NUCLEAR MADNESS: TRUMP’S DANGEROUS BABBLE AND IGNORANCE OF STRATEGIC REALITIES
Harry C. Blaney III
There seems to be no act by Donald Trump that does not endanger American and global security. We had the undermining of the EU and NATO, the beating up on America’s allies, and the threat to tear up the Iran nuclear and not least the still unknown relationship between Trump and Putin with overtones of selling out to Putin and rewarding him for helping in Trump’s election. But in the most recent words by Trump in an interview Thursday, he said he thought an arms control treaty with Russia is a “bad deal” and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the “top of the pack.” This, is my top pick of dangerous acts by this clearly clueless man on issues of war and nuclear matters.
As every knowledgeable person knows the American nuclear arsenal and capability tops that of any other nation on this earth and has for a long time. Our nuclear weapons can destroy much of the world almost instantaneously. Much of that nuclear capability is deployed in essentially invulnerable American ballistic missile submarines. That is why there is no reason for us to add to them or try to “modernize nukes” them beyond basic maintenance and safekeeping.
Contrary to Trump’s call for added military expenditure just adds to the overwhelming resources and war fighting capability we already have over either Russia or China. Any conflict with them would be as they use to say MAD –mutual assured destruction. That means they should never be used in any circumstance and their existence is purely as deterrence.
American experts and our allies know that a new arms race would not be to the interest of any nation either friend or potential foe. But now both Russia under Putin and Trump seem to not understand the importance to our security of past and present arms control treaties and agreements. The last was the New START treaty between America and Russia which capped the number of nuclear warheads by both nations. And under the Non-proliferation Treaty we and other nuclear nations are bound and promised to work toward elimination of these weapons. The treaty’s aim by this promise is to stop other nations from building their own nuclear weapons. Top leaders, Secretaries of State and Defense, etc. with great experience on nuclear issues, Republicans and Democrats have called for their eventual and timely elimination, known as “going to zero.” A worthy cause but requires all to moderate their own ambitions and work very hard on a true mutual reduction accompanied by other safeguards to ensure security for all nations.
US and Russian escalation of these weapons would undermine greatly the incentive of others to forgo their own weapons. Trump’s words and actions so far have only given other nation reasons to be frightened, uncertain of our support, or go alone in developing these weapons. The end being a world of chaos and destruction which Trump for some reason seems to relish.
What is at work in Trump mind or his real goals? Is it an initiative, not of gaining good and fair arms control agreements and seeking confidence building measures bringing security for the world population that make us all safer, or is it Trump’s chaos theory at work of unlimited and high risk blindness to an “arms race” that itself is massively dangerous?
What is needed is less such weapons, better training and practical equipment to ensure American defense, support of our allies, and safety of our people in the world we have today. We need not more money in weapons with no purpose in our time but the near elimination of humanity and global civilization.
Trump in this field has continue his exaggerations and reinforced his habitual lies in claiming the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” There is NO nation on earth that can match America’s modern nuclear force or for that matter conventional war fighting and the safeguarding of our nation. To say otherwise is to deceive out people, waste our needed resources for building back our civilian infrastructure, ensuring our children get the best education in the world, and protecting our environment, not least addressing the massive threat of climate change.
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By John Gall
This month has been marked by Russia’s decision to withdraw from a plutonium disposal agreement and a uranium research agreement with the United States in response to the American end of bilateral efforts in Syria. These actions continue a trend of Russia stepping away from nonproliferation activities with the United States. Earlier this year, Russia argued that its decision to not attend the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington was based on concerns that hosting countries received an unfair advantage against dissenting opinions. However, such a reason may simply be a convenient excuse to not commit to nuclear material reductions. Regardless, in order to effectively combat the spread of nuclear arms to more countries and dangerous non-state actors, Russian involvement is essential in both bilateral action with the United States and collaboration with the international community.
As the two states with the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, the United States and Russia have the greatest capacity, and arguably obligation, to lead the global effort against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the partnership of these nations was crucial in deterring the threat of proliferation by dismantling the weapon stockpiles and securing the fissile materials within the other former Soviet states. Recent cooperation was initially successful, as the Obama administration’s ‘Reset on Russia’ produced the New START treaty in 2010. However, the increasingly hostile relations between Russia and the United States resulted in the cancellation of multiple nuclear cooperation agreements and caused the current halt to any future arms-reductions negotiations.
