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Obama unravels

Fresh from his humbling at the hands of Hillary Clinton and following on from a statement indicating his willingness to invade Pakistan, Barack Obama ladles on credence to the increasingly ubiquitous assertion that he’s inexperienced:

I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance…involving civilians. Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.

Desperately wrong answer to (what should be) a deal-breaking question, Mr Obama. Sure, waving the threat of one’s nuclear weapons capacity around like a pair of chopsticks in a cheap Chinese restaurant is not sensible, because it ultimately reduces that capacity’s deterrent value – which is the only practical reason why a sane nation would field a nuclear arsenal in this world of other nations who also possess The Bomb. A wise leader does not even refer to his country’s nuclear weapons capacity, because the widespread knowledge of that capacity speaks for itself more effectively than any politician could ever hope to.

Conversely, it is sheer lunacy for a US President (or hopeful) to declare that he will never press the button, because such statements completely undermine the deterrent value of these weapons. Mr Obama, if you are not running on a platform of nuclear disarmament, you never take the nuclear option off the table. Ever. You made a most elementary strategic blunder – you are not a suitable candidate for the role of U.S. Commander-in-Chief.

16 comments to Obama unravels

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Obama gets a lot of favourable mentions from Andrew Sullivan these days. He’s therefore doomed.

  • Yes,Sun Tzullivan is the kiss of death,Obama might get by of looks.

  • guy herbert

    It is the caveat that’s most odd. Using nuclear weapons without involving civilians would be an impressive thing. In fact, doing the same with conventional weapons is beyond even the best equipped and trained armed forces.

  • Jacob

    When Ronald Reagan was asked the nuclear question about Vietnam he replied: “Let the Vietcong worry about that. They should be the last ones on the earth to receive assurances that we’ll not use the bomb.”

  • Paul Marks

    Yes, it is a mistake to tell an enemy what one will or will not do – it is better to “leave them wondering”.

    As for nuclear weapons: If an enemy has bases deep underground (as, for example, the Iranian nuclear bases are) it is hard to see how they could be destroyed without atomic attack (which makes it unfortunate that the “mini nukes” that Donald Rumsfeld wanted to build were not built – this means that large scale nuclear weapons might have to be used).

    As Guy pointed out it is hard to avoid killing civilians in war.

    Indeed with the Iranian regime (as with so many radical Islamic groups – both Shia and Sunni) it is impossible to avoid civilian deaths, as they keep civilians round their military bases on the “human shield” principle.

    Of course if the C.I.A. could manage to help local Iranians overthrow the regime……. (given the state of the C.I.A. do not hold your breath).

    Given the state of public opinion in the United States (due to Iraq and other factors) and outside it I do not regard a preemptive nuclear attack upon Iranian bases as a viable option.

    However, when and if the Iranian regime uses nuclear weapons against Israel (or gives them to terrorists for use against the United States) public perceptions.

    The United States would not be destroyed by the destruction of Washington D.C. and New York (the two most likely targets for terrorist attack) and public opinion would, I believe, radically change in a American city came under atomic attack (for example the broadcast networks would have to change their tune or go bankrupt).

    Of course Israel might well be undermined by a single atomic bomb (if it destroyed Tel Aviv), but I see no easy way of preventing this. And, given the state of public opinion, I would not advise military action to try and prevent it.

    It is just a factor of the modern world.

  • Hank Scorpio

    Obama gets a lot of favourable mentions from Andrew Sullivan these days. He’s therefore doomed.

    He never had a chance to begin with. “Barack Hussein Obama” being elected president? Of the United States? No damned way.

    I also frankly just don’t see any way that Hillary Clinton is electable. She could very well get the nomination, but no conservative would vote for her, and her unpopularity with the vast sea of independent voters would doom her. Edwards, creepy used car salesman that he is, could have a chance, but I don’t think he’ll get the nomination.

    If Clinton is nominated the Republicans could put a corpse up against her and win the general election. This is fortunate for them, because corpses are just about the only candidates they have access to.

  • J

    I agree it’s a silly thing to say, but, as you point out, once you have nukes they are never off the table. His words speak to one group of people, while the fact that (I assume) he’d maintain the US nuclear option, speaks to another group of people.

    It’s a case of a politician being two-faced, which is not unusual. He hasn’t made a strategic blunder, he may have made a political one. But, let’s face it. The kind of people who are horrified at a politician saying “I’ll never use nukes on civilians” aren’t going to be voting for him anyway. I assume his words were meant to convert some fraction of the democrat faithful to his side, rather than anything else.

  • Paul Marks

    Errors above.

    Public perceptions might change – I missed out the “might change”.

    And “in a American city” should read “if an American city” – although public opinion would change in a city subject to atomic attack (anong the those people who survived anyway).

    The most likely city in Britain to be subject to atomic attack is London.

    I tend to think that Britain would collapse if that happened – but then I tend to have a negative opinion of the condition of this country (I rather suspect Britain will collapse whether London comes under attack or not).

