Many foreign policy experts have dismissed Obama's START treaty with Russia and his prattle about a world without nuclear weapons as a post-cold war sideshow, a way to register something resembling a foreign policy accomplishment, 20 years after this kind of thing was relevant. And while that's not entirely inaccurate, it ignores the real need for nuclear deterrence.
Any basic defensive strategy begins with at least weapons parity. That is if the other side has a gun, you had better also have a gun or a really reliable bulletproof vest. During the Cold War, America stocked up on ICBM caliber guns. Reagan tried to buy America a bulletproof vest with SDI, only to get shellacked for it by the same liberals who claimed they hated nuclear weapons. Apparently they hated a defense against nuclear weapons even more.
In a world with nuclear weapons and no reliable defense that covers everything from an ICBM to a suitcase bomb, America will need nuclear weapons. It will need them as a credible deterrent, so that its cities and its civilization will not be wiped off the face of the earth. If the Cold War standoff was fairly straightforward, we are entering an era in which nuclear weapons will be widely available throughout the world for the first time. Within a generation, it is likely that every country which really wants a nuclear bomb will be able to have one.
Iran is the beginning of a new chapter in history, in which a collapsing oligarchy that can hardly control its own country, can still buy nuclear technology from a declining former superpower and even with mass unemployment, can still spend countless billions to deploy it in hopes of martyrdom. Iran today, everyone tomorrow. By failing to turn off the nuclear tap on North Korea and Pakistan, we are swiftly entering an era in which a nuclear weapon, like a fleet of jet planes, will be available to any dictatorship with enough money to buy it. And that makes nuclear deterrence more vital than ever.
If in the Cold War, nuclear deterrence was a fairly straightforward matter of pointing our nukes at Moscow and parts beyond, while they pointed theirs at D.C. and Disneyland, the future of American nuclear deterrence will be less about a generational showdown, and more about making it clear that a nuclear attack on America will be answered with overwhelming devastating-- regardless of its source.
In 25 years, we may well be living in a world in which everyone from Zaire to Al Queda, or whatever Muslim terrorist group may be filling its shoes then, has access to nuclear weapons. And only nuclear deterrence can prevent an attack from so many possible vectors. A deterrence that is not dependent on a hotline to Moscow, but on a decisive readiness to use nuclear weapons against any country that launches a nuclear attack, or finances and arms a terrorist group that launches a nuclear attack. Living in a nuclear world, we will no longer have the luxury to engage in the same nation building exercises that are being played out in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead we will be up against the sharp end of the blade. Either our enemies will know beforehand that if they harm us, their cities will burn. Or our own cities will burn, over and over again.
Because that deterrence can only work if we demonstrate a decisive willingness to use force, and a high comfort level with nuclear weapons. And that will be an uphill battle in a country that culturally terrorized into viewing nuclear weapons as armageddon in a box, first by Nazi sympathizers, and then by Communist sympathizers who claimed to be fighting for world peace. Obama is the latest entry in that great endless fight for peace. Which mainly consists of convincing the countries who actually do want peace to feel badly for defending themselves, until they are ripe for the plucking.
The Battle of Okinawa made it quite obvious that had the United States not used nuclear weapons, America after WW2, would have looked like Britain after WW1, robbed of a generation of its young men. There would have been no "Baby Boom", no explosion of technology and industry. The decline of America would have begun when the war ended. And Western Europe might have shared the fate of Eastern Europe. (It is of course no coincidence, that the biggest American and European critics of the use of the bomb, would have preferred such an outcome.)
Like the anti-war propaganda before WW2, the anti-war propaganda afterward, consisted largely of the red and black, Communist and Nazi sympathizers. The latter were aggrieved over their defeat. The former wanted to disarm the free world, so that Stalin and his successors could sweep in and claim the globe. Communist propaganda relied heavily on front groups and on "fellow traveler" intellectuals. And when they failed to sell a party line message damning the United States for its nuclear weapons, they instead turned to emphasizing the horrors of a nuclear stalemate in which the world could end at any moment.
The genesis of Global Warming panic lay in the fraudulent claims of a Nuclear Winter. Both aimed at terrorizing the American public by making them believe that disagreeing with them, meant dooming their children and the world to utter environmental destruction. Countless dramas in which the world was destroyed were meant to bring home the terror. To convey the message that nuclear weapons were a horror that had to be eliminated. All this went to improve the negotiating position of the Soviet Union, which lagged technologically behind the United States, and needed a way to handicap its superior rival.
An easy way to convince your enemy not to fight back, is to cause him to believe that even self-defense is immoral. The left has never succeeded in convincing anything close to a majority of Americans of that position-- but they have settled for convincing them that some forms of self-defense are too dangerous and inconvenient. Just as they convinced them that nuclear power was too dangerous, so that countless billions could go on flowing to Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia financing Islamic terrorism. Just as they hope to convince them that the War on Terror is just too dangerous and too much work.
As Obama works to disarm the United States, both morally and tactically, he is continuing the work of those who do not believe that America is a moral entity or has any national right to exist. And the people who think that way, view Israel the same way. As well as all of Europe. Illegitimate national entities to be carved up and turned over to Third Worlders with more deserving values. In a world in which immigration has become a tactical demographic weapon, nuclear weapons can almost seem like a relic of a cruder and more mechanical age, when wars were fought with billion dollar weapons pitted against each other, not with cell phone activated bomb vests and press releases.
Yet we are poised on the edge of a new nuclear age, in which the widespread dissemination of nuclear weapons makes them widely available. Without nuclear deterrence, that age may well mean the end of civilization as we know it. The end of conventional nations and cities, as any faction or group with a grudge, and another nation's backing, can kill millions to make a point. Anti-war activists suggest we meet the threat by talking about peace and reducing our own arsenals, while relying on the UN, to be the same useless wet noodle that it's always been. But talking of peace is as likely to bring on wars, as prevent them. And paper lanterns make a poor defense against radiation poisoning.
If you cannot defend yourself against a weapon, then you are helpless in the face of it. That is the final lesson of history, one that the "intellectuals" who disdained the Western canon, have ignored, in the pursuit of a Socialist disdain for the survival of their home countries, or papered over with bits of butchered Orientalist "wisdom". To defend itself against nuclear weapons, the United States needs nuclear weapons. The Second Nuclear Age is beginning. And we must be ready.