Friday, September 6, 2013

President Obama and WMD's (updated)

The whole concept of reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction was seriously discredited when Bush/Cheney used it as an excuse to lie us into an unnecessary war. Its clear by now that some people simply cannot have a rational conversation about the topic as a result.

But since President Obama has been trying to convince the US and the world to live up to their commitments about responding to the use of chemical weapons, I've been thinking about how that position is linked to a rather bold promise he made back when he was running for president in 2008.
"Will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years - the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama will fully implement the Lugar-Obama legislation to help our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction."
As is documented here, initially he made huge progress towards that goal. But as PolitiFact noted in the article linked above, Putin announced that Russia would no longer cooperate with the agreement in October 2012.

This summer, President Obama upped the ante.
“After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third,” Mr. Obama told an audience of 4,500 gathered in scorching heat on the east side of Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate — the side of the city walled off by the Soviets during the darkest days of the cold war. “And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond cold war nuclear postures.”

The proposal to limit American and Russian deployed strategic warheads to about 1,000 each would bring the two countries back to around the levels of 1954, experts said. The president also vowed to work with NATO to reduce the unrestricted smaller tactical nuclear weapons still in Europe and to push the Senate to finally ratify the 17-year-old Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
That seemed to work to get the ball rolling again.
...a separate agreement announced this week by Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin when they met in Northern Ireland served as a reminder that for all the rhetoric, the two sides can do business. The agreement renewed a two-decade-old pact aimed at helping to decommission and secure nuclear weapons and material in Russia even though Moscow said last year that it would back out of the arrangement.
We now know that President Obama and Putin are once again at loggerheads over the situation in Syria - this time over the use of chemical weapons. I would submit that this ongoing effort to deal with nuclear arms at least plays a role in all of that. And so the context of President Obama's overall strategy on dealing with weapons of mass destruction is an important policy to keep in mind.

Those who are intent on always seeing something nefarious about the actions of the US on the global stage have made all sorts of ridiculous claims about what is really motivating President Obama to propose this military intervention in Syria. They are the same ones who totally ignore that bold promise he made in 2008 and his ongoing efforts to keep it. That's exactly why they'll never understand this President and his pragmatic approach to a more progressive foreign policy.

As I've said before, my concerns about military intervention in Syria are centered around whether or not they will work to accomplish his goals. But I have no doubt about what his goals rid the world of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.

UPDATE: Here is President Obama tying all of this together in his press conference today at the G20 summit.
But ultimately, what I believe in even more deeply [than UN action] - because I think the security of the world...requires that when there's a breech this brazen of a norm this important and the international community is paralyzed and frozen and doesn't act - then that norm begins to unravel. And if that norm unravels then other norms and prohibitions start unraveling and that makes for a more dangerous world. That requires even more difficult choices and more difficult responses in the future.
Anyone who wants to challenge the President's proposal needs to address that argument. It is the foundation on which it is based. From there - I'm sure the President would be willing to consider alternative responses. But ultimately his goal is a united global community in condemnation of the use of weapons of mass destruction. He's "all in" on that one.


  1. After reading this article about how difficult it is to destroy these weapons: I have pause. I doubt the President would authorize this kind of strike. I thought what was being considered was degrading the ability to use the weapons, not destroy the weapons themselves. This would mean bombing airstrips, and punitive actions designed to weaken Assad's overall ability to wage these attacks, like surgical strikes on what are supposed to be empty buildings. There has been time to see where Assad has planted his human shields, which reveals what he holds most dear. The problem with human shields is you have to guard them. Given the numbers of defections, having reliable, loyal guards to perform that function is not guaranteed. Let's not kid ourselves, this punitive strike isn't rescuing kittens. The alternative is doing nothing and letting maniacs like Assad get away with this behavior. Do I wish there would be no collateral damage? Yes. Have I seen a viable alternative to this? No.

    1. I personally am not going to get in to commenting about the specific military strategy. First of all, its all hearsay (are they really going to broadcast what they're going to do? NO). And secondly, I don't think any of us have enough sophisticated knowledge to judge.

      What I'm trying to do here is put PBO's position into the bigger picture.

    2. "What I'm trying to do here is put PBO's position into the bigger picture."

      And, you are doing it spectacularly well, SP. Thank you.


  2. Thank you for this - I respect your opinions and trust your research. Do you have a feeling as to whether President Obama would proceed without support? I tend to think he won't and hope that isn't just wishful thinking!

    1. I don't think they can make a definitive statement about that because of 2 things:

      1. Its important to maintain the fact that the president has the authority to take military action w/out Congress
      2. Things on the ground in Syria could change and they don't want to tie their hands w/ a promise they won't honor.

  3. Since emo's and lunatic right wingers gripe about President Obama re: Syria and almost everything else, they should merge and become the Temo Party.

  4. The President speaks to We The People on Tuesday...I hope that he talks about the BIG picture and why it is IMPERATIVE that there be a world response to what PBO calls a breech this brazen of a norm .


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