Obama’s Self-Proclaimed Foreign Policy Successes

The Wages of Appeasement

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http://israel-commentary.org/?p=2424

Read More About: Czech, Georgia, Iran, Osama bin Laden, Poland, Russia, START Treaty

The Wages of Appeasement

By Charles Krauthammer

The Palm Beach Post, December 18, 2011

Obama, “Ask Osama Bin Laden whether I engage in appeasement”

Fair enough. Barack Obama didn’t appease Osama bin Laden. He killed him. And for ordering the raid and taking the risk, Obama deserves credit. Credit for decisiveness and political courage. However, the bin Laden case was no test of policy. No serious person of either party ever suggested negotiation or concession. Obama demonstrated decisiveness, but forgoing a non-option says nothing about the soundness of one’s foreign policy. 

That comes into play when there are choices to be made. And here the story is different. Take Obama’s two major foreign policy initiatives — toward Russia and Iran.The administration came into office determined to warm relations with Russia. It was called “reset,” an antidote to the “dangerous drift” (Vice President Biden’s phrase) in relations during the Bush years. In fact, Bush’s increasing coolness toward Russia was grounded in certain unpleasant realities: growing Kremlin authoritarianism that was systematically dismantling a fledgling democracy; naked aggression against a small, vulnerable, pro-American state (Georgia); the drive to reestablish a Russian sphere of influence in the near-abroad and; support, from Syria to Venezuela, of the world’s more ostentatiously anti-American regimes.

Unmoored from such inconvenient realities, Obama went about his reset. The signature decision was the abrupt cancellation of a Polish- and Czech-based U.S. missile defense system bitterly opposed by Moscow.

The cancellation deeply undercut two very pro-American allies who had aligned themselves with Washington in the face of both Russian threats and popular unease. Obama not only left them twisting in the wind, he showed the world that the Central Europeans’ hard-won independence was only partial and tentative. With American acquiescence, their ostensibly sovereign decisions were subject to a Russian veto.

This major concession, together with a New START treaty far more needed by Russia than America, was supposed to ease U.S.-Russia relations, assuage Russian opposition to missile defense and enlist its assistance in stopping Iran’s nuclear program.

Three years in, how is that reset working out? The Russians are back on the warpath about missile defense. They’re denouncing the watered-down Obama substitute. They threaten not only to target any Europe-based U.S. missile defenses but also to install offensive missiles in Kaliningrad. They threaten additionally to withdraw from START, which the administration had touted as a great foreign policy achievement.

As for assistance on Iran, Moscow has thwarted us at every turn, weakening or blocking resolution after resolution. And now, when even the International Atomic Energy Agency has testified to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Russia declares that it will oppose any new sanctions.

Finally, adding contempt to mere injury, Vladimir Putin responded to recent anti-government demonstrations by unleashing a crude Soviet-style attack on America as the secret power behind the protests. Putin personally accused Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of sending “a signal” that activated internal spies and other agents of imperial America.

Such are the wages of appeasement. Makes one pine for mere “drift.”

Even worse has been Obama’s vaunted “engagement” with Iran. He began his presidency apologetically acknowledging U.S. involvement in a coup that happened more than 50 years ago. He then offered bilateral negotiations that, predictably, failed miserably. Most egregiously, he adopted a studied and scandalous neutrality during the popular revolution of 2009, a near-miraculous opportunity — now lost — for regime change.

 

Obama imagined that his silver tongue and exquisite sensitivity to Islam would persuade the mullahs to give up their weapons program. Amazingly, they resisted his charms, choosing instead to become a nuclear power. The negotiations did nothing but confer legitimacy on the regime at its point of maximum vulnerability (and savagery), as well as give it time for further uranium enrichment and bomb development.

 

For his exertions, Obama earned (a) continued lethal Iranian assistance to guerrillas killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, (b) a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by blowing up a Washington restaurant, (c) the announcement just this week by a member of parliament of Iranian naval exercises to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, and (d) undoubted Chinese and Russian access to a captured U.S. drone for the copying and countering of its high-tech secrets.

How did Obama answer that one?

 On Monday, he politely asked for the drone back!

On Tuesday, with Putin-like contempt, Iran demanded that Obama apologize instead. “Obama begs Iran to give him back his toy plane,” reveled the semiofficial Fars News Agency.

 

Just a few hours earlier, Secretary Clinton asserted yet again that, “we want to see the Iranians engage. . . . We are not giving up on it.”

Blessed are the cheek-turners. But do these people have no limit?

As we fall perilously behind in the nuclear race …

Nuclear Modernization – A  fading commitment

The Weekly Standard
OCT 10, 2011
http://israel-commentary.org/?p=1948
The Obama administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review adopted the goals of reduced reliance on nuclear weapons, continued nuclear weapons reductions, and the ultimate, if controversial, goal of “nuclear zero”—the elimination of those weapons altogether. At the same time, it pledged to maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent as long as other nations have nuclear arms. These goals are difficult to achieve simultaneously, and the Obama administration has stated explicitly that its priority “atop the U.S. nuclear agenda” is movement toward nuclear zero.

The commitment of the administration to sustaining an effective nuclear deterrent force became a contentious issue in 2010 during Senate debate on ratification of the New START Treaty. Senate critics of the treaty were concerned that it effectively demanded only U.S. force reductions and that the Obama administration lacked commitment to maintaining the U.S. nuclear triad (bombers, ICBMs, and missile submarines). Each element of the triad has attributes that support deterrence: ICBMs are the most secure, alert, and responsive, bombers the most flexible, and missile submarines the most likely to survive an attack.

