Tuesday, April 06, 2010

And Now a Nuclear Posture Review As Well!

Text of the NPR here.

There is lots of anticipatory commentary (WaPo, NYT, State Department, Guardian), and there will be more to come, including from me.

Just a few things initially. Tone and approach are important. President Obama let his cabinet members introduce the review, and they were all working together and brought along their subordinates to answer questions. It clearly was a team effort.

This is the first NPR to be fully unclassified. That is a signal that we're not keeping secret reservations, unknown priorities, all that mysterious stuff that George Bush and his cabinet liked to tease us with and terrify the rest of the world.

A couple of specifics: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that $5 billion will be transferred from his department over the next several years to modernize the nuclear weapons facilities of the Department of Energy. Gates deserves plaudits for continuing to argue that money should be reallocated from the Department of Defense to other departments. Defense has grown too big and is sucking up too much responsibility from the civilian side of the house.

Whether there would be a "no first use" declaration has spilled much ink and pixels. The statement that there would be no first use of nuclear weapons against states complying with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty takes a middle way. I tend to agree with Steven Walt that everyone knows that a statement like this would quickly be jettisoned if that seemed necessary in defense of the country. But saying this is better than repeating "all options are on the table." Again, it's a difference in tone and approach.

My own reaction to both the New START Treaty and the NPR is a pleased relief. We've got things going in a much better direction than they were.

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