Commentary Magazine


Topic: chemical attack

Israel: 1991-2011

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein’s Scud rockets began to rain down on Tel Aviv. The specter of a chemical attack was Israel’s nightmare, because anthrax was a reality in Saddam’s Iraq. Thirty-nine missiles fell on Israel. On those cold nights, the Israelis wore gas masks, because Saddam had revived the idea in the Israeli unconscious that the Jews could be gassed again. The Israelis checked the shelters, sealing doors and windows, they stood in line for gas masks in the hallways of neighborhood elementary schools, and watched chemical-warfare defense videos. Food cans quickly disappeared from the supermarkets. “Drink a lot of water” was the army’s advice against the effects of a possible biochemical attack. Saddam’s Scuds damaged 4,393 buildings, 3,991 apartments, and 331 public institutions. This accounting does not include the incalculable costs of equipping every Israeli with a gas mask, of the need for every Israeli family to prepare sealed rooms, of the national disruption caused by multiple alerts, and of lost business and tourism.

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein threatened to “burn half of Israel.” Today Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to wipe out the “dead rats,” as he called the Israelis. Tehran is the biggest strategic threat to Israel’s existence, especially by the terror satellites of Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the new Israeli intelligence reports, Iran would now be able to launch 400 “lethal” missiles on Tel Aviv. Hezbollah could launch up to 600 rockets per day. From Teheran to Tel Aviv, an Iranian Shihab-3 rocket would take 12 minutes to hit the Jewish state. The Dan area of Tel Aviv, where live a quarter of the entire Israeli population, is the target of the next war, about which nobody knows if and when it will burst, but everyone knows that it will have emblazoned within it the eyes of the ayatollahs.

Israel is investing in its own survival. Both Tel Aviv and the port city of Haifa were severely hit by the rockets of 1991. But, for the first time since the birth of Israel, tomorrow these cities could be reached by devastating bombs. The power of death in the region has risen dramatically. It has been estimated that four years ago, Syria had 300 missiles that could reach Tel Aviv, a dozen for Hezbollah, 50 for Iran, and nothing for Hamas. Two years later, Syria had 1,300, Hezbollah 800, Hamas a dozen, and Iran 300. Today it’s 2,300 for Syria, 1,200 for Hezbollah, 400 for Teheran, and a good arsenal of Fajr-5 for Hamas. Jerusalem could be hit with a precision that would leave intact the Al-Aqsa Mosque. So Tel Aviv today is not extending only to the sky with its beautiful skyscrapers but also sinks into the ground because it’s a new target for Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Read More

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein’s Scud rockets began to rain down on Tel Aviv. The specter of a chemical attack was Israel’s nightmare, because anthrax was a reality in Saddam’s Iraq. Thirty-nine missiles fell on Israel. On those cold nights, the Israelis wore gas masks, because Saddam had revived the idea in the Israeli unconscious that the Jews could be gassed again. The Israelis checked the shelters, sealing doors and windows, they stood in line for gas masks in the hallways of neighborhood elementary schools, and watched chemical-warfare defense videos. Food cans quickly disappeared from the supermarkets. “Drink a lot of water” was the army’s advice against the effects of a possible biochemical attack. Saddam’s Scuds damaged 4,393 buildings, 3,991 apartments, and 331 public institutions. This accounting does not include the incalculable costs of equipping every Israeli with a gas mask, of the need for every Israeli family to prepare sealed rooms, of the national disruption caused by multiple alerts, and of lost business and tourism.

Twenty years ago, Saddam Hussein threatened to “burn half of Israel.” Today Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to wipe out the “dead rats,” as he called the Israelis. Tehran is the biggest strategic threat to Israel’s existence, especially by the terror satellites of Hezbollah and Hamas. According to the new Israeli intelligence reports, Iran would now be able to launch 400 “lethal” missiles on Tel Aviv. Hezbollah could launch up to 600 rockets per day. From Teheran to Tel Aviv, an Iranian Shihab-3 rocket would take 12 minutes to hit the Jewish state. The Dan area of Tel Aviv, where live a quarter of the entire Israeli population, is the target of the next war, about which nobody knows if and when it will burst, but everyone knows that it will have emblazoned within it the eyes of the ayatollahs.

