I’m looking forward to reading John Bolton’s piece in the next issue, but so far I have to say I’ve been on a different page than most of my go-to conservatives on this stuff. It’s not that I disagree with Bolton or Krauthammer et al. so much as I think the complaints about the nuke treaty are sort of beside the point. Ultimately, when and how a country uses its nuclear weapons does not depend on treaties. It depends on the Commander-in-Chief. Sure, worries about violating a treaty might — probably would — make using nukes more “costly” in a president’s cost-benefit analysis. But at the end of the day, using nukes is such a huge deal that I think most presidents, most human beings, would make the decision based on their core values and instincts. And, suffice it to say, I don’t think Barack Obama would ever use nuclear weapons under almost any remotely plausible circumstances. He’s even less likely to use nukes than the president in Independence Day, and that Bill Pullman character first needed to mind-meld with one of the aliens to be extra-super-sure that they were evil conquerors. The fact that most of America’s — and the world’s leading cities — had been obliterated wasn’t enough. After all, it could have been a misunderstanding.
Anyway, Obama has long had hang-ups with nuclear weapons. If memory serves, he was in effect a SANE Freeze guy at Columbia (or he wrote an article placing himself in that camp). The fact that he has now committed us to a treaty arrangement that reflects his views — or reflects movement in that direction — is not shocking. But even if we had no missile treaties of any kind, the likelihood that he would ever use nukes remains close to zero. I think pretty much everyone around the world knows that about him. And whether this treaty is ratified or not, that will remain the case until he leaves office.