Nuclear Posturing
Will the president's new policy shift make America more or less secure?


Yesterday, the Obama administration announced its official policy on the use of nuclear weapons. The Nuclear Posture Review contained new restrictions on the use of our nuclear arsenal and an expression of the president’s commitment to the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. National Review Online asked the experts to weigh in on the policy changes reflected in the NPR report.

The president lists five priorities in the NPR. Defending the U.S. isn’t one of them.

You’d think it would be job Number One. That’s why we invented nukes. Instead, the Review is largely a political document for trumpeting the president’s “road to zero,” a vision that will leave the U.S. with a smaller, less reliable, less credible nuclear force — making the world a more dangerous place.

Maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent and combating proliferation are not incompatible, as the Review suggests they are. The last administration made great efforts in pursuit of nonproliferation (such as the Proliferation Security Initiative) without gutting the U.S. arsenal.

The NPR also makes a muddle of U.S. declaratory policy. Written under Carter and reaffirmed by Clinton (after the Cold War ended), the old policy served us well. Obama has substituted a lawyerly mess that will confuse allies and adversaries alike.

The correct U.S. defense strategy would emphasize:

a modernized, credible nuclear force;

comprehensive missile defense;

robust conventional forces, as well as vigorous efforts to prevent proliferation, illicit trafficking in nuclear technology and materials; and

combating terrorism.

That would be a more robust and effective deterrent for a post–Cold War world than Obama’s road to nowhere.

James Jay Carafano is director of the Heritage Foundation’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies and deputy director of Heritage’s Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Center for International Studies.