The Obama administration argued that it would maintain a “robust” deterrent, claiming that it planned to “invest well over $100 billion to sustain existing strategic delivery systems capabilities,” modernize these aging U.S. systems, and replace decrepit facilities to fabricate uranium and plutonium parts with modern plants.

Under congressional pressure, in May 2010, the administration outlined its modernization plans in a report to Congress, the so-called Section 1251 report. In November 2010, an update to the report provided additional detail, presumably to calm critics of the administration’s New START Treaty. The November 2010 report promised “modernization” of “America’s nuclear arsenal,” but options were constrained by the administration’s simultaneous policy of no “new” U.S. nuclear weapons or weapon capabilities. The November report promised pursuit of a new heavy bomber and a new cruise missile to assure the continued effectiveness of the bomber part of the triad. The report also pointed towards a replacement ICBM by 2030.

These administration commitments succeeded in gaining Senate approval of the New START Treaty. Skeptics warned, however, that this commitment to modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent would prove temporary, given the Obama administration’s higher priority of movement toward nuclear zero. Unfortunately, the skeptics appear to have been correct.

The administration’s pledges to sustain and modernize U.S. nuclear forces now look short on substance and long on rhetoric. There has been minimal progress on the commitments to a new bomber, a replacement air-launched nuclear cruise missile, and possibly a new ICBM. Instead, budgetary pressures and further U.S. force reductions appear to threaten one or more of these programs.

The Obama administration has funded a replacement for the Trident missile submarine in 2029. But the number of submarines will be reduced as will the number of missiles per submarine, and a replacement for the Trident II missile is not scheduled until 2042. And judging by recent administration statements, the capabilities of the replacement submarine may be downgraded to reduce costs.

The administration’s approach to fixing problems with nuclear warheads and facilities for nuclear materials, which initially appeared to be robust, also may be flagging. The administration did submit the promised funding request for FY2012 to fix parts of our broken nuclear weapons complex. However, to date it has made no effort to sustain that funding in Congress. Both House and Senate appropriations committees have made cuts that will delay critical nuclear weapons life extension programs.

The House Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee has cut $500 million from the $7.1 billion budget request for nuclear weapon activities. The comparable Senate committee has cut $440 million. These cuts, if they stand, will put in jeopardy life extension programs for W78 warheads for ICBMs, B61 nuclear bombs deployed to Europe in support of NATO, and for completing the life extension of W76 warheads on our ballistic missile submarines.

In addition, cuts eliminate over $200 million for nuclear warhead infrastructure and over $130 million from science and technology at our national labs. Of specific concern is a cut of $100 million from funds to build the Chemistry and Metallurgy Replacement Facility, the nation’s only plutonium research and engineering facility, to support the nuclear stockpile and nonproliferation programs.

One reason the Obama administration came under pressure to modernize U.S. nuclear deterrent capabilities for the long term is the obvious fact that Russia, China, and others are engaged in extensive nuclear modernization programs. For example, Russian press reports state that Russia will triple its strategic missile production over the period 2011-2015. Russia is deploying new silo-based and mobile ICBMs and new ballistic missile submarines, which will carry a new type of ballistic missile. By 2018, Russia plans to deploy a new “heavy” ICBM, which reportedly can carry 10-15 nuclear warheads.

Russian plans call for developing a stealthy bomber and deploying a new nuclear cruise missile. New advanced nuclear warheads are being deployed, including low-yield warheads to make nuclear threats more credible. Additionally, Russia enjoys a 10-to-1 advantage over the United States in tactical nuclear weapons.

The Chinese nuclear buildup is slower but steady. China is deploying two new mobile ICBMs. Reportedly, China is developing multiple warhead ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. It is also building new missile submarines to carry these latter missiles. North Korea, Iran, and possibly India are also developing ICBMs. Apparently these nations have not been inspired by the “nuclear zero” slogan.

Recently, administration officials have made explicit statements revealing lukewarm support for their earlier commitment to nuclear modernization. For example, in early 2011, White House arms control coordinator Gary Samore said the U.S. government was considering further unilateral nuclear weapons cuts and eliminating a leg of the nuclear triad. When asked about this, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would not rule it out. In September, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a decision will have to be made” in the future “of whether we keep the triad or drop it down to a dyad.

Reporting in the Washington Times, Bill Gertz wrote that the Obama White House is determined to “make deeper cuts on strategic nuclear forces.” In July 2011, according to AOL Defense, General James Cartwright, then-vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opined that “America does not need a stealthy long-range bomber able to penetrate deep into remote, well-defended places.”

The $400 billion cut in defense spending announced by President Obama in April 2011 probably means that the prospect for the new bomber or a replacement ICBM is poor unless Congress takes the initiative. As the Pentagon is forced to consider huge budget cuts, the ICBM force may be on the chopping block or subject to large unilateral reductions. Either move would be a mistake. So much for the Obama administration’s expressed resolve to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

In 2009, the bipartisan U.S. Strategic Commission recommended “retention of the current Triad.” The large defense budget cuts being considered today are very risky. At a minimum, the long-term commitment to the U.S. nuclear deterrent as outlined in the administration’s November 2010 report needs to be protected. If the Obama administration does not give sustained attention to these issues, further erosion and atrophy of U.S. capabilities are inevitable along with serious risks of a weakened U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Mark Schneider was special assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the New START Treaty negotiations. He now serves as a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy.