Stanford’s Philip Taubman has an excellent piece in today’s New York Times on the START follow-on process and the rough waters Obama will likely have to navigate to implement the rest of his ambitious nuclear agenda. I found this graf to be particularly important:
If the White House does not assert itself, the Nuclear Posture Review could easily spin off in unhelpful directions. The review that was produced when Bill Clinton was president in 1994 offered a rehash of cold war policies. The one that was done when George W. Bush took office in 2001 was more unconventional, but was quickly overshadowed by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the war in Iraq.[emphasis mine]
Exactly. As Janne Nolan and Robert Holmes noted in an article last year in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (unfortunately subscriber only):
Leadership is the art of superintending change. Presidents need to demonstrate their commitment to specific, high-priority strategic outcomes, state that these outcomes are nonnegotiable, and be prepared to intervene personally when the process encounters trouble. Tactics for implementation can be left to subordinates who can count on the president’s full backing.
I hope President Obama (and his key civilian appointees for nuclear policy) understand what is at stake here. The U.S. nuclear weapons establishment has a well-known “status quo bias”. If the President is unhappy with the direction of the NPR, it will be up to him to insist that it be reoriented in a direction more in keeping with his bold nuclear policy vision.