14:58 GMT26 October 2020
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    'Common decency' should compel President Barack Obama to return his Nobel Peace Prize over his failed nuclear policy, says Barry M. Blechman, the co-founder of the Stimson Center, a Washington-based non-profit focused on issues of global peace and security.

    In an op-ed response for The National Interest, Blechman suggested that Obama had claimed "undue credit for progress toward eliminating nuclear dangers" in his recent piece on his nuclear policy for The Washington Post.

    "In fact," Blechman argued, "in nearly eight years, his administrations have taken only a few small steps toward limiting these risks, while launching a nuclear weapons modernization program of unprecedented scope and expense."

    "The president's 2009 speech in Prague committing the United States to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons excited us all – and garnered him the Nobel Peace Prize. Alas, the president neglected to figure out how this lofty goal was to be achieved," the commentator noted.

    For fairness sake, Blechman noted, Obama might be credited with the New START agreement with Russia signed in 2010, "which demand[ed] slightly lower caps on American and Russian deployed, long-range weapons." Unfortunately, he added, that 'bureaucratic' approach, "omit[ed] other classes of nuclear weapons, and [did] nothing about nuclear arsenals in other nations."

    "A second opportunity was missed in September 2009, when the president convened the UN Security Council and persuaded the presidents of each member state to attend. The UNSC passed a resolution committing all members to the US goal, 'the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,' but again, without any tangible follow-up," with the president "settl[ing] for fine words and no concrete actions."

    Additional missed opportunities, Blechman wrote, include the 2010 US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and the implementation study that followed it. 

    A deactivated Titan II nuclear ICMB
    "In his op-ed, the president says that he reduced the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy. The NPR did that, but it did not reduce those roles nearly as far as many have suggested – to the single purpose of deterring the use of nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies." Moreover, "US nuclear policy still permits first use of nuclear weapons in certain circumstances."

    "Nor did the implementation study call for changes in so-called 'requirements' for prompt response, a key factor determining how many weapons must be kept on alert and therefore how many must be kept in the arsenal. Nor did it reduce the number of warheads kept in reserve. These reductions are all sensible unilateral measures that would have no effect on our ability to deter an enemy attack, but would have reduced the size and cost of the now blossoming modernization program."

    Another opportunity was lost in 2010, Blechman noted, namely, "when many members of NATO were calling for the removal of the 180 US nuclear bombs still kept in Europe."

    "Some of these weapons are stored at the Kleine Brogel air field in Belgium, a facility that was repeatedly broken into by protesters in 2008, as was its Dutch counterpart. Other US tactical nukes are located at the Incirlik air base in Turkey, less than seventy miles from the Syrian border…a base which the dependents of US airmen and women have just been ordered to evacuate."

    Unfortunately, the analyst noted, "instead of supporting calls for nuclear withdrawals, the US delegation sided with NATO nuclear hawks."

    Admittedly, Blechman emphasized, the 2015 Iran nuclear deal "was a huge accomplishment for the president and his administration." However, the other missed opportunities, together with the massive nuclear modernization program now underway, weigh very heavily against these gains, achieved, incidentally, with the help of Russia and other global partners.

    Perhaps most importantly, the commentator suggested, "under his watch, President Obama has authorized programs to replace all US strategic submarines and the missiles they carry, to build a new penetrating bomber and a long-range nuclear-armed cruise missile with which it will be armed, and to replace existing Minutemen ICBMs with a new land-based missile one which in principle could be deployed on some sort of mobile platform."

    "In addition, he is modernizing existing bombs to be used by fighters and long-range bombers, as well as warheads for submarine-launched missiles. Finally, he has authorized rebuilding the nuclear infrastructure – the facilities that produce and maintain the materials and components used in nuclear weapons. If fully implemented, this program will dwarf President Reagan's nuclear build-up."

    Ultimately, challenging the rhetoric President Obama put forth in his Washington Post op-ed, Blechman closed out strong: "No, Mr. President, your nuclear record has not been impressive. Decency demands you return your Nobel Peace Prize."

    Nuclear policy is not the first area where Obama, who campaigned in the 2008 election as an agent of hope and change, has reneged on his promises. Campaigning to scale back US military engagement worldwide, Obama's tenure has actually seen that engagement scaled up, from the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to new adventurism in Libya, to drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, to a Cold War-style posture toward Russia in Europe and China in East Asia. In 2015 alone, the US dropped more than 20,000 bombs on six Muslim countries, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.


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    nuclear policy, expert analysis, nuclear negotiations, nuclear weapons, op-ed, Stimson Center, Barry M. Blechman, Barack Obama, US
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