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Barnett, the Bomb and Obama

In line with the vigorous discussion in the comment section of the previous post, Tom Barnett weighs in on Obama’s nuclear utopianism in Esquire Magazine:

3. An America with fewer nukes breeds a new class of military powers.

By reducing “barriers to entry” to the marketplace called great-power war, I believe we would actually encourage the proliferation of nuclear weaponry. If Obama and his successors were to withdraw America’s virtually global nuclear umbrella, numerous middle powers would become highly incentivized to fill that security gap.

Of course, the dream would be to include all such states in a global rejection of nuclear weaponry, but that’s not likely if the system’s clear Leviathan (the United States) demotes itself to the status of a de-nuclearized great power. That scenario (Obama’s scenario) instantly elevates a slew of suddenly “near-peer” military powers in a manner that smaller states will likely find strategically unpalatable. As in, they could be blown into oblivion — strategic or literal — at any moment.

4. A new class of military powers breeds a new round of local wars.

The fallout from the collapse of our nuclear umbrella would be as frightening as it would be immediate: the resumption of great-power rivalries and proxy wars in regions once again subject to profound spheres of influence. That would further complicate the strategic landscape and undo so much of the Obama administration’s diplomatic success between now and then.

Read the rest here.

I think that Tom belted it out of the park here. Good policy seldom emerges from bad premises.

2 Responses to “Barnett, the Bomb and Obama”

  1. Cheryl Rofer Says:

    While researching a post, I found this footage of President Eisenhower’s "Open Skies" proposal in 1955. Notice that his rhetoric is not unlike Barack Obama’s on going to zero. The treaty came into force in 2002. These things take some time to work out.

  2. zen Says:

    hi Cheryl,
    Not just time, of course, but much of the underlying political conflict that had created the strategic standoff in the first place. And SIGINT/IMINT technology had superceded the original offer long, long ago.
    That said, you raised an interesting diplomatic anecdote. Ike’s proposal offered a huge concession to the USSR as the US was already secretly overflying the Soviet Union with U-2’s at will ( something that enraged Khrushchev) and I have to suspect that Ike knew that our unilateral advantage was going to erode soon as Soviet radar and anti-aircraft missile capacity improved. Khrushchev however, was in no political position at home to explore such an offer, even if he was inclined to do so – Khrushchev still had to contend with a powerful Stalinist bloc in the presidium led by what he later called " the Anti-Party group" and was staking his own cred on a "Leninist policy" in foreign affairs by supporting "wars of national liberation". It was not until after the Cuban Missile Crisis that Khrushchev pulled back from an aggressive posture but by then he had fatally weakened himself with multiple policy failures. The nomenklatura had enough of him.

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