Nuclear Weapons; What Obama Actually Said on Deterrence

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 1, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Nuclear Weapons; What Obama Actually Said on Deterrence


The Washington Times recently published an op-ed by Peter Huessy Playing games with U.S. security, Obama's feel-good approach puts nuclear deterrent at risk ) which mischaracterized Sen. Barack Obama's position on U.S. nuclear posture. Given that Mr. Huessy also made up a quote and attributed it to me, I appreciate the chance to respond.

I was especially puzzled by Mr. Huessy's confident assertion that Barack Obama, too, has called for 600 deployed weapons with 450 Minuteman missiles off-alert. As a strong supporter of and volunteer adviser to Mr. Obama's presidential candidacy, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of his positions on national security issues, especially in my field of nonproliferation and arms control, and I simply wasn't aware of that one.

With good reason. It turns out that Mr. Huessy had Mr. Obama confused with someone else - specifically, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who had laid out such a position during his presidential campaign.

Many of Mr. Huessy's other representations about Mr. Obama were similarly deficient in accuracy. I hope readers of The Washington Times will evaluate Mr. Obama based on his actual positions, not on the caricatures of an ill-informed commentator.

The central element of Mr. Obama's approach to nuclear weapons is his steady focus on the emerging security threat that terrorists, not susceptible to deterrence, will acquire a nuclear weapon. Beginning from his first days in the Senate, he concentrated on bipartisan efforts with Sen. Richard Lugar to lock up loose nuclear materials. In October, he made answering the nuclear terrorism danger a centerpiece of his campaign, and laid out further steps to thwart terrorists' efforts to acquire the highly enriched uranium and plutonium they could use to build a bomb.

More recently, in a mid-July conference on 21st century threats, Mr. Obama underscored the importance of strategies geared toward the present and the future, not the past. He explained how the misdirected war in Iraq, coupled with the kind of Cold War mind-set Mr. Huessy apparently represents, have left us ill-prepared to confront such real-world perils as nuclear terrorism and biological and cyber attacks.

Again, Mr. Obama offered specific measures to protect us from emerging nuclear dangers, including: 1) securing nuclear materials at vulnerable sites in one-third the time now projected, 2) phasing out the use of bomb-grade materials in civilian power reactors, 3) strengthening policing and interdiction, 4) building non-proliferation capacities worldwide, and 5) convening a summit on nuclear terrorism to further broaden the response.

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