I wasn’t going to write about President Obama’s new nuclear weapons strategy–a central tenet of which is that the U.S. would not authorize a nuclear strike against a nonnuclear country in retaliation for a chemical or biological attack if that country is in compliance with its nonproliferation obligations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Then, on Friday, April 9, I listened to Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn tell Laura Ingraham, sitting in for Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, that people like Sarah Palin who oppose the president’s new strategy (principally conservatives) aren’t smart enough to understand it.
Quinn’s comments, by themselves, are just one woman’s opinion. Her comments, however, should be taken in the context of criticism by the liberal elite–of which she is a card-carrying member–of those that oppose Obama’s nuclear weapons strategy, Obamacare, cap-and-trade, and other Obama administration liberal initiatives. They reflect the prevailing political strategy of the left to denigrate Sarah Palin’s intelligence and the intellect of conservatives in general in order to undercut their criticisms.
Quinn wasn’t on the program to discuss nuclear weapons strategy. The topic came up because Ingraham asked Quinn to react to the Sarah Palin-Barack Obama war of words over the issue that was widely reported in the media.
Palin had told Sean Hannity, “It’s kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, ‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.’”
President Obama responded to a question from George Stephanopolous about Palin’s comment, saying “I really have no response, because last I checked, Sarah Palin’s not much of an expert on nuclear issues.”
Palin shot back in her speech at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, with “The President, with all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer, and as a part time senator, and as a full time candidate–all that experience, still no accomplishment to date with North Korea and Iran.”
Ingraham simply wanted to know if Quinn thought Obama’s comments were “presidential” and if was wise for him bristle so easily at Palin’s comments. Quinn, however, took the opportunity to make fun of Palin’s pronunciation of “nuclear” and suggest that nuclear strategy was a very “sophisticated” and “complex” issue that was over Palin’s head.
Ingraham cited conservatives like former UN Ambassador John Bolton, columnist Charles Krauthammer, and all the opinion polls that agree with Palin on the nuclear strategy issue. Quinn’s retort was “they just don’t understand it.” It’s a statement made frequently by the left about issues conservatives oppose, like we heard during the Obamacare debate.
As with Obamacare, there are indeed many technical aspects of nuclear weapons–how they’re managed, what they cost, and how many different varities there are–that are complex and not well understood by most Americans.
What is not complex or difficult to understand about Obamacare is that it will greatly expand the federal government bureaucracy and raise people’s taxes. And, over time, as fewer doctors are available to care for millions of new patients, it will result in the rationing of healthcare.
What is not complex or difficult to understand about Obama’s new nuclear weapons strategy is that it abandons what has worked well for 11 U.S. presidents for over 60 years for the dubious and uncertain hope that the new U.S. posture will discourage nuclear proliferation.
The U.S. never renounced the first use of nuclear weapons nor did it declare that it would never respond with nuclear weapons to a non-nuclear attack. As Krauthammer phrased it, “During the Cold War, we let the Russians know that if they dared use their huge conventional military advantage and invaded Western Europe, they risked massive U.S. nuclear retaliation. Goodbye Moscow.” This is something a Soviet Premier, a Chinese Communist Party boss, or even a caribou-hunting former governor of Alaska could understand.
The Cold war is long over and the global strategic situation has changed. Nevertheless, Palin, conservatives like Krauthammer and Bolton, and the majority of Americans understand that human nature hasn’t changed. The more uncertainty in the minds of our enemies about how we will respond to any attack, the more likely we are to deter one.
As Palin’s playground comment suggests, let’s not tempt our adversaries to use any weapon of mass destruction against us, potentially killing hundreds of thousands of Americans, and force an American president to sacrifice thousands more to retaliate using only conventional means.
Liberals may want to reconsider the conservatives-are-stupid argument. It has worked for them in the past, before the days of cable television, the internet, Twitter, and the Tea Party movement. It’s far less effective now, when people no longer have to rely on the mainstream media for information, and they have multiple means of validating their common sense. Then again, perhaps conservatives should encourage them to keep it up and let them discover what happens in November when they keep calling conservatives (40 percent of American voters) idiots.
Ed Ross is the President and Chief Executive Officer of EWRoss International LLC, a company that provides global consulting services to clients in the international defense marketplace. He publishes commentary at EWRoss.com.