Israel is investing in its own survival. Both Tel Aviv and the port city of Haifa were severely hit by the rockets of 1991. But, for the first time since the birth of Israel, tomorrow these cities could be reached by devastating bombs. The power of death in the region has risen dramatically. It has been estimated that four years ago, Syria had 300 missiles that could reach Tel Aviv, a dozen for Hezbollah, 50 for Iran, and nothing for Hamas. Two years later, Syria had 1,300, Hezbollah 800, Hamas a dozen, and Iran 300. Today it’s 2,300 for Syria, 1,200 for Hezbollah, 400 for Teheran, and a good arsenal of Fajr-5 for Hamas. Jerusalem could be hit with a precision that would leave intact the Al-Aqsa Mosque. So Tel Aviv today is not extending only to the sky with its beautiful skyscrapers but also sinks into the ground because it’s a new target for Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas.

The Habima Theater, for example, will have four underground floors, with entrances on each side. Jerusalem should see the opening of the largest nuclear bunker across the country: 80 feet underground to accommodate 5,000 people. Haifa, the third-largest city in Israel, is building “the largest underground hospital in the world.” And the state is continuing the distribution of gas masks. These first appeared in 1991, when Benjamin Netanyahu, then the Israeli deputy foreign minister, appeared on CNN with a mask. Today thousands of private Israeli homes have been equipped with nuclear-proof shelters ranging from air filters to water-decontamination systems.

Drills have become a routine all over the country. Hospitals and emergency facilities have to be ready in case of necessity, and the municipalities have evacuation protocols. A postcard of the Home Front Command, delivered to Israeli citizens, divide the country into six regions, from the Negev to the Golan. Each region has different times of reaction in case of attack. If you live along the Gaza Strip, you have 20 seconds to shelter. In Jerusalem, it’s three minutes. But if you live close to Lebanon or Syria, the color red means that, unless you are already in a bunker, you just have to wait for the rocket. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is building a labyrinth of underground tunnels and rooms where the Jewish leadership would guide the country in case of attacks.

Twenty years after the first Gulf War, Israel remains the only “bunkered” democracy in the world and is now even more relentlessly demonized and ghettoized. But if in 1991 Israel responded with understatement and quiet civil courage, it will probably react differently to Iran’s nuclearization. Because, as Joe McCain wrote few years ago, “the Jews will not go quietly again.”

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Mean and Ignorant!

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

Fresh from a column on how mean GOP women are, Maureen Dowd today writes about how ignorant they are. She reviews the well-known list of gaffes — but only those of Republican women. Apparently Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Blanche Lincoln, and the rest are scholars one and all. But then Dowd writes something odd, even for her:

On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you.

OK, now that’s dumb. American exceptionalism — the idea that America is endowed with great assets and plays a unique role in the world — has absolutely nothing to do with whether it’s a good idea to have a Harvard grad or a University of Idaho grad in the Oval Office. The desire to dump elites in no way diminishes one’s faith in American exceptionalism. To the contrary, it is the elites who have learned to disdain the projection of American power and values. So, yes, you can in fact favor candidates without elite baggage and believe in the unique role of America in the world.

Of course, Christine O’Donnell is now the useful model for portraying all conservative women as dopes. But what will Dowd and her ilk do when O’Donnell loses? Sarah Palin, the queen bee they fear and resent the most, has been on a roll. She understood that ObamaCare meant rationing; that renunciation of first-strike nuclear power against a biological or chemical attack was daft; that Keynesian economics was bunk; and that animus toward Israel and indifference to our allies more generally was dangerous. What’s ignorant about all that?

I’m not going to defend the gaffes by conservative candidates, male or female, or make the argument that they don’t matter when running for office. They do, especially when these candidates have already been tagged by the mainstream press (whose own brilliance was so stunning that they were certain the surge would fail and that Obama was a political genius) as intellectually deficient, as Palin has. But the ideas that they embrace are not the product of ignorance. They are rooted in time-tested principles of free market economics, limited government, and, yes, American exceptionalism.

