President Obama has recently announced his intention to amend the conditions upon which the United States would engage in nuclear retaliatory measures, even in the face of a biological or chemical attack against our homeland. This policy shift sets a dangerous precedent. Although any use of nuclear weapons constitutes a dramatic escalation in conflict; its use must remain as a practicable deterrent measure against any catastrophic strike against the United States.
The president’s declarations send a welcome message to the leaders of rogue governments such as Iran and North Korea; namely, that the United States is unwilling to maintain any and all viable defensive measures in order to protect our interests. The Obama administration argues that the United States can lead by example in reducing the circumstances upon which we would consider the use of nuclear weaponry. Unfortunately, such ambitions are unfounded and only serve to underscore the relevance of an even more practical manner by which nuclear weapons can be rendered impotent.
World leaders such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong-Il will not be deterred in their pursuit of nuclear weapons by the lofty rhetoric offered by President Obama. Nuclear weapons exist and will continue to do so until their damaging effects can be mitigated through technological superiority. Anti-ballistic missile defense systems offer the potential for such superiority. Their ability to identify and intercept offensive ballistic missiles can dramatically reduce the salience of those weapons in the hands of unstable regimes. Instead of attempting to lead by example through rhetoric, the Obama administration should lead the world community by the example we set in expanding upon our current missile defense systems.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration appears unwilling to pursue that course. Having capitulated in the face of Russian resistance to a previously agreed upon cooperative endeavor concerning the deployment of anti-ballistic missile batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Obama administration has signaled that missile defense systems are not at the forefront of its defense policy.
The president’s recent policy shift will not protect the United States or her interests abroad as rogue nations like Iran and North Korea continue to develop their nuclear programs upon the backs of unstable regimes. Announcing the desire of the United States to reduce the incidence by which she will consider the use of nuclear interventions may induce congratulatory laudations from President Obama’s most extreme base; however it will not illicit the same sentiments from those abroad who may desire to do harm to the United States.
Instead of superfluous rhetoric, President Obama should instead vocally recommit the United States to a robust and vibrant missile defense system. Only by rendering impotent the nuclear arms of rogue nations will the United States truly be able to effect the desired abandonment of such programs. The failed arguments against the use of missile defense systems that permeated previous discussions no longer hold weight. As the technology has progressed the disinclination toward its implementation has become increasingly untenable. In this time of regional instability, the president should embrace missile defense and in so doing send a firm message to rogue nations in pursuit of destabilizing nuclear policies.
Scott G. Erickson has worked in the field of law enforcement for the past decade and holds both his B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice Studies. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.