The strain placed on the American-Russian relationship by the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Eastern Ukraine by Russia in 2014 and competing interests in the Syrian civil war are well known and impacted tensions in the bilateral relationship. Nevertheless Russia’s deteriorating nuclear collaboration also warrants serious concern.
The 2013 reworking of the Nunn-Lugar agreement scaled back inspections of nuclear weapon and fissile material storage facilities. With the Russian economy suffering from low world fuel prices and economic sanctions, there are doubts that it can ensure the security of its radioactive material and less international oversight of these facilities raises the risk of undetected smuggling activity.
Nuclear modernization efforts from both sides have also created a sense of competition rather than cooperation. The United States current modernization plan calls for an estimated $1 trillion over the next thirty years. Russia’s announced modernization efforts are part of a broad military buildup by Putin to project national strength and as a response to American innovations in missile defense systems. Although these efforts won’t change the number of nuclear weapons each of the two countries have, a sense of an arms race may deter future efforts to negotiate additional arms reduction treaties.
But the development that could inhibit nonproliferation efforts the most would be the lack of arms reduction negotiations since the New START Treaty was signed and ratified half a decade ago. As the owners of the two largest nuclear stockpiles in the world, arms reductions send a signal to the other nuclear states of their commitment to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons; an important message to send to deter other growing stockpiles or aspiring weapon programs. One would think the fiscal costs of modernization would be an incentive to further reduce stockpiles, but the current icy relations between the US and Russia have put a halt to any potential talks.
It would be disingenuous to claim that Russia has been absent in recent
nonproliferation efforts, as Moscow has played a crucial role in the negotiation and implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. As a member of the P5+1 negotiations, Russia agreed to take Iran’s low-enriched uranium as part of the state’s obligations to drastically reduce its enrichment ability. Russia and Iran’s previous nuclear fuel dealings gave the five permanent security council members and Germany some diplomatic goodwill to reach a deal. The JCPA was an important achievement in worldwide nonproliferation efforts, and while it’s currently a fragile success, it does show that Russia is willing to contribute in some ways to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
A lack of cooperation with Russia may not harm the United States’ nonproliferation efforts in some cases, when a more suitable nuclear power partner may be better suited. In the case of North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, China has an exceptional amount of leverage, but not yet willing to fully use it for fear of North Korea instability. The DPRK is economically dependent on official and illicit trade with its neighbor to the north and if China exerts new pressure on North Korea, a breakthrough might be reached where previous sanctions from the international community failed. Russia was involved in the six party talks that previously attempted to curb North Korea’s nuclear efforts and may do so in future negotiations. However, success in this major challenge won’t rely on the United States’ relationship with Moscow, but rather Beijing.
The growing diplomatic distance between the United States and Russia doesn’t jeopardize all international non-proliferation efforts, but it does seriously hinder many worthwhile bilateral efforts. Even if the two governments refuse to work together on major projects such as new arms reduction treaties, some thawing could take place through third channel talks between respective academics. Smaller obligations, such as the return of bilateral inspections, could improve rapport between the two states on at least this crucial policy sector. Unfortunately, if such possible routes aren’t viable, American and Russia non-proliferation activity may be limited to multilateral methods until changes in national leadership occur. In the mean time, a major concern is that such an arms race could lead to taking higher risks from both sides from miscalculation, misjudgment, and high risk behavior.
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By Harry C. Blaney III and John Gall
There were “crimes” committed during and after the shambles of a debate. This was a debate where the realities of the global security landscape were given the same lies and distortions as in the domestic side with Trump’s crude remarks, evident lies, and even stupidities. But in the international and security side, words do matter and our allies and our adversaries are listening and look on in wonder.