At least conservative women have not made the meta-errors of the type that imperil Obama and his Democrats (not to mention our country). So better, then, for Dowd to keep the arguments trivial, personal, and mean. Otherwise, the Gray Lady’s venom-spitting columnist might have to engage in some real policy critiques. And who thinks Dowd is remotely up to that?

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Gray Lady Foreign Policy PR Effort Falls Short

The New York Times’s Peter Baker reports — with plenty of fawning quotes from foreign policy establishment types — that there is an Obama Doctrine emerging. He explains it this way:

If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that Baker never describes the purpose of Obama’s ditching of human rights or the values that underlie his focus on the “traditional great powers” (which presumably does not include the Brits, whom we’ve continually insulted). He describes what Obama is doing but is curiously silent about Obama’s vision of the world and America’s role in it. This isn’t Baker’s fault, of course; Obama has yet to articulate a coherent outlook and has alternated between contempt for American “triumphalism” and a more traditional defense of American power and values (at Oslo, for example). Baker does correctly perceive that human rights and democracy have been shoved under the bus (although “second-tier” is overly generous considering the Obami’s track record on these issues).

But is it “realpolitik” to ignore or pick fights with allies? To imagine that paper agreements will induce despots to give up their nukes? To sign a START treaty that hasn’t a ghost of a chance of ratification and to disclaim use of nuclear retaliation in the case of a biological or chemical attack? To pare down our own defense budget and cut spending on missile defense? All this seems to be out of the Left’s 1970′s playbook rather than the stuff of hard-headed realism, given the conduct and nature of the regimes we face. And for realpolitik players, they seem to lack the ability to size up their opponents and discern that unilateral gestures are a hindrance rather than a help (e.g. Syria).

At times the sympathetic foreign policy gurus from whom Baker solicits input have difficulty trying to come up with compliments. Richard Haass (who now favors regime change in Iran, something Obama clearly does not) manages this on Obama’s efforts to date: “These are not transformational developments … but in foreign policy it’s important to keep the ball moving down the field in the right direction, and that’s what’s happening.” On Iran? On the Middle East?

The Obama foreign policy is a hodge-podge of bad ideas (multilateralism, American un-exceptionalism, disdain for human rights) incompetently executed. It is, moreover, one that refuses to confront in a serious way the greatest challenge we face — a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state that is replacing the U.S.-Israel alliance as the dominant player in the Middle East. No matter how hard the Gray Lady tries, one is hard pressed to find a coherent, effective, and principled foreign policy coming out of this administration.

The New York Times’s Peter Baker reports — with plenty of fawning quotes from foreign policy establishment types — that there is an Obama Doctrine emerging. He explains it this way:

If there is an Obama doctrine emerging, it is one much more realpolitik than his predecessor’s, focused on relations with traditional great powers and relegating issues like human rights and democracy to second-tier concerns. He has generated much more good will around the world after years of tension with Mr. Bush, and yet he does not seem to have strong personal friendships with many world leaders.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that Baker never describes the purpose of Obama’s ditching of human rights or the values that underlie his focus on the “traditional great powers” (which presumably does not include the Brits, whom we’ve continually insulted). He describes what Obama is doing but is curiously silent about Obama’s vision of the world and America’s role in it. This isn’t Baker’s fault, of course; Obama has yet to articulate a coherent outlook and has alternated between contempt for American “triumphalism” and a more traditional defense of American power and values (at Oslo, for example). Baker does correctly perceive that human rights and democracy have been shoved under the bus (although “second-tier” is overly generous considering the Obami’s track record on these issues).

But is it “realpolitik” to ignore or pick fights with allies? To imagine that paper agreements will induce despots to give up their nukes? To sign a START treaty that hasn’t a ghost of a chance of ratification and to disclaim use of nuclear retaliation in the case of a biological or chemical attack? To pare down our own defense budget and cut spending on missile defense? All this seems to be out of the Left’s 1970′s playbook rather than the stuff of hard-headed realism, given the conduct and nature of the regimes we face. And for realpolitik players, they seem to lack the ability to size up their opponents and discern that unilateral gestures are a hindrance rather than a help (e.g. Syria).

