Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Obama, Nukes, and the World

Posted in Barack Obama, Citizen Radio, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 6, 2009

nagasaki_nuclear_bombPresident Obama has seized upon North Korea’s missile launch to talk about a new approach to nuclear disarmament. Most people agree with the swell commonplaces associated with Obama’s vague rhetoric. Sure, we shouldn’t blow up the planet. Yes, nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous.

But beyond that, the rules for nuclear armament are very hazy. Who can pursue nuclear weapons changes depending on time, place, and what the United States can gain from allowing (or forbidding) nuclear ambitions.

Certainly, reducing armaments is the pathway to abolishing nuclear weapons. However, the United States has placed itself in the position of favoring/allowing some countries’ nuclear pursuits (United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, India, China, Russia) ahead of other countries’ sometimes-identical quests (Iran, North Korea, Syria). There was some good in Obama’s Prague speech, but there were also bad pockets. Let’s explore the minefield, shall we?

Good: reducing nukes

Few people adopt qualms for statements like this. It would be nice to live in a safer world where we’re not consumed with the fear that some general somewhere has gone bat shit crazy and sold the nuclear armament codes to Al-Qaeda.

Bad: The complete lack of universality

The United States picks and chooses which countries can, and cannot, pursue nuclear technology. Whilst holding Kim Jong-Il’s missiles just out of his reach, America gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons in an extremely volatile region of the world.

Soon after North Korea’s missile launch, President Obama gave a speech in Prague during which he declared, “Rules must be binding…Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” True, but what words? What are these rules, and why do sacred rules only apply to certain people?

Who can have missiles? Who can pursue nuclear technology, and why are 1,000-2,000 nukes on the U.S. and Russian sides any less dangerous than 5,000(PDF)?

Furthermore, “nuclear” describes a range of pursuits from missiles and bombs to energy. Iran claims it wants nuclear energy to power its state, while Israel and the United States claim their true interests lie in nuking Israel off the map. Such a move would be pretty dumb, considering Tehran would be obliterated instantly during the retaliation, but there it is – the strange double standard, combined with vague guidelines: Israel may have nukes, but Iran may not pursue nuclear power because we clairvoyantly believe Iran’s true intentions are to nuke Israel. And yes, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch document all kinds of human rights violations on the part of Israel that should lead us to believe it too is a reactionary government incapable of living humanely with its neighbors, and therefore shouldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons, but nevermind. Step aside: confusing standards to uphold here.

North Korea’s pursuit of a missile is another illustration of such a variance in priorities. While certainly crazy, Kim Jong-Il is hardly a looming threat to the west. His sputtering rocket is the equivalent of a five-year-old’s tantrum. He got the attention he’s been craving, but he’s unlikely to blast Alaska to smithereens. Call this the flexing-for-attention strategy. Sarah Palin needn’t stakeout the coastline with Todd, and her armed children, just yet.

Bad: Fear-mongering for the sake of geopolitical conquest

I recently interviewed activist and author of several books, Tariq Ali, about the volatility at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Obama’s rationale behind expanding the covert drone operation within Pakistan is that we can’t let the Taliban get a nuclear weapon. (Pakistan is one of those “nuclear no-no” countries that we curse having the bomb). Mr. Ali very patiently explained to me how absurd this notion is:

I think this is one of the stupidest, fear mongering things. It is true Pakistan is a nuclear state. It is also true that the Pakistani military is half a million strong, that these nuclear facilities are amongst the most heavily guarded facilities in the country, just like they are in the United States, in Israel, in India, in China, in Russia now. So the notion that any armed group of extremists could even get near these facilities is a joke.

But let’s suppose they do. All the nuclear weapons require codes to be fired. These codes are now imbedded in all these weapons. There’s a handful of top military people who know what these codes are. There are also rumors, by the way, that the United States defense intelligence agency has its own personnel in there. This has been denied, but it wouldn’t totally surprise me if it were true.

So there is no problem on that front unless the Pakistani military splits. Were it to split, then all bets are off. And the only reason it would split is if the United States expanded the war into Pakistan, making it extremely difficult for lots of nationalist-minded military officers to go along with this. Because there is that current and they say, “Well, it is our country. Why is the United States using our military bases to bomb our own people?”

What I am saying to you is now news to the administration. There are intelligent people behind Obama, who know all this. And that is why its puzzling as to why they trying to destabilize the country.