Yet the one similarity between the domestic and security side was the avoidance of facts and understanding of the implications of proposed policies. Those were kind words for what were in reality ignorant sound-bites, lies, and distortion. Trump demonstrated no comprehension of the dangers and catastrophic consequences of not just his statements as a candidate now, but of his likely action should he become president. His statements about nuclear weapons, his Middle East policies including his earlier anti-Muslim rants, stance on Israeli-Palestinian peace, and not least building a wall on our Mexican border and rolling back our advances in climate change, Cuban relations, and the Iran nuclear deal are just examples of a mind gone wacky.
After the debate the press followed Trump and gave him a billion dollars worth of advertising to push his views and with more lies with no fact check but not showing Clinton’s people in a equal level. It was a big misjudgment and sadly not surprising. The media crowd following Trump was after not substance but rather wanted a piece of a celebrity and TV eyeballs of a person who just moments ago said more lies and displayed much ignorance of the basic facts of our global world and its many challenges.
Yes, there could have been a more detailed and deep set of questions and answers from both Trump and Clinton, but the difference between her and Trump was as they say “legion.” That Trump was out of his depth, which was clear to all, including many Republicans in their reactions and the fact that after the debate many traditional Republican newspapers endorsed Clinton rather than Trump.
We have focused in this post below on some specific areas dealing with national security and foreign affairs with candidate quotes and commentary.
DEFEAT OF ISIS:
Clinton- ” I have put forth a plan to defeat ISIS. It does involve going after them online. I think we need to do much more with our tech companies to prevent ISIS and their operatives from being able to use the Internet to radicalize, even direct people in our country and Europe and elsewhere. But we also have to intensify our air strikes against ISIS and eventually support our Arab and Kurdish partners to be able to actually take out ISIS in Raqqa, end their claim of being a Caliphate.” … ” But it’s like his plan to defeat ISIS. He says it’s a secret plan, but the only secret is that he has no plan.”
Trump – “But they wouldn’t have even been formed if they left some troops behind, like 10,000 or maybe something more than that. And then you wouldn’t have had them. Or, as I’ve been saying for a long time, and I think you’ll agree, because I said it to you once, had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income. And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.” .. ” But I will tell you that Hillary will tell you to go to her website and read all about how to defeat ISIS, which she could have defeated by never having it, you know, get going in the first place. Right now, it’s getting tougher and tougher to defeat them, because they’re in more and more places, more and more states, more and more nations.”
Commentary: Trump repeats some of his past scripted statements but no plan. Clinton does talk about use of “air strikes” and other support which is largely the Obama administration’s consensus of what they can do to defeat ISIS without putting more on the ground combat forces which would only put them in deadly danger in areas and landscape we know little about and where our strategy seems to be garnering gradual results.
ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS (AND A BIT ON OUR ALLIES AND GLOBAL WARMING):
Clinton- ” … of what we heard Donald say has been about nuclear weapons. He has said repeatedly that he didn’t care if other nations got nuclear weapons, Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. It has been the policy of the United States, Democrats and Republicans, to do everything we could to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He even said, well, you know, if there were nuclear war in East Asia, well, you know, that’s fine… And, in fact, his cavalier attitude about nuclear weapons is so deeply troubling. That is the number-one threat we face in the world. And it becomes particularly threatening if terrorists ever get their hands on any nuclear material. So a man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes, as far as I think anyone with any sense about this should be concerned.”
Trump- ” The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your — your president thinks. Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune.” … ” But Russia has been expanding their — they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike. And [Iran is] going to end up getting nuclear. I met with Bibi Netanyahu the other day. Believe me, he’s not a happy camper.”
COMMENTARY: It is clear that an unbalanced and “cavalier” man should not have the nuclear codes and cause the destruction of the globe’s civilizations. The question of a nuclear first strike, an issue I have been following for decades, is one of great importance and sensitivity, none of which is shown by Trump. At the moment our policy, supported by the military, is to leave open the first use issue, but our policy must be not to do so in any conflict case that is likely short of immediate certain knowledge of nuclear weapons being used against us.