  • The Dude

    I have the suspicion that if Israel thought it would come under attack from an Iranian nuclear device the US would not have to worry to much about the bases being there for very long.

  • Nick M

    Paul,
    If London was seriously nuked Britain would collapse. Our economy would be utterly ruined. No ifs, no buts and nothing to do with the current state of the British populace. We have for centuries been essentially a city state with a hinterland.

    And that keeps me awake at night sometimes. My entire world could collapse because of a pissed-off religious fanatic with one of Armandinajad’s Manhatten Project era bombs on a barge in the Thames.

    The nuking of DC or NYC would not destroy the USA but I suspect that from sea to shining sea they would be mightily pissed. It is something up with which 300 million Americans would quite simply not put.

    If Iran hits Tel Aviv (not guaranteed because their missiles are pretty primitive and could potentially be Patrioted or THELed then I would predict that Iran will simply cease to exist. 6000 years of Persian culture and a load of carpets my mother would kill for done for in an afternoon. Magic.

    At least the Sovs were rational players of the game.

    We’ve got to sort this. It scares me.

    So Obama is floating the idea of the US invading it’s longest standing ally in Asia. I suspect somewhere he has a policy adviser whose head is monotonously banging on a table with rage. Well, touche sir. Prince Philip, you are outdone.

  • Much as I wish the Hildabeast were doomed, she is very smart and should not be underestimated.

    Dick Morris recently said that the Black Community, (or at least its major leaders will insist on Obama being made the Dems VP candidate. If not they could ask their folks to stay home whoch would doom the dems in both the house and the senate. An interesting problem.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick M

    I quite agree that if London was nuked this country would collapse (it may well collapse even if London is not nuked).

    However, I do not agree that this has been true “for centuries”.

    Say London had vanished (by magic spell or whatever) in 1914. The rest of the country would have carried on

    Manufacturing (although there were signs of trouble due to the pro union statutes of 1875 and 1906) did not begin to decline in the north till after the First World War, and even finance and banking were much more spread out than they are now.

    For example the Liverpool exchange had a direct link (by undersea cable) with the exchange in Shanghai. There had been a move of finance and other such to London over the years – but if London had vanished such trades would simply have grown back in other parts of the country (they still existed there).

    Even transport was quite different. For example, there were east-west railways – one did not have to go “down to London and then back up again” in order to get anywhere.

    Farming (it varried over the country so this is just an overview) was actually doing quite well before the First World War (in was recovering from the hard times of the late 19th century), it hit very hard times indeed in the 1920s and 1930′s but then recovered again – although this was a subsidy led recovery (now we have both vast subsidies and farming being in the worst shape it has been in since the 1930′s).

    As for the Midlands (back to industry) – these counties did not go into decline till after World War II.

    Indeed my own little town of Kettering used to have many shoe factories and other industry as late as the 1970′s.

    These days it has a much larger population, but it does not seem to be based on much.

    Surely it will not take an atomic bomb to bring down this credit bubble country?

    By the way, I can remember when London produced a lot of good stuff (I am not anti London) and my father (born and bred in the heart of London) could remember when it was the most important manufacturing and services city in the world (well New York might have argued even in 1913 – but let us leave that aside), I think you will find that it produces a lot less such good stuff now (although there is still some production in London).

    Even breweries (some of which go back for a thousand years) are going.

    “But The City Paul The City”.

    Few City of London firms are British owned anymore (indeed most have no individual owners at all) and they do not really “put peoples savings to work in productive investments” because people in Britain do not tend to save much any more, and there are few productive investments made here.

  • One of the cornerstones of a credible nuclear deterrence stance is that it must be non-repudiable. It must be impossible to say that the response to nuclear attack will not be nuclear. This is why the ‘balance of terror’ during the Cold War included such features as launch-on-warning and fail-deadly SSBN posture (SSBNs need to be told, repeatedly, not to launch; if the NCA has been destroyed then after a preset interval they go into the hover and launch their missiles at their designated targets). The idea is to make the enemy confident that you will eradicate him if he attacks you. Obama should have said, “if this country is attacked with weapons of mass destruction, then I will instruct SAC to incinerate the entire population, civilian and military, of the country responsible to the most thorough extent possible.”

    The only rational response to use of WMDs by a rogue state is to exterminate every living thing in it, and then nuke the rubble. The instant a nuclear power fails to do this, its entire arsenal becomes scrap. Because if you once waver, the next rogue state knows it has nothing to fear.

  • You make a good, straight point there James.
    Obama is history. We hope.

  • Obama should change his name to Richard Head Esq.

  • BobR

    “It is something up with which 300 million Americans would quite simply not put.”

    Wouldn’t take anywhere near that many of us to bring on the annihilation. Most don’t vote and it only takes a small part of those that do to swing the election one way or the other. The _entire_ House of Representatives is replaced every two years. My prediction: anyone lights off a nuke _anywhere_ in America and the count down is at most two years — more likely a small number of days.