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"...to pursue the day when these weapons do not exist..."
April 6, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

"There is no conventional or chemical or biological threat out there that we cannot counter with our overwhelming conventional forces." ~ US President Barack Obama
The US 2010 Nuclear Posture Review Report (NPR) has been announced. (pdf) For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons except in "extreme circumstances", pledging not to develop new ones and limiting the use of those in storage -- even for self defense. Nuclear weapons will not be used against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, even in response to a hypothetical biological or chemical weapons attack, or a crippling cyberattack. The new focus will be deterrence.

Full text of President Obama's statement.

This news comes just a week after the announcement of a new post-cold war strategic arms agreement which will be signed on Thursday (April 8th) between US President Obama and Russian President Medvedev. "Both countries have agreed to reduce strategic nuclear weapons by almost one-third and halve the number of delivery vehicles, such as missiles and bombers."

Spencer Ackerman: The Nuclear Posture Review as Assertive Multilateralism

The NPR doesn't quite fulfill Obama's stated goal during his campaign of a nuke-free world. But it's a step in that direction.

Background on the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review

An issue brief via an "In Focus" page from the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

AtlanticWire: Evaluating Obama's Revolutionary Nuke Plan

The announcement is not sitting well with right-wing bloggers.
posted by zarq (82 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is not 100% awesome, but it's like a really solid 85% awesome and 15% reasonable disagreement.
posted by Damn That Television at 12:23 PM on April 6, 2010 [13 favorites]


Hear hear. Maybe this will create a bit less incentive for places like Iran to develop their own.
posted by echo target at 12:23 PM on April 6, 2010


The new focus will be deterrence.

What was the old focus?
posted by Slap Factory at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The announcement is not sitting well with right-wing bloggers."

Can we just assume that from now on and only find it noteworthy when the opposite happens?
posted by wah at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2010 [25 favorites]


We're just over a year into Obama's presidency. I look forward to continuing arguments about how he's pretty much just another Bush, or that he's not doing anything, or that the hopey changey stuff isn't working out, or whatever else seems to pop up about the guy all the time.

His record of accomplishment, and the degree to which he broke from the previous administration, will be quite extraordinary when looked back on. He is the president he promised to be when we voted for him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:27 PM on April 6, 2010 [12 favorites]


needs a hyperbole tag
posted by ghharr at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2010


So nice to have adults in charge of things.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


What was the old focus?

A different kind of deterrence. The article explains more.

The US nuclear arsenal has been on immediate call at a moment's notice for decades, in case Russia launched an attack. Now that the two countries are friendly, the focus is going to be shifted to terrorists and rogue states. They're removing the hair-trigger, and cutting down on excess weapons.
posted by zarq at 12:30 PM on April 6, 2010


What was the old focus?
posted by Slap Factory


Not that long ago it was something akin to "Yeah well we can destroy the earth 200 times over! You can only do it 100 times! Suckers!"
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Can we just assume that from now on and only find it noteworthy when the opposite happens?

You ken have me extra links when ye pry 'em from me cold, dead....
posted by zarq at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2010


What was the old focus?

Ensuring the continuation of the MADD paradigm generally, which is to make the threat of a nuclear response so pervasive that it inhibits nuclear threats (circles!).

Now the focus is sort of a reverse arm-race, where keeping America safe now involves continually narrowing the reasons to use nuclear weapons, and decreasing our stockpile.
posted by rosswald at 12:33 PM on April 6, 2010


(which only works with a multi-lateral approach, or what zarq said)
posted by rosswald at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2010


“The NPR appears to acknowledge that the fundamental purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is deterrence of nuclear use by others, which only make sense because there is no conventional or chemical or biological threat out there that we cannot counter with our overwhelming conventional forces.”

Uh huh.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What was the old focus?

IIRC it was essentially the asserted "right" to use any force up to and including nuclear weapons in pursuit of fulfilling the Bush Doctrine.

This is, basically, just a shift in stance from waving the US dick in everyone's face to taking a step back but still leaving the dick out.

Having said that, I do think it is an important step, one I'm glad is being done. What happens in the future is going to depend a lot on how other nations react.
posted by edgeways at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I saw this story on NYTimes. It was weird to see so many calls for Obama's impeachment. It seems pretty clear the Teabag Party is trolling the comments sections of sites around the Internet.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2010


His record of accomplishment, and the degree to which he broke from the previous administration, will be quite extraordinary when looked back on.

Right. But it's not enough. Unfortunately, history demands more from him that to just be better than Bush. This and healthcare are a nice start. But there are still two wars/occupations going on. LBJ got chased from office over one war. Guantanamo is still open, so is Bagram in Afghanistan. The president is still on record as saying we should be able to hold some people without trial because of crimes they might possibly commit.