Clinton – “But increasingly, we are seeing cyber attacks coming from states, organs of states. The most recent and troubling of these has been Russia. There’s no doubt now that Russia has used cyber attacks against all kinds of organizations in our country, and I am deeply concerned about this. I know Donald’s very praiseworthy of Vladimir Putin, but Putin is playing a really… tough, long game here. And one of the things he’s done is to let loose cyber attackers to hack into government files, to hack into personal files, hack into the Democratic National Committee…And we are not going to sit idly by and permit state actors to go after our information, our private-sector information or our public-sector information.”
Trump – ” As far as the cyber, I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?… So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. …. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.”
COMMENTARY: Although both candidates agree on the growing danger posed by cyberwarfare, neither side presented any tangible policy suggestions to address the challenge. Clinton used the question to cite the DNC cyber attack and once again Trump took the bait to shield any hint of Russian involvement, despite US intelligence sources stating with certainty that the attack came from Russia. It’s surprising that Trump didn’t use the topic of cyberwarfare to take more potshots on Clinton’s email scandal, but that could be credited to the Republican candidate’s lack of preparation and at this point in the debate he was on full tilt.
ON NATO AND OUR ALLIES:
Trump – ” Number one, the 28 countries of NATO, many of them aren’t paying their fair share. And, number two, I said, and very strongly, NATO could be obsolete, because… they do not focus on terror. And about four months ago, I read on the front page of the Wall Street Journal that NATO is opening up a major terror division. And I think that’s great…. And that was — believe me — I’m sure I’m not going to get credit for it — but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.”
Clinton- ” You know, NATO as a military alliance has something called Article 5, and basically it says this: An attack on one is an attack on all. And you know the only time it’s ever been invoked? After 9/11, when the 28 nations of NATO said that they would go to Afghanistan with us to fight terrorism, something that they still are doing by our side.”
Clinton – ” Well, let me — let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.”
Trump – ” And it’s a big problem. And as far as Japan is concerned, I want to help all of our allies, but we are losing billions and billions of dollars. We cannot be the policemen of the world. We cannot protect countries all over the world…”
COMMENTARY: One of the most divisive and harmful statements Trump has made was his questioning our NATO alliance, especially when it is under threat from Russia on many fronts and our Europe allies need encouragement rather than blind and short-sighted nasty criticism. Putin must be delighted and Trump seems even to encourage Russian aggression. A dangerous mix. The same must be said of our other allies especially in Asia given what was not debated, the threat of North Korea and how to deal with it diplomatically.
Trump – ” But you look at the Middle East, you started the Iran deal, that’s another beauty where you have a country that was ready to fall, I mean, they were doing so badly. They were choking on the sanctions. And now they’re going to be actually probably a major power at some point pretty soon, the way they’re going… One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash, obviously, I guess for the hostages. It certainly looks that way… The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems. All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.”
Clinton- ” With respect to Iran, when I became secretary of state, Iran was weeks away from having enough nuclear material to form a bomb. They had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle under the Bush administration. They had built covert facilities. They had stocked them with centrifuges that were whirling away. And we did drive them to the negotiating table. And my successor, John Kerry, and President Obama got a deal that put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot. That’s diplomacy. And we had sanctioned them. I voted for every sanction against Iran when I was in the Senate, but it wasn’t enough. The other day, I saw Donald saying that there were some Iranian sailors on a ship in the waters off of Iran, and they were taunting American sailors who were on a nearby ship. He said, you know, if they taunted our sailors, I’d blow them out of the water and start another war. That’s not good judgment. And Donald never tells you what he would do. Would he have started a war? Would he have bombed Iran? If he’s going to criticize a deal that has been very successful in giving us access to Iranian facilities that we never had before, then he should tell us what his alternative would be. “
COMMENTARY: One can’t go beyond Clinton’s critique of the consequences of Trump’s approach to Iran. Except that it underplayed Trump’s true dangers to our national security interests and how to deal with major crisis situations.
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In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is North Korean Policy. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.
North Korea is perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet, run by a sadistic dictator. It has conducted several nuclear tests and is attempting to develop the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile that could directly threaten the United States. The regime is also responsible for grave human rights abuses against the North Korean people. Yet Donald Trump praises North Korea’s dictator; threatens to abandon our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea; and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region. This approach is incoherent and rather than solving a global crisis, would create a new one. Democrats will protect America and our allies, press China to restrain North Korea, and sharpen the choices for Pyongyang to compel it to abandon its illegal nuclear and missile programs.
