“Now, the president, with all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer and as a part-time senator, and as a full-time candidate, all that experience, still no accomplishment to date with North Korea and Iran.” Sarah Palin, speaking at SRLC, April 9th, 2010
President Obama is hosting 47 world leaders in Washington, D.C. for a two day summit on nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism. It is the first summit of its kind in more than 50 years, and it has already borne fruit. The Ukraine has decided to eliminate its nuclear material. This is a real policy victory. Former Soviet republics like the Ukraine, have an abundance of enriched uranium, shining like a beacon to terrorist organizations seeking such to craft a weapon. The crux of the summit is to secure world cooperation in eliminating the threat of nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists–and ultimately reducing the threat of nuclear warfare.
This is most admirable, even if it may not be totally achievable. Does the president have the will and experience to tackle such a difficult subject? Let’s take a closer look into the president’s work on nuclear non-proliferation. While doing so, please keep the above quote from Sarah Palin in mind.
The Obama administration has negotiated its first major arms control treaty: a new pact between the U.S. and Russia that would cut by 30 percent the number of strategic nuclear warheads each country is permitted to deploy.In 2005, in his first foreign trip as a U.S. senator, Obama traveled to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), then-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. The purpose of the trip was to examine facilities for the storage and destruction of conventional, biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. Obama and Lugar subsequently co-wrote a December 2005 Washington Post op-ed on the issue and appeared together in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations on “Challenges Ahead For Cooperative Threat Reduction,” in which Obama detailed ways to improve the U.S. program to control, secure, and dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.
Obama and Lugar co-authored the “Lugar-Obama non-proliferation initiative,” which “enhances U.S. efforts to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles and to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction throughout the world.” The legislation was signed into law by President Bush in January 2007. According to a June 28, 2007, press release from Lugar, he and Obama subsequently secured “$36 million for programs to destroy heavy conventional weapons, $10 million for efforts to intercept weapons and materials of mass destruction, and $2 million for rapid response to proliferation detection and interdiction emergencies.”
Obama introduced the Nuclear Weapons Threat Reduction Act of 2007 (S.1977), with then-Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) as an original co-sponsor, which would “provide for sustained United States leadership in a cooperative global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism, reduce global nuclear arsenals, stop the spread of nuclear weapons and related material and technology, and support the responsible and peaceful use of nuclear technology.”
Obama reportedly authored his college thesis on “Soviet nuclear disarmament.” Moreover, Washington Monthly reported in September 2006: “On the campaign trail in 2004, Obama spoke passionately about the dangers of loose nukes and the legacy of the Nunn-Lugar nonproliferation program, a framework created by a 1991 law to provide the former Soviet republics assistance in securing and deactivating nuclear weapons. Lugar took note, as ‘nonproliferation’ is about as common a campaign sound-bite for aspiring senators as ‘exchange-rate policy’ or ‘export-import bank oversight.’”
Moving beyond the red-meat rhetoric and empty firebrand talking points, one gets the sense that the president’s credibility on this issue is nuanced, iron-clad and genuine. It comes from a position of strength and knowledge. His efforts will result in a more secure world, where all nations–even nations in which Sarah Palin is a part– will play a role in being accountable for nuclear security and non-proliferation. Does this mean we’re all safe from nuclear holocaust? No, but the path is more clear, and the foundation has been laid to advance the summit’s goal.
Nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism pose the greatest threat to the collective security of all nations, and it’s time someone led the charge against it. And those that question the president’s initiatives– without full knowledge of his experience on them– should be advised to think before they speak. Bravo Mr. President.
HT: Media Matters