The voice of young liberal democrats

I’m confused by Barack Obama’s declaration on foreign policy by londonliberal
October 7, 2007, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs

It’s official. If Barack Obama becomes President he will seek the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as increasing foreign aid and deliver a state of the world address. There’s more of course, but that’s the general jist of it. His justification for these proposals is that the Soviet Union does not exist any more, so does not need to be defended against from the threat of nuclear war, and that instead the focus should be on keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists – the new threat.

I have just one question: why?

By that, I don’t mean to question his intentions but his logic. Nuclear disarmament and nuclear proliferation are two different concepts, so why make a pledge that effectively bags the two together? Furthermore, not only is it possible to restrict proliferation without necessitating disarmament, but on the contrary it is vital. Indeed, to claim that the threat of nuclear war disappeared along with the Soviet Union is dangerously naive. This is not just because of the rekindling of traditional Cold War rivalry of late, but also because it is impossible to predict the future and to be sure that those openly hostile to us won’t develop nuclear weapons or that those who already possess them won’t one day become our rival or even our enemy.

That said, I completely share Mr Obama’s desire to halt proliferation to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists or hostile nation states. Although there are those who argue that the world would be safer place if every nation on the earth had nuclear weapons, installing the MAD mentality that kept the U.S.A and the Soviet Union at arm’s length for so may years, such proliferation would be catastrophic. For a start, accidents can happen, not all leaders (especially dictators) are rational actors and arms races are uneven meaning that some states would develop nukes before others, increasing the temptation to launch a pre-emptive strike. Furthermore though, unless every country had the same number of nuclear weapons and the same targeting systems that enable US and Russian missiles alone to take out not just their rivals’ biggest cities but the missile silos themselves in one strike, the MAD mentality would be replaced with an incentive to strike first, not second.

The problem with leading by example to achieve this end, however, is that it is impossible to monitor the progress of other countries especially when you consider that the way Pakistan, India and Israel managed to get round the supposedly comprehensive nuclear non-proliferation treaty was to not sign it the first place. Rather, providing security guarantees within the framework of sophisticated alliances between like-minded liberal democratic states such as NATO would be far more effective. Of course, it is essential that these alliances be reinforced by the political and economic support crucial to building and sustaining stable democracies offered by the European Union and their rapidly developing regional counterparts such as the African Union and the Association of South East Asian Nations.

So, I would cautiously embrace Mr Obama’s core foreign policy principles just as long as he remembers that making the world a safer place need not take priority over the security of his own country.


1 Comment so far
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Obama seems very shaky on foreign policy. ISTR him suggesting invading Pakistan at one point…

Its a great shame, I marginally prefer him over Clinton…

Comment by twem2

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