Someone explain to Mr. Ali that the United State’s policies don’t have to make sense. The U.S. has nukes, so it gets to make the rules. You don’t have to make sense when you can kill the world with your arsenal of deadly, deadly weapons. Of course, if the U.S. disarms, it may have to shield itself with logic and justice instead of contradictory ideologies, gross favoritism, and the ability to vaporize the world a hundred times over.

If Part 1 of Obama’s Al-Qaeda-with-nukes fear-mongering is Al-Qaeda’s ability to steal a nuke, part 2 is Al-Qaeda’s ability to build a nuclear weapon, a claim impressively more absurd than the one made in part 1.

Building a nuclear weapon isn’t like cooking up some meth in the back of a Chevy Chevette. It takes decades to enrich uranium (ask Iran). With a halfway competent intelligence community (something I would never accuse the U.S. of having, but rather something they should aspire to have,) we’d spot something suspicious in no time. Namely, dodgy, bearded dudes crouching in caves, their faces aglow in an eerie green light from their tubes of uranium.

While Obama’s pursuit (meaning, something beyond pretty words) of nuclear disarmament would be noble, there are other problems with the U.S.’s nuclear philosophy that needs his attention. Double standards, favoritism, and fear-mongering are cancerous elements that rob the U.S. of respect and leverage in the nuclear debate.

Cross-posted from Also available on Facebook and Twitter.

7 Responses

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  1. Susan said, on April 6, 2009 at 10:43 pm


  2. Me said, on April 7, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Un-bravo. Iran has repeatedly expressed their evil intentions toward Israel. Israel is not the enemy.

    This is complete bunk and is tossed in the round file after being categorized as nonsense.

  3. allisonkilkenny said, on April 7, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Israel has expressed and committed “evil intentions” right back at Iran ( and Palestine (, Yet, the United States puts no pressure on Israel to halt its hostile rhetoric and acts. It’s blatant favoritism, and such hypocritical behavior turns much of the world’s opinion against Israel and the United States.

  4. crummy said, on April 7, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Wall o’text incoming… Coffee is a hell of drug. Allow me to make “sense” of US policy.

    Anyway, I don’t think it’s any wonder that these “problems” appear right at the choke points of major energy supply routes.
    Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Iraq… These are convenient situations used to justify the presence of the three major competitors for the world’s energy as they jockey for control.

    Basically, the Middle East has become all about the control of the Caspian and who gets to supply China with energy: American controlled Afghanistan or Russia backed Iran.
    Some in power believe, and they may be right, that the current strength of the American Dollar depends on the U.S. and its allies being the guarantor of security over such a pipeline, otherwise there is no need for China’s continued backing of the dollar.
    In fact, US pressure (some lovely tin-hatters claim threats of Iran intervention, should they sell short the dollar…?) spurred China to rush the construction of two domestic oil reserves, the largest in the world.
    What ever you believe, Snow and Paulson didn’t repeatedly meet with the Chinese premier, much more than their predecessors, to discuss stemming the tide of designer knock-offs and intellectual property. China’s announcements to build the reserves directly coincided with the end of talks and served as rather amusing public counter offers to US policy; funny to anyone paying attention at the time. I know I chuckled a bit.

    Also, no one in their right mind wants Russia or Iran to have their hand on the spigot.
    See; Ukrainian Energy Crisis.

    But, yeah…. Human rights, yadda-yadda.

  5. McLovin said, on April 7, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    “With a halfway competent intelligence community (something I would never accuse the U.S. of having…)”

    Oh, I see…our intelligence community isn’t nearly as smart as you, right? What arrogant garbage. It’s a shame…you make a few good points in this article, but the TONE is so irritating and condescending that it just ends up sounding like a screed. Try dialing it down a little.

  6. allisonkilkenny said, on April 7, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Oh, I see…our intelligence community isn’t nearly as smart as you, right?

    Well, I’ve made a few errors in my lifetime. Of course, I didn’t let 9/11 happen, so I’m a little ahead of the game, I’d say.

    Keep smiling!

  7. Andy said, on April 11, 2009 at 2:30 am

    crummy is right. Before Obama (cause I think Obama needs a target different than Iraq or Afghanistan or he may be seen as a weak president) you can see that the menace of “intervention” on Iran is correlated with petitions of iranian oil be payed in EUROS, not in dollars. US supremacy based on strong dollars is going down, and as far as I can see, Obama’s strategy may be contradictory, but its pragmatic. (I didnt say that pragmatic is right, tough).

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