Commentary Magazine


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Will Reality Intrude into the Nuclear Nonproliferation Summit?

It’s not clear whether the Obama administration is practicing misdirection on a grand scale or is genuinely confused about which nuclear threats are real and which are not. But what is clear is that we’re not dealing with the real ones. Paul Wolfowitz explains:

Unfortunately, President Obama’s talk about a world free of nuclear weapons seems to have little connection to the passive U.S. responses to North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear activities.

There is certainly room for additional reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons, but it is unlikely to have any effect on those countries. Indeed, if the new treaty constrains U.S. missile defense efforts, it could be counterproductive. Although President Reagan wanted to eliminate nuclear weapons—believing it dangerous to rely indefinitely on a balance of nuclear terror—when Mikhail Gorbachev offered to eliminate ballistic missiles in exchange for eliminating missile defenses, Reagan refused the deal.

We should be focusing on, as Wolfowitz notes, developing our own missile defense and coming up with a backup plan when sanctions fail to thwart the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions. But there is little sign Obama is interested in either. Does he really imagine that a START deal or Ukraine’s offer to give up its stockpile of enriched uranium will induce the mullahs or the North Koreans to throw in the towel on their own plans? If so, the naiveté is stunning. Or perhaps this simply fills the time while we’re not doing anything about the Iranian menace. That’s a more cynical but equally naive approach, for it imagines there will never be a moment of reckoning when Iran goes nuclear, followed by a Middle East nuclear arms race and a legacy for Obama as “the president who let the mullahs get the bomb.”

We keep waiting for the voice of sanity to be heard — an “emperor has no clothes” moment when the charade of nuclear nonproliferation summitry is disturbed and the West is forced to confront in a serious manner the actual threat not only to Israel and the Middle East but to the entire civilized world. It hasn’t happened yet. And time is running out.