I have no problem with this summary but it should have been more specific in noting that Trump said that Japan and South Korea might develop nuclear weapons of their own. This is about as dangerous as his statement that he might use nuclear weapons in circumstances that would kill hundreds of thousand of innocent civilians and against opponents who do not possess nuclear weapons.
The problem remains that we have not yet in three decades created the context that would “force” North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons or their development. The conundrum is that the only state that might be able to have leverage over North Korea is China. However, that nation wants to maintain North Korea as a buffer for its security and does not want to see South Korea, an American ally, come up to its border. But it is also not yet willing to compel North Korea to give up these weapons, the means of developing them, or the means of delivering them via missiles, despite the existential danger to China should North Korea use these weapons. In time, and with continued threatening actions, the trajectory of North Korea’s aggressive and irrational behavior may offer the real prospects of common catastrophe.
The first act is to get China to see that some change is needed and to offer both strategic safeguards to the region and sufficient inducement for North Korea to change its policies. Whether real change will require internal regime change or China’s pressure, America can through continued diplomacy help move towards a common solution that brings more security to all nations in the region. That level of intelligence and foresight is clearly not something that Trump and his Republican minions can ever understand sadly.
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In this series, we will be looking at positions taken by the Democratic Party in their 2016 Platform on issues pertaining to national security. Next up is Nuclear and Chemical Weapons Issues. A commentary on the platform issue will be found at its end.
DEMOCRATIC PLATFORM TEXT:
Democrats are committed to preventing the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and to eventually ridding the planet of these catastrophic weapons. We believe America will be safer in a world with fewer weapons of mass destruction. Donald Trump encourages the spread of nuclear weapons across Asia and the Middle East, which would weaken the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and he is unwilling to rule out using a nuclear weapon against ISIS.
Democrats want to reduce the number of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons around the world, as well as their means of delivery, while retaining a strong deterrent as long as others maintain nuclear strike capabilities . We will strengthen the NPT, push for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and stop the spread of loose nuclear material. Democrats will be informed by a new Nuclear Posture Review in determining continued ways to appropriately shape our nuclear deterrent, with the aim of reducing our reliance on nuclear weapons while meeting our national security obligations. Democrats will also seek new opportunities for further arms control and avoid taking steps that create incentives for the expansion of existing nuclear weapons programs. To this end, we will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs that are projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.
Nuclear security and preventing nuclear war should be the critical issue of American diplomacy and defense policy. It is taken by the Democrats as the highest priority.
Nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation, as well as dealing with the other weapons of mass destruction, are key to American security and not a subject for partisan or mindless un-thoughtful policies. Dealing with these issues require action and responses to real threats in a rational and considered way, not by mindless and unconsidered military attacks when in fact we are not under attack. As seen in the Democratic Platform, judgement is key and listening to experts is required.
During the Cold War, stability depended on nuclear deterrence and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), based on creating a strategic force that it invulnerable to a first strike from Russia and vice-versa. The problem is that this equation does not provide faultless security from a mad leader, an accident, or a miscalculation from either side.
Thus, decades of arms control and reduction and “confidence building measures” have tried to mitigate against these “unforeseen contingencies.” The platform here is silent on these issues but these approaches have been an integral element in Obama’s strategy and that of almost all past presidents, though it seems to be threatened by an unstable and ignorant Trump.
Perhaps the most specific platform statement of nuclear policy was: “Democrats will also seek new opportunities for further arms control and avoid taking steps that create incentives for the expansion of existing nuclear weapons programs. To this end, we will work to reduce excessive spending on nuclear weapons-related programs that are projected to cost $1 trillion over the next 30 years.” What is needed as a key element to stabilize and reduce nuclear weapons is not only not create incentives for fewer weapons, but also to undertake urgent efforts to have agreements that aim to reduce instability and mistakes and to create a environment that lessens the chances of mistakes. There is room now to reduce on all sides the “hair triggers” on such weapons and create added confidence building frameworks to reduce the possibility of accidental use.