At times the sympathetic foreign policy gurus from whom Baker solicits input have difficulty trying to come up with compliments. Richard Haass (who now favors regime change in Iran, something Obama clearly does not) manages this on Obama’s efforts to date: “These are not transformational developments … but in foreign policy it’s important to keep the ball moving down the field in the right direction, and that’s what’s happening.” On Iran? On the Middle East?

The Obama foreign policy is a hodge-podge of bad ideas (multilateralism, American un-exceptionalism, disdain for human rights) incompetently executed. It is, moreover, one that refuses to confront in a serious way the greatest challenge we face — a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state that is replacing the U.S.-Israel alliance as the dominant player in the Middle East. No matter how hard the Gray Lady tries, one is hard pressed to find a coherent, effective, and principled foreign policy coming out of this administration.

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Obama’s Perfect Record of Foreign Policy Failure

Obama has a knack for devising national security policies that do the opposite of what he intends — or at least tells us he intends. He engaged the Iranians to pierce through all that “mistrust”; they have come to view him with contempt. He avoided support for the Green Movement to prevent accusations of “foreign meddling”; the protesters hold up signs pleading with the U.S. not to legitimize the regime. He bashes Israel to ingratiate himself with the Palestinians; they resort to rock throwing and dig in their heels, awaiting the next round of concessions to be delivered to their doorstep. He announces the return of our ambassador to Syria; Bashar al-Assad cozies up to Iran and refuses any cooperation on human rights, Hezbollah support, or the Middle East “peace process.” Obama has a perfect record: our national interests are always undermined.

And now he declares a “no nuclear retaliation” stance against any Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signatory that might hit us with chemical or biological weapons. As Charles Krauthammer points out:

Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the United States without fear of nuclear retaliation?

The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes.

The result? Certainly, it won’t be to deter North Korea or Iran from pursuing their own nuclear plans, which in turn will encourage others to do the same. Instead, as Krauthammer sums up, the more likely consequence of all this is: “Fend for yourself. Get yourself your own WMDs. Go nuclear if you have to. Do you imagine they are not thinking that in the Persian Gulf?” And we certainly must expect that Israel has gotten the “fend for yourself” part loud and clear. His nonproliferation will proliferate nuclear weapons, just as his Middle East “peace effort” foments violence and heightened tension.

So why is it that Obama is so often unproductive in his foreign policy forays? After all, with George W. Bush out of the way, Obama’s arrival was supposed to herald a new era of international cooperation. Alas, the kumbaya moment is fast becoming a dangerous food fight. Well, it turns out there aren’t “shared values” between the U.S. and its foes. It turns out that Obama’s personal charm is lost on despots. It turns out that American military force and the threat of it are the best guarantors of international peace and security. It turns out that downplaying human rights encourages thuggish behavior. It turns out that turning on our allies does not impress our enemies. In sum, nearly everything Obama believes about foreign policy is wrong and has been disproved by history and the current behavior of our adversaries. So until his vision aligns with reality, expect Obama’s “perfect” track record to continue.

Obama has a knack for devising national security policies that do the opposite of what he intends — or at least tells us he intends. He engaged the Iranians to pierce through all that “mistrust”; they have come to view him with contempt. He avoided support for the Green Movement to prevent accusations of “foreign meddling”; the protesters hold up signs pleading with the U.S. not to legitimize the regime. He bashes Israel to ingratiate himself with the Palestinians; they resort to rock throwing and dig in their heels, awaiting the next round of concessions to be delivered to their doorstep. He announces the return of our ambassador to Syria; Bashar al-Assad cozies up to Iran and refuses any cooperation on human rights, Hezbollah support, or the Middle East “peace process.” Obama has a perfect record: our national interests are always undermined.

And now he declares a “no nuclear retaliation” stance against any Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signatory that might hit us with chemical or biological weapons. As Charles Krauthammer points out:

Apart from being morally bizarre, the Obama policy is strategically loopy. Does anyone believe that North Korea or Iran will be more persuaded to abjure nuclear weapons because they could then carry out a biological or chemical attack on the United States without fear of nuclear retaliation?

The naivete is stunning. Similarly the Obama pledge to forswear development of any new nuclear warheads, indeed, to permit no replacement of aging nuclear components without the authorization of the president himself. This under the theory that our moral example will move other countries to eschew nukes.

