,” replied Gorbachev, “Let’s eliminate them. We can eliminate them.”

However, U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz explained that the proposal was “too much for people to absorb, precisely because it was outside the bounds of conventional wisdom,” and “the world was not ready for Ronald Reagan’s boldness.”

It also failed because Reagan refused to drop his star wars scheme. But Obama could be said to be following in Reagan's footsteps. Perhaps that's why the right wing blogs are leaving this subject alone and obsessing over facile rubbish.

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