by Robert G. Gard and John Isaacs
Published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Online on February, 24 2009
Article summary below; read the full text online
Greg Mello’s recent Bulletin article “The Obama Disarmament Paradox” distorts the Obama administration’s nuclear agenda by making unjustified assumptions that discredit President Barack Obama’s historic commitment to seek a nuclear-weapon-free world. Obama has committed to such a goal several times–both before and after his election in November 2008. But Mello calls that a “vague aspiration” rather than a commitment. Yet the evidence he provides to support his assertion isn’t persuasive.
In fact, the president has advocated for numerous initiatives in a comprehensive nonproliferation program. These include winning U.N. Security Council endorsement for a nuclear-weapon-free world; negotiating a new arms reduction treaty with Russia, which Obama considers an interim agreement toward further reductions; preparing a Nuclear Posture Review consistent with reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national security strategy; pledging to secure all loose nuclear materials over a four-year period; and taking an active role at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.
As President Obama stated during his seminal Prague speech on nuclear disarmament, achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world is a long-term goal that might not be achievable in his lifetime, but that doesn’t minimize the necessity of taking interim steps to reduce the likelihood of nuclear proliferation.
Mello sees Obama’s requested increase in the fiscal year 2011 budget for stockpile stewardship and the construction of new facilities at the nuclear laboratories as a commitment to the production of new nuclear weapons. Yet the administration has made clear that there are no such plans underfoot; the 2011 budget request states unequivocally that “new weapons systems will not be built.” As such, the president’s requested increase in nuclear expenditures should be viewed in the context of seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and further nuclear weapon reductions.