The result? Certainly, it won’t be to deter North Korea or Iran from pursuing their own nuclear plans, which in turn will encourage others to do the same. Instead, as Krauthammer sums up, the more likely consequence of all this is: “Fend for yourself. Get yourself your own WMDs. Go nuclear if you have to. Do you imagine they are not thinking that in the Persian Gulf?” And we certainly must expect that Israel has gotten the “fend for yourself” part loud and clear. His nonproliferation will proliferate nuclear weapons, just as his Middle East “peace effort” foments violence and heightened tension.

So why is it that Obama is so often unproductive in his foreign policy forays? After all, with George W. Bush out of the way, Obama’s arrival was supposed to herald a new era of international cooperation. Alas, the kumbaya moment is fast becoming a dangerous food fight. Well, it turns out there aren’t “shared values” between the U.S. and its foes. It turns out that Obama’s personal charm is lost on despots. It turns out that American military force and the threat of it are the best guarantors of international peace and security. It turns out that downplaying human rights encourages thuggish behavior. It turns out that turning on our allies does not impress our enemies. In sum, nearly everything Obama believes about foreign policy is wrong and has been disproved by history and the current behavior of our adversaries. So until his vision aligns with reality, expect Obama’s “perfect” track record to continue.

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RE: Obama’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Fantasy

Hillary Clinton declared of the new START treaty, “The treaty also shows the world — particularly states like Iran and North Korea — that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands.” Sigh. One hopes they really don’t believe this gibberish — that small reductions in the stockpiles of two nuclear powers have any impact on the mullahs’ determination to get their hands on just one bomb. But, alas, they seem to be sincere, and that’s the danger.

Turning to the other nuclear news of the week, John Noonan contends that the Nuclear Posture Review could have been a lot worse. Thanks to Defense Secretary Gates:

It preserved both the structure and readiness of America’s nuclear force, as the missile-bomber-submarine triad will remain intact, and there will be no “de-alerting” of ICBMs. Additionally, the NPR acknowledged that rapidly developing security scenarios may require a nuclear first strike. First strike, alerted ICBMs, and a three-system nuclear triad were all key bugaboos that the go-to-zero egalitarians wanted gone. Gates left them disappointed.

No doubt to their eternal annoyance, the secretary took the NPR a step further. He acknowledged that missile defense will play a critical role in America’s security future. He called for follow-ons to the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (which has been on alert since the Nixon administration). Gates also clearly dictated the need for significant life extension to the current inventory of nuclear weapons, a proposal that prompted nose turning from the Obama White House.

But it also — because this is the sort of thing Obama cannot be dissuaded from doing — included the goofy renunciation of nuclear weapons that allows us to use nuclear weapons only to defend ourselves against a biological or chemical attack against a country that is not in compliance with the NPT. (Imagine the inane conversation after such a strike — “Hmm, is Syria in compliance? Does Hezbollah count, as it’s not a country at all?”) On one level, it’s nonsense because in all likelihood, NPT signatories aren’t going to attack us, and if they did — and a million Americans were dead — no president is going to take any option off the table. But on another level, like Clinton’s inanity on START, it projects foolishness and removes strategic ambiguity that is useful in deterring all manner of rogue states. As Noonan comments:

The problem is the fact that Obama has tampered with a simple, effective nuclear policy that keeps the bad guys in check. That is, use a WMD of any sort on the U.S. or her allies and the response will be apocalyptic in its devastation. That doesn’t necessarily have to be true, it just has be to perceived as true by potential adversaries. Deterrence is predicated on fear of force, not force itself. It’s classic Sun Tzu — “to subdue your enemies without fighting is supreme excellence.”

Taking military force off the table with Iran, hoping the START treaty impresses the mullahs, and forswearing a nuclear response to defend the country — these are unserious and unhelpful gestures that are recognized by our enemies as evidence of a feckless administration reluctant to use force or even the threat of force. We are less safe because of it.

Hillary Clinton declared of the new START treaty, “The treaty also shows the world — particularly states like Iran and North Korea — that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands.” Sigh. One hopes they really don’t believe this gibberish — that small reductions in the stockpiles of two nuclear powers have any impact on the mullahs’ determination to get their hands on just one bomb. But, alas, they seem to be sincere, and that’s the danger.