When NEITHER major party is willing to uphold the very basic tenets of our democracy, that is a problem, and maybe a crisis. In some ways, it's far worse when a Democrat does it, because there is no "loyal opposition" to oppose it. We end up with infighting and the "standing up for the Constitution is a vote for Palin" mentality.

I understand you want to believe in him, and I understand he is doing some good. But this is NOT the President I voted for, or volunteered for. End the wars. Stop using drones to bomb civilians. Uphold the Constitution.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:34 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


This will change nothing. Well maybe that bit about not going all nucular if the bad guys go all chemical or biological. But other than that it changes nothing. Subs will still have nukes, Ballistic missiles will still exist, short range tactical nukes will still be pointed at the enemy. Except now the enemies will be enbiggened by the stated fact that we won't use them if you don't have them... Pissa. Now there'll be a free for all on chemical and bio attacks. Not a win. Blame me I voted for Obama
posted by Gungho at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


this last month has really restored my faith in the Obama presidency.
Go team.
posted by Glibpaxman at 12:41 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nuclear weapons will not be used against non-nuclear states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

That right there is a beautiful thing. Or would be, if there was no recent history of scare-mongering re: Iraq (mushroom cloud my ass). Still, new admin, new expectations of policy adherence. (Of course, future admin, new policies altogether)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:44 PM on April 6, 2010


What was the old focus?

U.S. military forces themselves, including nuclear forces will now be used to "dissuade adversaries from undertaking military programs or operations that could threaten U.S. interests or those of allies and friends."

-- Nuclear Posture Review, 2002

The United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or our allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.

-- Nuclear Posture Review, 2010
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


ObamaFilter: leaving the dick out.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:47 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no conventional or chemical or biological threat out there that we cannot counter with our overwhelming conventional forces.

Bird flu infected zombies?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2010


Now there'll be a free for all on chemical and bio attacks.

Really? Can people actually believe this to be the truth? I read it over at the NYT article as well. Suddenly the US will be attacked with chemical weapons and anthrax? By Iran?
posted by Mister_A at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gungho: "Now there'll be a free for all on chemical and bio attacks."

So apparently it's not dying that is the deterrent, but dying in a nuclear strike? What makes a conventional ass-beating less scary than one with nukes?

It seems like nukes are mainly a crutch that we don't need. Or conversely, if we have nukes, why aren't we shutting down the rest of the military? They're a worthless vestige with nukes as a defensive weapon (except for using the military as occupying forces, but then what kind of imperialist jerks would we be if we just ran around occupying countries that pose no threat to us?).
posted by mullingitover at 12:48 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


BOO! Send the OBAMANation BACK to kenya1! Can't you see this is a tragic day for freedom, sheeple!? Whoever gave THE GOVERNMENT the legal authority to regulate nukes anyway? It's a DE JURE unlawful monopoly. Free THE Nukes! Free the NUKES!

Seriously though, this is progress. Gungho's "emboldens the enemy" argument above carries a familiar stink of the rotten about it.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on April 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Traditional Nuclear Weapons Doctrine: Use only if you really, really have to.

New Nuclear Weapons Doctrine: Use Only If You Really, Really Have To. (tm)

This is clever; it gives up nothing, in practice, and yet creates some more leverage to use against Iran's budding nuke program.
posted by darth_tedious at 12:54 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


What makes a conventional ass-beating less scary than one with nukes?

I'd like to think that the same horrors nuclear strikes impose are the ones that result in promises not to use them, but by the same token we don't say "Push us too far and you know what you'll get? Fucking mustard gas, that's what." But that gets into the whole issue of restrictions on use of force. (I personally believe in them but I've had that conversation far too many times to deceive myself into thinking everyone is of like mind on that issue) In any case, surely part of this is a (perhaps somewhat optimistic) notion that conventional warfare picks its victims and that the citizenry will suffer less than the armed forces, ideally as minimally as possible. You don't get much more broad-brush than a nuke. (maybe biological)

it gives up nothing, in practice

Well, I suppose this is true if the U.S. was never, ever going to use nukes against a non-nuclear nation. Then all that's gone is the threat of doing so. Still? That's a step in the right motherfucking direction. I don't expect pacifism from the U.S.. This is good.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2010


>>End the wars.