The Trump Republicans do not even think about nuclear issues as a national security priority and even threaten to use such weapons under the most irresponsible conditions imaginable – when our key vital interests are not at stake, as a first strike force against forces that do not have such weapons, and even when our nation vital survival is not threatened.
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PRESIDENT OBAMA’S HIROSHIMA VISIT: AMERICA LOOKS LONG TERM
From the White House
By: Harry C. Blaney III
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S QUOTES: JAPAN
“Our visit to Hiroshima will honor all those who were lost in World War II and reaffirm our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons as well as highlight the extraordinary alliance that we have been able to forge over these many decades… One of the things I hope to reflect on when I’m at Hiroshima and certainly something I reflected on when I was in Vietnam was just a reminder that war involves suffering…We should always do what we can to prevent it.”
— Barack Obama, Joint Press Conference in Shima City, Japan, May 25, 2016
“The wars of the modern age teach us this truth. Hiroshima teaches this truth. Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well…That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow…Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”
— Barack Obama, speech at Hiroshima, May 27, 2016. For full text, click here.
Often there are acts by leaders that have a significance beyond the events themselves. Three key examples of such events were President John Kennedy’s visit to Berlin and the visits to Cuba and Vietnam by President Barack Obama. Obama’s visit to Hiroshima is another such act. All of these represented acknowledgment of America’s new role in a fast changing and very complex conflict-ridden world. With his three visits, Obama is saying that we need new bold policies and approaches in new and rapid changing circumstances.
The Hiroshima ceremonies and statements by Obama and his staff indicate that his actions are not only symbols; they are meant to influence our national thinking, the cooperation of our allies, and citizens around the world – even those of our geopolitical rivals. His speeches at every stop resonate with a call to cooperative action.
Cooperative action is one clear element in Obama’s “grand strategy” – and yes you skeptics and naysayers, he does have a “grand strategy” – even though “micro” strategies or tactics may appear sometimes to veer from that goal. Obama says that, in our complex global environment, this is sometimes a necessity in order to achieve other “grand” objectives. He said this, in effect, in his Howard University address recently.
His visits to Cuba, Vietnam, and now Japan and Hiroshima signify a new assessment of the global landscape and search for a wider “common ground” upon which a twenty-first century America can work productively to ensure greater security for not only itself but also for whole regions, share prosperity through economic cooperation, and, importantly, leave a wiser and more careful military footprint. We have seen this in Obama’s articulation of the necessity for America to work with others rather than simply using its power in crude and stupid ways, as in Iraq.
President Obama’s Hiroshima visit thus is more than an effort to come to terms with the horrendous tragedy of the use of nuclear weapons. It is a key move of reconciliation with and support for Japan, our ally, in a “dangerous neighborhood.” It highlights his eight-year endeavor to tame the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, dangers of fissile material in hands of those without consciences, and to better reduce and safeguard nuclear weapons globally – all through many arms control initiatives. We should not lose sight of Obama’s ultimate goal to seek a reduction and ultimate elimination of the risk of nuclear weapons. In a briefing for reporters on May 20, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said “we do hope that in visiting Hiroshima, we’re able to once again spotlight the imperative that the world has to seek a reduction and ultimate elimination of the risk of nuclear weapons.”
Obama’s goals have been opposed bitterly by the Republican hawks in Congress and their likely candidate in November, who opposed the Iran deal, are pushing for more – not less – nukes, and are advocating for dangerous new military adventures. President Putin’s aggressions, rearming efforts, and rejection of further arms control accords show not American weakness but Russia’s desperate perspective on its future and reckless risk taking. China’s own new escalation adds to the challenges. But those challenges should not deter our dialogue with these key nations. This is, as Obama and others have noted a “long-game,” as was the Cold War, which ended without a nuclear war.
Obama’s plea is for wise leaders in America and with our allies, not stupid and reckless types which are sadly on the horizon at home and in some countries abroad. All of this calls for all sides to rethink, not for added escalation, but for concerted and firm cooperation among regional partners and with diplomacy of the highest order. Yes, we should strengthen alliances, but couple them with a patient approach of constructive outreach and strong inducements against those that would act in reckless ways.
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