Turning to the other nuclear news of the week, John Noonan contends that the Nuclear Posture Review could have been a lot worse. Thanks to Defense Secretary Gates:

It preserved both the structure and readiness of America’s nuclear force, as the missile-bomber-submarine triad will remain intact, and there will be no “de-alerting” of ICBMs. Additionally, the NPR acknowledged that rapidly developing security scenarios may require a nuclear first strike. First strike, alerted ICBMs, and a three-system nuclear triad were all key bugaboos that the go-to-zero egalitarians wanted gone. Gates left them disappointed.

No doubt to their eternal annoyance, the secretary took the NPR a step further. He acknowledged that missile defense will play a critical role in America’s security future. He called for follow-ons to the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine and the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (which has been on alert since the Nixon administration). Gates also clearly dictated the need for significant life extension to the current inventory of nuclear weapons, a proposal that prompted nose turning from the Obama White House.

But it also — because this is the sort of thing Obama cannot be dissuaded from doing — included the goofy renunciation of nuclear weapons that allows us to use nuclear weapons only to defend ourselves against a biological or chemical attack against a country that is not in compliance with the NPT. (Imagine the inane conversation after such a strike — “Hmm, is Syria in compliance? Does Hezbollah count, as it’s not a country at all?”) On one level, it’s nonsense because in all likelihood, NPT signatories aren’t going to attack us, and if they did — and a million Americans were dead — no president is going to take any option off the table. But on another level, like Clinton’s inanity on START, it projects foolishness and removes strategic ambiguity that is useful in deterring all manner of rogue states. As Noonan comments:

The problem is the fact that Obama has tampered with a simple, effective nuclear policy that keeps the bad guys in check. That is, use a WMD of any sort on the U.S. or her allies and the response will be apocalyptic in its devastation. That doesn’t necessarily have to be true, it just has be to perceived as true by potential adversaries. Deterrence is predicated on fear of force, not force itself. It’s classic Sun Tzu — “to subdue your enemies without fighting is supreme excellence.”

Taking military force off the table with Iran, hoping the START treaty impresses the mullahs, and forswearing a nuclear response to defend the country — these are unserious and unhelpful gestures that are recognized by our enemies as evidence of a feckless administration reluctant to use force or even the threat of force. We are less safe because of it.

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Obama’s Empty Nuclear Posturing

I find it hard to get excited about the Nuclear Posture Review released today by the Obama administration, in part because the relationship between “declaratory” nuclear policy and actual nuclear policy has always been tenuous at best. During the Cold War, the U.S. always reserved the right of first use of nuclear weapons, meaning that it if the Red Army rolled into Europe, we would supposedly nuke Moscow. What would have happened in an actual World War III is hard to know, but there is good reason to doubt that any U.S. president would have been the first to order nuclear escalation, whether the Russian hordes were crossing the Fulda Gap or not.

Likewise, today, for all the speculation going on about whether the U.S. will extend its nuclear umbrella to Iran’s neighbors in case the Islamic Republic acquires nuclear weapons, there is good cause to doubt whether the U.S. (especially under the leadership of Nobel Laureate Barack Obama!) would really be prepared to incinerate Tehran in the event of Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia or even Israel.

Thus, I don’t attach much significance to the Obama administration’s narrowing the categories under which the U.S. would supposedly use nuclear weapons. As the Washington Post account notes:

Under the new policy, the administration will foreswear the use of the deadly weapons against nonnuclear countries, officials said, in contrast to previous administrations, which indicated they might use nuclear arms against nonnuclear states in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack.

But Obama included a major caveat: The countries must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under international treaties. That loophole would mean Iran would remain on the potential target list.

I suppose the administration gets credit for resisting liberal pressure to foreswear any first use of nukes, but, to my mind, any such policy, whether it remains on the books or not, is not terribly credible. It’s fine to keep a small nugget of deterrence alive by not formally burying it, but it’s hard to imagine the U.S. ever using nukes unless it had first been attacked with WMD – meaning nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The Obama review says that countries that employ only biological or chemical weapons won’t be nuked unless they’re out of compliance with nuclear nonproliferation treaties. Actually, the administration is leaving even more wiggle room than that. According to the New York Times:

White House officials said the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.

