The 2015 State of the Union Address: A Major Omission

When President Obama first took office he was deeply concerned about nuclear disarmament. In 2009, in a speech in Prague he had this to say about nuclear weapons:

Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.

He also said at Prague:

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. (Applause.) I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.)
us-presidential-sealWe might well ask not only what happened to “America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” but what happened to President Obama’s commitment?

In President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, the only mention of nuclear weapons was in relation to the agreement the Obama administration is seeking to negotiate with Iran. The President promised to veto any additional sanctions placed on Iran, which he said would undermine the negotiations between the US and Iran to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. President Obama also expressed considerable concern for the dangers of climate change, a clear danger to the environment and the future. But there was no mention in the State of the Union of “America’s commitment” to nuclear disarmament.

President Obama’s early concerns for nuclear disarmament led to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, but he seems to have given up his pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons. He does so to the detriment of all Americans and all people of the world. Nuclear weapons are equal opportunity destroyers – women, men and children. Under Obama’s leadership, America is setting a course to modernize its nuclear infrastructure, weapons and delivery systems. Not only is the expected price tag for the US nuclear modernization program expected to exceed $1 trillion over the next three decades, but such a program endangers all Americans rather than providing them with security.

In a recent article in The Nation, Theodore Postol, a MIT professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy, argued, “No rational actor would take steps to start a nuclear war. But the modernization effort significantly increases the chances of an accident during an unpredicted, and unpredictable, crisis – one that could escalate beyond anyone’s capacity to imagine.” Postol concluded, “In a world that is fundamentally unpredictable, the pursuit of an unchallenged capacity to fight and win a nuclear war is a dangerous folly.”

Mr. President, we live in an unpredictable world, but it is predictable based on history that nuclear weapons and human fallibility are a dangerous and highly flammable mix. Nuclear weapons, including our own, threaten all Americans and all humanity. Don’t give up on the essential quest for a Nuclear Zero world, which you seemed so eager to achieve upon assuming office.