With his approval Friday of the NPT review conference’s final declaration, followed by his protest of the declaration’s singling out of Israel, the president appears to be returning to his Chicago political roots and the ineffective arts of double messaging. I certainly doubt that George W. Bush, for all his Texas pugnacity, would have signed. Obama, on the other hand, eager to please and to best Bush on getting a final declaration, mistakenly felt he had to.
As a result, he only managed to incense Israel on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Tuesday visit (hence the president’s Saturday backtrack), disappoint the Arabs who expect a 2012 conference, and produce a thin nonproliferation document that oversells NPT members’ rights to and the purported benefits of nuclear power. Bottom line: With the possible exception of Iran, it is difficult to see how Obama or anyone got anything out of this exercise but regret.
– Henry Sokolski is executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C., and is the editor of Reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (Strategic Studies Institute, 2010).