In short, the Obama policy isn’t that big of a change from the policy it inherited. It is, as the Washington Post has it, a “middle course.”

To my mind, the real test of our nonproliferation policy isn’t how we claim we will respond to hypothetical scenarios but rather what we do about actual current dangers. In regard to Iran – the world’s No. 1 proliferation threat – the auguries aren’t propitious, with the Financial Times reporting that a new round of sanctions won’t be on the UN Security Council agenda in April. Thus, Obama’s threats to hit Iran with tough sanctions if his entreaties to talk were rejected are increasingly being exposed as hollow. That kind of wishy-washiness is something that Iran and other rogue regimes understand. By comparison, the theoretical language contained in the Nuclear Posture Review seems more like, well, academic posturing.

I find it hard to get excited about the Nuclear Posture Review released today by the Obama administration, in part because the relationship between “declaratory” nuclear policy and actual nuclear policy has always been tenuous at best. During the Cold War, the U.S. always reserved the right of first use of nuclear weapons, meaning that it if the Red Army rolled into Europe, we would supposedly nuke Moscow. What would have happened in an actual World War III is hard to know, but there is good reason to doubt that any U.S. president would have been the first to order nuclear escalation, whether the Russian hordes were crossing the Fulda Gap or not.

Likewise, today, for all the speculation going on about whether the U.S. will extend its nuclear umbrella to Iran’s neighbors in case the Islamic Republic acquires nuclear weapons, there is good cause to doubt whether the U.S. (especially under the leadership of Nobel Laureate Barack Obama!) would really be prepared to incinerate Tehran in the event of Iranian aggression against Saudi Arabia or even Israel.

Thus, I don’t attach much significance to the Obama administration’s narrowing the categories under which the U.S. would supposedly use nuclear weapons. As the Washington Post account notes:

Under the new policy, the administration will foreswear the use of the deadly weapons against nonnuclear countries, officials said, in contrast to previous administrations, which indicated they might use nuclear arms against nonnuclear states in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack.

But Obama included a major caveat: The countries must be in compliance with their nonproliferation obligations under international treaties. That loophole would mean Iran would remain on the potential target list.

I suppose the administration gets credit for resisting liberal pressure to foreswear any first use of nukes, but, to my mind, any such policy, whether it remains on the books or not, is not terribly credible. It’s fine to keep a small nugget of deterrence alive by not formally burying it, but it’s hard to imagine the U.S. ever using nukes unless it had first been attacked with WMD – meaning nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. The Obama review says that countries that employ only biological or chemical weapons won’t be nuked unless they’re out of compliance with nuclear nonproliferation treaties. Actually, the administration is leaving even more wiggle room than that. According to the New York Times:

White House officials said the new strategy would include the option of reconsidering the use of nuclear retaliation against a biological attack, if the development of such weapons reached a level that made the United States vulnerable to a devastating strike.

In short, the Obama policy isn’t that big of a change from the policy it inherited. It is, as the Washington Post has it, a “middle course.”

To my mind, the real test of our nonproliferation policy isn’t how we claim we will respond to hypothetical scenarios but rather what we do about actual current dangers. In regard to Iran – the world’s No. 1 proliferation threat – the auguries aren’t propitious, with the Financial Times reporting that a new round of sanctions won’t be on the UN Security Council agenda in April. Thus, Obama’s threats to hit Iran with tough sanctions if his entreaties to talk were rejected are increasingly being exposed as hollow. That kind of wishy-washiness is something that Iran and other rogue regimes understand. By comparison, the theoretical language contained in the Nuclear Posture Review seems more like, well, academic posturing.

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Hillary and Obama Go Nuclear

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, two doves posing as hawks, are fighting a phony war. Who is winning?

Obama, on the defensive on account of his muddled idea last week of meeting foreign dictators without preconditions, precipitated the latest skirmish by calling for the possible use of U.S. troops to clean out terrorist enclaves in Waziristan. But then, in response to a question, he ruled out use of the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal.