Dude, he is. I know this might seem surprising if you live in a world of black and white, but it's not actually possible to just up and leave either Iraq or Afghanistan, not without actually throwing both countries into even worse chaos than they were at any point after our invasions. Bush and Rumsfelds' moronic short sighted policies in both countries really caused a huge fucking mess, and neither country is ready for the complete withdrawal of our troops yet, not when we still provide so much in the way of security and counter-insurgency for their current governments--unless of course what you want to see is both countries collapsing (back) into totalitarian theocratic regimes. It's actually super surprising that we've been able to scale-back operations in Iraq as quickly as we've been able to, considering the dire straits the country was in as little as three years ago.

As to everything else you're saying: Yes, and yes again. Uphold the constitution, stop bombing civilians with drones, stop holding people without trial. But as far as I'm concerned, it's a moral fucking imperative to not continue in the Bush tradition of completely fucking up other peoples' countries and then not doing anything in particular to fix the mess we made.

Now, "End military corruption and abuse of foreign civilians"? Yeah, that he really needs to do. Also "End government contracts for mercenaries." I'm not really up to date on where the Obama administration stands on those two issues, but if they're not working on them actively, I'm back to agreeing with on vis a vis "This is NOT the President I voted for."
posted by Caduceus at 12:57 PM on April 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


There is never going to be "a day when these weapons do not exist". They were both obvious enough and simple enough to be built in the 1940s, even during a massive war, and tens of thousands of them already exist around the world; the idea that we can put this genie back in the bottle seems like wishful thinking to me.

That said, this seems like a decent policy... there's no practical reason to have quite so many nuclear weapons, now that the Cold War is over, especially given the ongoing cost and risk of keeping them. It makes sense to eliminate weapons which are already on the bottom of the list, especially if we can get the Russians to match our offer. And "we promise not to use them even if you drench New York in sarin and spew smallpox all over Indiana" is the sort of "promise" nobody can or will hold us to if the chips are down, and everyone knows that (c.f. 9/11), so there's little cost in making it.

In short: it's win-win to spin this as a moral decision as well as a pragmatic one, but I think it's important for people on both sides of the argument to keep in mind that this is an entirely practical choice. It's a long way from disarmament and/or "a free for all on chemical and bio attacks".
posted by vorfeed at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, this is progress. Gungho's "emboldens the enemy" argument above carries a familiar stink of the rotten about it.

There's nothing wrong with the argument. After all, our military policy has been based on "we will wipe you off the face of the earth if you mess with us" for the last 50 years. This is a new way of thinking that involves a shift tactical strategies, based on the idea that the threats to our national security are coming from new type of enemy.

Gungho may be indulging in lazy thinking, but it's not a "rotten" argument.
posted by zarq at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2010


... and from our deconstructed nuclear stockpiles, we will build the weapons that will once and for all allow us to WIN the UNWINNABLE WAR. The MOAB. No longer will we be tied to the weapons of the past... and the nuclear wasteland that follows...


"What was the old focus?"
Replace "circular reasoning"- with "MAD", in this handy chart-diagram.


More seriously though, we go from preemptive WAR! being the Presidents official "doctrine"; war waged because of a 'fear' that some little country might one day attack us... to this.

My vote is most certainly worth the paper it was printed on. I am proud of the choice I made.

...Unless the Tail on to this story is that we are just converting all of our weapons stockpiles to MOABS.

I kid, and seriously, obviously... things are changing as we live, vastly, and as we realize more and more how it is a shift in the Executive Branch, and the support of the people behind him... Helping the President to execute the policy changes needed to bring us even close to back on course... I don't know if anyone has been paying attention to our country over the last decade... but we had some serious drift-age. We went almost a decade being told that "we and the people" were secondary to the 'decision makers'... well this is just not so.

And we have a President today who not only realizes this... but is coming into his own as an advocate of the people, and embracing this.

The suggestion that we cannot be assertive without going around 'punching the little guys in the jaw' is ridiculous... often the toughest person in the room will stand there silently... just watching who everyone is... learning about everyone else... watching the mouthy people, taking in who is talking like they are the toughest in the world... while everyone else has no idea just how tough that strong silent one is.
Nuclear war is insane. In the most literal sense of the word. This will hopefully make the world slightly less insane. Consider how easy it is for misunderstandings to 'end the earth'... and think about Stanislav Petrov.; it is human people making small changes which lead to a better world.

In 1983 in Russia, there was a man who would have been considered an enemy by the people of America. But as it turned out, he would become for them and for the world an unknown hero — perhaps the greatest hero of all time. Because of military secrecy, and political and international differences, most of the world has not heard of this man. He is Stanislav Petrov.

The extraordinary incident leading to his heroism occurred near Moscow, in the former Soviet Union, just past midnight, Sept. 26, 1983. Because of time-zone differences, it was still Sept. 25 in America, a Sunday afternoon.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:01 PM on April 6, 2010


Right. But it's not enough.

