Obama Sharpens His Nuclear Posture

A new Pentagon document indicates that contingent plans for the use of nuclear weapons are being made, with the self-evidently impossible task of minimizing collateral damage.

— by Peter Weiss

Peter Weiss

Soon after President Barack Obama began his first term, he called for a world free of nuclear weapons. His address, which quickly became known as Obama’s Prague Speech, helped him win the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Then, he dropped the ball.

The Pentagon finally followed up in late June with a strange document that fails to explain how Obama intends to make progress toward full nuclear disarmament.

Even though the Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States doesn’t do that, it still should have been news. Instead, the mainstream media took a pass.

In the past, these documents, the last of which the Pentagon issued in 2010, were called “Nuclear Posture Reviews.” They focused largely on the role of nuclear weapons for deterrence. Now for the first time the word “employment” — another word for “use” — is in the title.

Is this a not-so-subtle way of telling our enemies, actual and potential, that we are not afraid to use these weapons of mass annihilation?

To drive home that point, the report states that, while the “2010 Nuclear Posture Review established the (Obama) administration’s goal of making deterrence of a nuclear attack the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons…we cannot adopt such a policy today.”


Instead, this report explains, “the new guidance re-iterates the intention to work towards that goal over time.”

What are the other purposes of U.S. nuclear weapons besides trying to stop nuclear attacks by others?

Alas, the report doesn’t really say. Instead, it vaguely states that while the threat of global nuclear war has become remote since the Cold War ended, the risk of nuclear attack has increased.

Presumably, this refers to nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists rather than governments. But it doesn’t explain how U.S. nuclear weapons could be “employed” to deter the use of nuclear weapons by, for instance, al-Qaeda.

The phrase “new guidance” appears repeatedly in the report. But it leaves readers guessing about the nature of such guidance as it relates to the most important goal of U.S. nuclear-weapons strategy: “strategic stability” with Russia and China.

The report indicated that our government is sticking with its longtime concept of “extended deterrence,” a commitment to also use our nuclear arsenal for the benefit of U.S. allies and partners. But what does “partners” mean in this context? The report doesn’t say.

And it looks like the government remains sold on the idea that it must maintain a stockpile of non-deployed nuclear warheads in case deterrence with deployed ones should fail.

There are other mysteries.

The Pentagon’s report states, “The new guidance makes clear that all plans must also be consistent with the fundamental principles of the Law of Armed Conflict. Accordingly plans…will seek to minimize collateral damage to civilian populations and civilian objects.”

Thus, plans for the use of nuclear weapons are being made, but the planners have been given the self-evidently impossible task of minimizing collateral damage.

There’s more.

In February, Germany sponsored a conference in Berlin on creating the conditions for a nuclear-weapons-free world. Washington didn’t participate.

In March, Norway held a conference in Oslo on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Delegates from 127 countries attended. None were from the United States.

In May, the Working Group on Nuclear Disarmament created by the UN General Assembly held its first meeting in Geneva. The United States skipped it.

Obama’s recent declaration in Berlin that Washington might be willing to reduce its stockpile of more than 1,500 deployed nuclear warheads by one-third to 1,000 drew applause from some arms-control supporters. I’m holding my applause until he demonstrates the political will to work on the goal of scrapping nuclear weapons altogether.

Peter Weiss is the President Emeritus of the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org


Getting Small Arms Out of the Wrong Hands

The NRA shouldn’t be allowed to derail Senate support of a new global weapons agreement.

— by Don Kraus, President/CEO of Global Solutions

Don Kraus

Did you know that international laws dictate the rules of the game when it comes to selling bananas and iPods, but not grenade launchers and AK-47s?

It’s crazy but true. Fortunately, a solution is at hand. Negotiators at the United Nations will soon wrap up a global Arms Trade Treaty that will establish much-needed rules to prevent selling arms to human rights violators.

Every year, more than 500,000 people around the world are killed as a result of armed violence. Firearms are used in armed conflicts and to carry out human rights violations, including genocide, gang rape, and the practice of forcing children into combat as under-aged soldiers.

There are about 250,000 child soldiers.


Roughly 60 percent of documented human rights violations involve the use of small arms (such as rifles and machine guns) and light weapons (such as grenade launchers and shoulder-fired missiles). In fact, more human rights abuses are committed with small arms than with any other category of weapon.

The new Arms Trade Treaty sets uniform standards for international arms sales that will bring foreign governments up to U.S. standards and move the black markets out of the shadows. It will protect legitimate trade while holding governments accountable for selling arms to human rights violators. Without the treaty, warlords and terrorists will continue to get weapons used to force child soldiers to kill their parents, to attack American soldiers and missionaries, and to rape refugee women and girls.

U.S. support for this agreement should be a no-brainer.

The UN resolution that authorized the treaty talks ensured that the agreement only dealt with international sales and reserved “the exclusive right of [individual nations] to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership.”

Despite this assurance, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has gone on record saying the Arms Trade Treaty will threaten Americans’ rights to bear arms. The February 2013 cover story from the NRA’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom pushes a baseless conspiracy that the treaty will be used by “the minions of tyrannical and thieving governments” to achieve “total disarmament of freedom-loving people all over the world.”

Even a senior research fellow from the very conservative Heritage Foundation, Ted Bromund, has debunked this big lie.

“I don’t think that the [Arms Trade Treaty] is a gun confiscation measure for a variety of reasons,” Bromund said. “First, because I don’t regard that as within the bounds of possibility in the United States and secondly, because that is not what the text says.”

The NRA shouldn’t be allowed to derail support for the agreement when it gets to the Senate. This treaty is in America’s security, business, and moral interests. Not only is it good for our nation to have all countries operating from the same rule book, it’s also our responsibility. The United States, after all, is the top global supplier of major conventional weapons.

Fortunately, the White House is backing efforts to establish this treaty. And there’s broad support for it among U.S. military, religious, and human rights leaders.

Americans are debating our own gun safety laws with more fervor than we’ve seen in years. It’s also time for our nation and our senators to get behind a sensible agreement to protect millions around the world and at home.

Don Kraus is the President and CEO of GlobalSolutions.org.
Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org