Pending Catastrophe: The Incipient Failure of the Barack Obama Anti-Nuclear Proliferation Policy

“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish…all forms of human life.” John F. Kennedy Inaugural, 1961

This was not the only time the first American president of 1960’s warned of the danger of nuclear weapons, and he exaggerated, thank God, the speed of nuclear proliferation, predicting in 1963 that there could be over 20 nuclear states within a decade. Unfortunately, underestimating in 1963 the time required for a proliferation catastrophe brings little solace to those concerned in 2009.

What is unconsciously, or in a minority of cases, consciously, behind the stress and hope America feels regarding the protests against Iran’s Islamic rulers? Are Americans primarily concerned with the undemocratic theocracy and the loss of political rights by the people of Iran? No. Are they (we) primarily concerned that there is a danger that the politics of oil could redound to the detriment of the West? No.

Now that we haven’t answered those questions, let me pose an easier one: what is the overriding dread Americans have regarding North Korea’s nuclear program, missile program, and unpredictability in general.

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The single overriding concern of Americans, simply put, is that nuclear weapons may likely be used as weapons or commerce by the North Koreans, especially since their willingness to threaten other countries (per a low threshold of provocation) with their newfound weapons is unprecedented.

And regarding Iran, make no mistake about it: the hidden fear pertaining to the Iranian unrest has as its root the question of which Iranian polity will be intent on attaining nuclear weapons: the current one or the reformists or both?

A nuclear weaponized Iran would transform Middle Eastern politics, enhance greatly – let’s avoid euphemisms here – the threat of catastrophic nuclear war, and/or energize a nuclear arms race throughout the region.

Forget those who say that the Iraq war was motivated by George W. Bush’s wish to punish Saddam for the latter’s (failed) attempt to assassinate George H. W. Bush. Forget those who say President Bush the younger was motivated to increase United States’ hegemony over that volatile part of the world. The chief motive was the fear that Iraq would once again – yes, they were stopped by Israel in the first go-round – attempt to acquire nuclear weapons.

If there is any good news from current ominous developments, it may be – may be –that President Barack Obama has learned that his considerable charisma seems insufficient to stop reckless nations from acquiring or moving toward acquiring nuclear weapons. This analysis may beg an important question: is there a Barack Obama policy to stop nuclear proliferation?

Such a policy should push for more aggressive action: convincing China to act to make North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program and perhaps accepting and supporting Israel’s eventual military action to stop or retard Iran’s nuclear weapons acquisition program before it is too late.

Professor Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University

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