It's one year and some change. You start out doing what you can before moving on to doing what you want.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:04 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


it gives up nothing, in practice

Actually it does clearly give up one thing in practice: the ability to use nukes on a country that doesn't have nukes and isn't trying to get them even if they attack us with chemical or other illegal (non-nuclear) weapons. You can argue that that's not much, but you can't say it's nothing.

Also, it prevents us from just preemptively dropping nuclear bombs on non-nuclear countries that are in compliance with existing treaties. That might not seem like much, but we've always kept that option on the table in the past. And many, many allegedly smart people have argued this has had the effect of increasing the pressure on non-nuclear states to try harder to become nuclear states.

Gungho may be indulging in lazy thinking, but it's not a "rotten" argument.

Well, no, you may be right. I guess I just mean to say that the "emboldens the enemy" line stinks to me forever now, because of its overuse by the last admin.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:10 PM on April 6, 2010


Well, no, you may be right. I guess I just mean to say that the "emboldens the enemy" line stinks to me forever now, because of its overuse by the last admin.

Yeah, that's completely understandable.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on April 6, 2010


They were both obvious enough and simple enough to be built in the 1940s, even during a massive war, and tens of thousands of them already exist around the world;

This isn't like file sharing. Only one nation was able to accomplish it in the 40s, using the most advanced technology at the time ... and it used a significant portion of our natural resources:

"when MED Deputy District Engineer Col. Kenneth Nichols visited Undersecretary of the Treasury Daniel Bell to inquire as to the possibility of borrowing 6,000 tons of silver from the Treasury. Bell informed Nichols rather icily that the Treasury's preferred unit of measure was the troy ounce" (1)

Make no mistake, the only reason we were able to pull this off were the two oceans between us and the enemy. We had a whole continent to waltz around on, without fear of our supply chain being seriously compromised. If that had not been there, we would have been in the same place as Russia, Germany and Japan -- where nuclear weapons were a theoretical possibility but not an actual one.

And making nuclear weapons still requires a lot of expertise, manpower, energy and cooperation. Even when 10-20% of your GDP is dedicated to procuring nuclear weapons, as was the case with North Korea, the results are mediocre, maybe a dozen low-yield bombs. They exist more as a specter than anything else, the money would have been better spent, in terms of possible yield, on conventional weapons.

Which is not even touching the other half of the equation, effectively delivering nuclear weapons to an intended target. Launching a rocket and hitting something ... even with a relatively wide error of margin, is a hard thing to do. Throw one three miles west of an opposing force and you've just not only failed to even stop an armored division, you've used a 1/10 of your nuclear capability.

Up until now nuclear weapons were the one bargaining chip small nations had, and that chip has just become significantly smaller. No longer can a suicidal leader tell their generals that the US will send the country back into the stone age unless they strike first and hard (and I should note, as I added before, armies generally hate nuclear weapons, who likes fighting wars from bunkers?).

I can't help see this as a good thing, even if it is an obvious good thing. And it would be naive to think that there aren't a lot of people in the Pentagon seeing multi-billion dollar pet projects suddenly die with this and that Obama is just going to cruise through this.
posted by geoff. at 1:16 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Except now the enemies will be enbiggened by the stated fact that we won't use them if you don't have them... Pissa. Now there'll be a free for all on chemical and bio attacks. Not a win.
posted by Gungho at 3:40 PM on April 6 [+] [!]


In making this strengthened assurance, the United States affirms that any state eligible for the assurance that uses CBW against the United States or its allies and partners would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response—and that any individuals responsible for the attack, whether national leaders or military commanders, would be held fully accountable.

This would seem to say to me that essentially the United States feels it can respond to any chemical and bio attacks with enough overwhelming conventional force that nuclear attacks would not be necessary.

It seems like nukes are mainly a crutch that we don't need. Or conversely, if we have nukes, why aren't we shutting down the rest of the military? They're a worthless vestige with nukes as a defensive weapon (except for using the military as occupying forces, but then what kind of imperialist jerks would we be if we just ran around occupying countries that pose no threat to us?).
posted by mullingitover at 3:48 PM on April 6 [+] [!]


Do you think that the only two responses the United States should have are:

* Nuclear weapons
* Nothing?
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:17 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Still? That's a step in the right motherfucking direction. I don't expect pacifism from the U.S.. This is good.

I agree. The anti-Obama anger index will rise somewhat, mainly among the Why Aren't We Nuking Osama bin Laden/What If Anthrax-Bearing Vikings Come in Their Longboats to Raid Our Vulnerable Texas Coasts crowd, but the symbolic value of dialing down the remnants of MAD with Russia, and the practical value of having another bargaining chip with Iran, outweigh this. (Not that I think we really can stop Iran from getting nukes; Iran will get them soon enough, or will at least do the theoretical work and then perch itself at the edge of producing them, as a kind of back-pocket deterrent. More likely, Iran'll build a couple, do a highly publicized test, and then settle into the safety of its comfy new seat in the Nuclear Club.)
posted by darth_tedious at 1:18 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


More likely, Iran'll build a couple, do a highly publicized test, and then settle into the safety of its comfy new seat in the Nuclear Club.

After which, one of two things will happen:

They will turn Israel into a radioactive glassy parking lot.
or
Israel will turn them into a radioactive glassy parking lot.

I'm betting on the latter. Ahmadenijad's posturing idiocy has all but guaranteed that the majority of Israelis think Iran is a credible, dangerous threat.
posted by zarq at 1:25 PM on April 6, 2010


They will turn Israel into a radioactive glassy parking lot.
or
Israel will turn them into a radioactive glassy parking lot


I really don't think either side can afford a nuclear confrontation, no matter how overheated their rhetoric becomes. It's just too small a geographic region; the spillover consequences of a major nuclear showdown in the region would do more harm to both sides than good. Lebanon would practically be wiped out, too, in a nuclear confrontation between Iran and Israel. And Lebanon is one of Iran's staunchest allies. It's just not practical. And neither side is really as crazy as they pretend to be.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:37 PM on April 6, 2010


Wait wait wait!

Vikings with Anthrax?
posted by vibrotronica at 1:39 PM on April 6, 2010


This isn't like file sharing. Only one nation was able to accomplish it in the 40s, using the most advanced technology at the time ... and it used a significant portion of our natural resources

I never said nukes were "like file sharing"... simply that a sufficiently serious state can and will develop them. Now that the idea is out there -- not to mention all the currently existing weapons -- a world in which "these weapons do not exist" simply isn't feasible.
posted by vorfeed at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2010


The announcement is not sitting well with right-wing bloggers.

I haven't looked yet, because I'm savoring the idea that this is making them absolutely bug-shit apoplectic hate-fucking furious into a realm of complete incoherence.

"He's taking our nukes away! Are you kidding me? How are we supposed to defend our borders from the Mexicans? What if the Taliban decides to invade and occupy us? How else can we show those stupid French people not to mess with us? This is it! Let's go protect our nukes! WOLVERINES!"

Or something.

I fully expect that this will make Glenn Beck cry.
posted by quin at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2010


> After which, one of two things will happen:

Of those two, the second seems much more likely than the first. Ahmadinejad himself is a zealot (and possibly, but hardly conclusively, a suicide-welcoming fanatic); those surrounding him-- the Supreme Leader and the Rev Guards-- seem much more interested in just maintaining their wealth and power.

But, yeah, there's a real chance of an Israeli strike against the Iranians, either before or after the latter level-up. (And if it happens before 2012, well, Obama might just get one term-- but of course, that would probably be the least in a cascade of Very Bad Things.)
posted by darth_tedious at 1:41 PM on April 6, 2010


Ensuring the continuation of the MADD paradigm generally, which is to make the threat of a nuclear response so pervasive that it inhibits nuclear threats (circles!).

Now the focus is sort of a reverse arm-race, where keeping America safe now involves continually narrowing the reasons to use nuclear weapons, and decreasing our stockpile.
posted by rosswald at 3:33 PM on April 6 [+] [!]


Good to see Obama is all over the drunk driving thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:44 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


What was the old focus?

U.S. military forces themselves, including nuclear forces will now be used to "dissuade adversaries from undertaking military programs or operations that could threaten U.S. interests or those of allies and friends."

-- Nuclear Posture Review, 2002

The United States will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or our allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.

-- Nuclear Posture Review, 2010


Gotta love that factual answering of the key question. That's what makes this place great. A bunch of smart mothers with a hella google-fu.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2010


It's well known that vikings always dip their helmet horn tips into anthrax. Google Leif Erikson.
posted by Babblesort at 1:47 PM on April 6, 2010


> I really don't think either side can afford a nuclear confrontation

I sort of suspect elements of both sides can afford a nuclear confrontation, just not a nuclear exchange-- a Mideastern Cuban Missile Crisis would probably be great for votes, so long as there are no actual mushroom clouds.
posted by darth_tedious at 1:51 PM on April 6, 2010


Now if he'll just end the trade embargo with Cuba we'll be right where we were reasonably supposed to be twenty years ago.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:53 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gotta love that factual answering of the key question. That's what makes this place great. A bunch of smart mothers with a hella google-fu.