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Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, two doves posing as hawks, are fighting a phony war. Who is winning?

Obama, on the defensive on account of his muddled idea last week of meeting foreign dictators without preconditions, precipitated the latest skirmish by calling for the possible use of U.S. troops to clean out terrorist enclaves in Waziristan. But then, in response to a question, he ruled out use of the most powerful weapon in the American arsenal.

Here are his exact words, courtesy of the New York Times:

“I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,” he said, pausing before he added, “involving civilians.”

But then he quickly said: “Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”

Later in an interview on Capitol Hill, Mr. Obama, of Illinois, sought to clarify the remark about nuclear weapons, saying he was asked whether he would “use nuclear weapons to pursue al Qaeda.”

“I said no one is talking about nuclear weapons,” Mr. Obama said. “I found it was a little bit of an off-the-wall question.”

Hillary Clinton, hawk talons extended, immediately pounced, saying “I think that Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. Presidents, since the cold war, have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don’t believe that any President should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.”

Hillary has won this round so far, on both style and substance. Even if there are no plausible scenarios in which nuclear weapons might be used in Pakistan, American policy should remain ambiguous, as it has been since the dawn of the nuclear era.

Not that there haven’t been injurious exceptions. Ironically, some of the most serious ones come from the Clinton camp, and from Bill Clinton himself.

Appearing on Meet the Press in 1994, Clinton’s second Secretary of Defense, William Perry, said that he could not “envision any circumstances in which the use of nuclear weapons would be a reasonable or prudent military action” in a Korean conflict.

This was a damaging departure from longstanding U.S. policy. The United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty with South Korea in 1953, and it has long been interpreted to include “continuation of the extended deterrence offered by the U.S. nuclear umbrella.”

If Perry’s statement did not embolden North Korea, by in effect folding up the nuclear umbrella, it almost certainly caused considerable anxiety in South Korea. And the harm here is clear, for what is vitally important but little understood is that the stated American willingness to use nuclear weapons in defense of our allies is the lynchpin of our nuclear non-proliferation policy.

Countries that rely on America for protection—like South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, to take the critical Asian ones—have less reason to develop nuclear weapons of their own in direct proportion to their confidence that the U.S. will honor its promises to go to the max in their defense.

Also of relevance in understanding the Hillary-Obama phony war, because Hillary Clinton’s chief foreign-policy adviser is her husband, and because most of what she knows about foreign policy she learned during his two terms in office, is Bill Clinton’s own misformulated forays into nuclear doctrine.

Appearing on the Charlie Rose Show in June 2004, Clinton scored the Bush administration for alleged revisions in the American nuclear posture: “We have never said we would use nuclear weapons first; now we’re out there trying to develop small-scale nuclear weapons for battlefield use. . . . It’s a very troubling development to me.”

The only truly troubling development here is the ignorance displayed by a former President of the United States. Ever since the formation of the NATO Alliance, the United States has indeed stated its willingness to use nuclear weapons first in defense of our allies.

The policy of the Clinton administration itself was to threaten to use nuclear weapons first in retaliation for a biological or chemical attack (as well as a nuclear one) on our allies. Here is the congressional testimony of Walter Slocombe, Clinton’s Under Secretary of Defense, in 2000: “we have made clear that any use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States or our forces or our allies would meet with a prompt and overwhelming response from which no weapon in the American military arsenal would be excluded.” John Deutch, in 1994 serving as a Deputy Secretary of Defense, put it more simply in the Clinton administration’s much discussed Nuclear Posture Review: “We have not adopted a no-first-use pledge.”

Also contrary to Bill Clinton, the United States has had “small-scale nuclear weapons for battlefield use” beginning in the 1950’s and they became a major part of our arsenal by the 1960’s. Like previous annual Pentagon reports on the American defense posture, the one that appeared in Clinton’s final year in office stated unequivocally that “the United States must maintain survivable strategic forces of sufficient size and diversity–as well as . . . theater nuclear weapons . . . to deter potentially hostile foreign leaders with access to weapons of mass destruction.

Although one cannot hang Hillary for the sins of Bill, this little history is worth recalling as we watch the continuing phony war between the two neo-tough Democratic contenders.

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