One of the more controversial comments to come out of Obama’s European trip was the President’s call for a complete global elimination of nuclear weapons – a goal that, if achieved, would eliminate the threat of nuclear attack that has existed, on and off, for more than 50 years. The problem is no so much the goal – the elimination of nuclear arms is a noble cause – but it is simply not realistic. And for the President of the United States, the only leading nation who has shown the commitment to take action against rouge states, to be proposing the abandonment of a defensive nuclear arsenal on the very day that North Korea – itself a nuclear-armed state – tested a long-range missile with the capability of reaching US soil displays a dangerous naiveté which places liberal idealism above the harsh realities of the global political situation.
As even the President noted in his speech, even the far less idealistic goal of preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons – where the threat of complete destruction for the use of such devices by rogue states still exists – has failed. Both Iran and North Korea, two of the most unstable and hostile nations on Earth, either have or are developing nukes. Both have made threats against their neighbors, and neither can be trusted with the kind of responsibility that comes with a nuclear arsenal. Neither nation is to the point of being able to deliver their weaponry to other nations via missiles, but both are working in that direction, and unlike the United States and England, who have committed to using nukes purely as a defensive and/or determent tool, in the hands of North Korea or Iran, these weapons will be used for blackmail and genocide. If those nations with the capability to respond to such attacks were to give up their arms, the road would be clear for Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to embark on a deadly reign of terror in their respective regions.
The problem then, with calling for a plan to completely eliminate nuclear arms, is that those who would be likely to respond to such a plan do not pose a real threat to global security, and those who are most likely to use such weapons for malicious purposes aren’t likely to sign on to any kind of international agreement that would limit their military strength. Even if they did agree on paper, nations similar to and including those currently causing problems have shown that they cannot be trusted on arms limitation.
Obama’s proposal is certainly desirable, but its application could very well shift the global balance of power away from the United States.