It's vaguely intimidating. ;)

and cool as hell.
posted by zarq at 1:54 PM on April 6, 2010


It's well known that vikings always dip their helmet horn tips into anthrax. Google Leif Erikson.

Little know fact: Vikings didn't have helmet horns. Yes, it's true!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:56 PM on April 6, 2010


Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a news conference that any nonnuclear country that dared to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States would still "face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response."

Read between the lines. This is saying, our quarrel is almost never with an entire people, but their leaders. We can take you out if we want to -- if not killing you outright, then reducing your regime to shattered bits and sending you to a cave or a spider hole.

In other words, we don't need a nuke to kill YOU.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:57 PM on April 6, 2010


Indeed they did not. But any avid mefite should know this already.
posted by howfar at 2:02 PM on April 6, 2010


What can't this guy do?
posted by jpdoane at 2:05 PM on April 6, 2010


I saw this story on NYTimes. It was weird to see so many calls for Obama's impeachment. It seems pretty clear the Teabag Party is trolling the comments sections of sites around the Internet.

The Drudge Report linked to the article. You can see a similar effect when you look at like the comments section of some article in the Telegraph or another foreign newspaper that Drudge links to: the usual commenter base is drowned in a tsunami of eight hundred poorly-spelled and over-explanation-pointed posts from Americans about how much they hate Obama.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:09 PM on April 6, 2010


Thing is, and this is something that has bothered me since the Bushtastrophe and his unilateral disregard of the comprehensive test ban treaty, there is nothing to this that stops the US from going back to a "all options on the table" position. If I was head of state of a nation that had to deal with the US, I'd just nod and go back to developing my own nukes. The US is completely bipolar on the international stage these days and this is going to be one of the first things that gets repealed when the next Republican graces the Oval Office.

I mean, I like the gesture and am down with the direction it is going. Maybe I'm just too cynical because it just seems like so many words written in the sand.
posted by Fezboy! at 2:10 PM on April 6, 2010


exclamation-pointed
I may change my mind about this edit window business yet

posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:11 PM on April 6, 2010


Yeah I know but vikings without horns and pirates without peg legs just aren't funny.
posted by Babblesort at 2:16 PM on April 6, 2010


> "You're freaking kidding me, right? This, while [Vladimir] Putin is in Venezuela making nice with Hugo Chavez? This is our response? Screw [Jimmy] Carter, it's George McGovern time, now. We can't get this weakling out of the WH fast enough."

Sigh. These people think Invasion U.S.A. is a chilling vision of things to come.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:24 PM on April 6, 2010


This is great.
The important change in policy here is that we will not be using the nukes as umbrella cover for/against conventional forces by policy which means a less aggressive foreign policy stance.
Not just words. You change that apparatus (and he has the time) and that forces future policy decisions. In all likelihood towards a newer, but diminishing arsenal.(Reagan and Bush the Greater did reduce the arsenal quite a bit. But this looks like it’s got more potential. It’s quieter on the back end than START)
Anyway, the world is being ratcheted that little bit more away from nuclear doomsday.
I shall happy dance.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:30 PM on April 6, 2010


What was the old focus?

During the Bush era, we made the public claim that we could attack anyone, anywhere, with any weapon, if we even thought they might potentially be a threat someday. No proof of any kind was required, just the vague sense that they might someday be a problem. That explicit threat, combined with our 'Axis of Evil' claims, made an awful lot of countries feel nervous, and military expenditures started climbing all over the globe.

It's sure nice to see Obama do something I entirely agree with. Dialing up tension serves only the military-industrial complex. I wouldn't mind if he went even further, but this is a great step.

I'd like us to eventually get to, "we won't initiate force, period, unless we or our allies are attacked", but I think that's a long, long way off. It's hard to maintain an empire if you don't have a big stick to cow the little guys.

Don't, by the way, think of the Russians as 'friends', exactly.... they're more 'people who aren't likely to attack us anytime soon'. Ultimately, that's all we really need, a world full of people who won't attack us. Their opinions of us, and how they choose to live, are both irrelevant. Mutual dislike, even hatred, is fine, as long as neither side is shooting the other. Hate is something you can work with and change, but death is irrevocable.
posted by Malor at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the first time, the United States is explicitly committing not to use nuclear weapons except in "extreme circumstances"

Okay because before we were dropping nukes like they were going out of style?
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on April 6, 2010


The US is completely bipolar on the international stage these days and this is going to be one of the first things that gets repealed when the next Republican graces the Oval Office.

