Obama's Nuke Gaffe
The entire issue of nuclear weapon use doctrine is now pretty much a foreign policy backwater as a result of the end of the Cold War. When I was in college in the 80s, discussions of MAD, first strike capability, the impact of the MX missile, the INF treaty and the like were very much a centerpiece of foreign policy discussion. And Presidential candidates had their pat answers at the ready.
Today Barack Obama was asked a question about use of nuclear weapons and his fumbling answer demonstrated that he was not prepared for it. I think he has committed a serious political gaffe.
Q: In Afghanistan or Pakistan, is there any circumstance where you would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden[?]" Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons ''in any circumstance.'' ''I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,'' Obama said, with a pause, ''involving civilians.'' Then he quickly added, ''Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table.''
The Obama camp will try to explain the fumbling by referring to ther context of the question. I think his answer is woefully inadequate. He needed to be prepared to discuss his philosphy of the use of nuclear weapons and then apply it to the Al Qaida problem.
Substantively, it is hard to imagine any possible use of nuclear weapons in a first strike posture, or even as a respons to Al Qaida. The efficacy seems nonexistent. But that is not the big part of this story. The big is the political side of this and how Obama's fumble, after last's week's silly brouhaha, and the controversy over his remarks about attacking Al Qaida in Pakistan, will play.
I think it will play badly.
Update [2007-8-2 16:39:29 by Big Tent Democrat]: Hillary pounces:
"I think that presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. Presidents, since the Cold War, have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons."
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