Hopefully, without a large, armed, belligerent country to point to as our enemy, it will be harder to convince people that increasing our nuclear arsenal is necessary. And over time and as the weapons are decommissioned (either by treaty agreement or old age,) their numbers will shrink.
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on April 6, 2010


Wait wait wait! -- Vikings with Anthrax?

That's just for starters. After they pass through, it's Huns with Iron Maiden, and then Mongols with Gwar.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:34 PM on April 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think what Obama really means to say here is: The U.S Army doesn't really have any serious alternative than to be wonderful.*

This does not represent the official position of the United States Army at this time.

I'm sure he's working up to it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:36 PM on April 6, 2010


Okay because before we were dropping nukes like they were going out of style?

Yes, delmoi. That's precisely what it means. Only in Sudan, though. Just don't tell the Sudanese. They're touchy about it.
posted by zarq at 2:42 PM on April 6, 2010


zarq:"After which, one of two things will happen:

They will turn Israel into a radioactive glassy parking lot.
or
Israel will turn them into a radioactive glassy parking lot. "


You forgot another possibility:

They will turn Israel into a radioactive glassy parking lot.
AND
Israel will turn them into a radioactive glassy parking lot.

and another possibility:
Nobody turns anyone into glass parking lots because Israel has some pretty sweet submarines that give them second-strike capability (and Iran can just hide missiles in the mountains for round two) which makes for mutually assured destruction. MAD forces everyone to act like grownups and stop the pissing contests.
posted by mullingitover at 2:45 PM on April 6, 2010


As is usual, Republicans are howling over policies that had previously been backed by Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush I to varying degrees, and significantly championed by one of their senior Senators. Which shows just how bad things have gotten in recent years if you make Nixon, Reagan, and Papa Bush look like doves.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:46 PM on April 6, 2010


Oh, and I'll agree that the most probable outcome of a nuclear Iran would be a cold war similar to what we have between India and Pakistan.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:48 PM on April 6, 2010


This isn't like file sharing. Only one nation was able to accomplish it in the 40s, using the most advanced technology at the time ... and it used a significant portion of our natural resources:

Make no mistake, the only reason we were able to pull this off were the two oceans between us and the enemy. We had a whole continent to waltz around on, without fear of our supply chain being seriously compromised. If that had not been there, we would have been in the same place as Russia, Germany and Japan -- where nuclear weapons were a theoretical possibility but not an actual one.


Well, in terms of monetary expenditure, the Manhattan Project cost around $2 billion dollars, which is less than the United States spent on the B-29 Superfortress.

Around 1941, the US government went to American scientists and basically asked: Do we need to study the atomic bomb? Is this going to come up during the war? And the American scientists concluded that yes, the Axis might conceivably come up with a nuclear weapon, and that the USA needed to make one as well.

At that same time, the German government asked the same question to the German scientists, who answered no -- this thing is going to be over by the time a nuclear weapon can be developed. And so Germany never seriously pursued an atomic weapon; funding was split between something like four projects, none of which made much progress.

Both were correct; the Soviets took Berlin before the first atomic bomb was ever tested.

Nuclear weapons are expensive, yes, but they're not so expensive that people won't make them. They are seen as a weapon against which there is no conventional counter, and so nuclear weapons tend to be developed by countries which are facing a threat which they cannot defeat conventionally. This is why the 2002 Nuclear Posture Report said things like:

"Defenses can make it more arduous and costly for an adversary to compete militarily with or wage war against the United States. The demonstration of a range of technologies and systems for missile defense can have a dissuasive effect on potential adversaries. The problem of countering missile defenses, especially defensive systems with multiple layers, presents a potential adversary with the prospect of a difficult, time-consuming and expensive undertaking.

If you use your nuclear weapons as a big stick (a la the 2002 report "dissuade adversaries"), you encourage the development of nuclear weapons. These defenses make it much more expensive/difficult/time consuming to mount a credible nuclear threat.
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:52 PM on April 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is good. Basically, it's saying that any surprise attack will not be treated as an existential threat. In other words, the US is strong enough to take some pretty nasty hits and still be an attacker's worst nightmare. This was true in 1941 and it's still true today. It was also true in 1993 when the NPR was started by President Clinton.

It's a major shift away from the Madman Strategy or nuclear retaliation for using bugs or gas (WMD equivalency.) The former was still present for a long time after Nixon. The latter was explicitly threatened by the Bush I administration prior to the first Gulf War / Desert Storm.

There is plenty of deterrence to the use of bugs and gas: the sheer bug-fuck crazy reaction that it provokes. For example, the anthrax attacks from Ft. Detrick became pretty much the no-return point for the invasion of Iraq. When the bad stuff gets uncorked, it's good night Irene.

Which is another way of saying that WMD may work for deterrence (in a really shitty way) but it doesn't work at all as a threat.
posted by warbaby at 2:56 PM on April 6, 2010


Clarification: “calculated ambiguity” = Madman Strategy
posted by warbaby at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2010


Hopefully, without a large, armed, belligerent country to point to as our enemy, it will be harder to convince people that increasing our nuclear arsenal is necessary

Given it only took 4 commercial airliners commandeered by fewer than two dozen representatives of a loose confederation of angry religious fanatics to springboard the previous administration's push for developing tactical, bunker-busting nukes you'll understand if I don't see much cause for your brand of optimism.
posted by Fezboy! at 3:26 PM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish the War Nerd were still writing: he'd have a field day with this cynical exercise in public relations.

At the moment USA is not faced with the sort of enemy against which a nuclear arsenal would be useful. There's no point in threatening anyone with it, any more than there's a point in threatening them with massed cavalry charges or excommunication. It's just not relevant. But the USA is retaining its stockpile of nuclear weapons because things may change and the USA might want to use them. And if it wants to use them then there's nothing stopping it -

In other words - previously, the USA would have only used nuclear weapons if it was tactically advantageous. Now it will only use nuclear weapons if it is tactically advantageous. And your President's distinction between nuclear- and non-nuclear armed enemies is either pointless, or a weak threat aimed at pre-nuclear enemies like Iran.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2010


"The announcement is not sitting well with right-wing bloggers."

I haven't looked yet, because I'm savoring the idea that this is making them absolutely bug-shit apoplectic hate-fucking furious into a realm of complete incoherence.


'Cause, you know, you wouldn't want to confuse yourself with real people's views. Like this perfectly calm and rational response in National Review which mostly thinks this is a "meh" story:
That Nuclear Posture Review: Not a Very Big Deal [Henry D. Sokolski]

From what the press is saying about the president’s soon-to-be-released five-year review of U.S. nuclear weapons requirements and policies (a.k.a. the Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR), a good deal is being made about very little. Today’s headlines are screaming that the president has decided that the U.S. will no longer threaten to use nuclear weapons against Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) states that are compliant with their NPT obligations and that themselves lack nuclear weapons. This sounds dramatic but essentially means we would not consider threatening to use nuclear weapons against states we never had any intention of ever targeting, such as Brazil. ... Bottom line: This new, “dramatic” nuclear-policy change hardly changes anything. ... [more]
posted by Jahaza at 5:30 PM on April 6, 2010


It's been said before but could do with repeating I guess, any shift in 'policy' when talking about something as massive as the United States government... has ramifications which are not in direct connection to the "policy" that gets changed. Like ripples.

Sometimes the only change (with a purportedly 'insignificant' change such as the one announced) being that government bureaucrats involved in the business end of this business realize that the citizens of the country are beginning to seriously examine the rationality of their posture and activity in the international community.

One Australians "cynical public relations exercise" maneuver is also a hopeful Americans stirring of a "shift towards some rational policies for reaching the future intact".

words in policies have meaning and weight. They imply things, they make things previously unstated, now written, and pronounced.

One thing about laws... they only work if they have been dutifully promulgated.
posted by infinite intimation at 7:42 PM on April 6, 2010


With flourish and fanfare, President Obama and President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia signed a nuclear arms control treaty on Thursday and opened what they hoped would be a new era in the tumultuous relationship between two former cold war adversaries.

...
While the treaty will mandate only modest reductions in the actual arsenals maintained by the two countries, it caps a turnaround in relations with Moscow that sunk to rock bottom in August 2008 during the war between Russia and its tiny southern neighbor, Georgia. When he arrived in office, Mr. Obama made restoring the relationship a priority, a goal that coincided with his vision expressed here a year ago of eventually ridding the world of nuclear weapons.
posted by zarq at 7:44 AM on April 8, 2010


Israeli PM Netanyahu pulls out of US nuclear summit
posted by homunculus at 5:14 PM on April 8, 2010


Daily Show: The Big Bang Treaty
posted by homunculus at 8:35 AM on April 9, 2010


Iran reacts to becoming a U.S. nuclear target
posted by homunculus at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2010


Russia and the US have agreed to dispose of tonnes of surplus weapons-grade plutonium under a deal signed at a nuclear summit in Washington.
posted by homunculus at 2:44 PM on April 13, 2010


Gates Worries about Iranian Nuclear Research, while Khamenei blasts US for Hiroshima
posted by homunculus at 5:03 PM on April 18, 2010


Obama Revives Rumsfeld’s Missile Scheme, Risks Nuke War
posted by homunculus at 3:39 PM on April 23, 2010


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