During both of his presidential campaigns, President Barack Obama spoke repeatedly of the need to strengthen our national security, here and abroad. Based on this particular issue, I voted for him twice. Unfortunately, his current security policy is the opposite of what he instituted in his first term. And his nomination of Chuck Hagel to be his secretary of defense is providing him with the fig leaf of bipartisanship to justify a radical departure from those first-term policies.
For example, GOP support in the Senate for ratification of the START II arms reduction treaty, which would reduce the number of U.S. warheads from 5,113 to 1,550 by 2018, was critical, since there were 60 Democrats in the Senate but 67 affirmative votes were needed for ratification of a treaty. According to The New York Times of Dec. 3, 2010, two points were critical to the GOP senators willing to consider ratification: First, that the United States would retain 1,550 nuclear warheads. Second, the Obama administration had to agree to a 10-year, $85 billion plan to modernize U.S. nuclear laboratories.
In spite of those facts, The New York Times reported on Feb. 10, 2013 that, in 2012, administration staffers decided to recommend a massive reduction in the U.S. nuclear arsenal to just over 1,000 nuclear weapons — and that the recommendation had Obama’s support.
Why didn’t Obama act — or at least inform the public of his plans? The Philadelphia Inquirer of Feb. 9, 2013 stated: “Participants said the results were not disclosed at the time, partly because of concerns that any resulting controversy might affect Obama’s reelection hopes.”
But Russian President Vladimir Putin knew Obama’s plans. Reuters on March 26, 2012 reported on the open mike comment by President Obama to President Medvedev that Obama would have more “flexibility” after the elections.
Even worse is Obama’s position, according to The New York Times of Feb. 10, 2013, that he could reduce the number of nuclear warheads unilaterally, although he is “unlikely” to do so.
In that same issue, the Times noted that “ Mr. Obama is already moving quietly, officials acknowledge, to explore whether he can scale back a 10-year, $80 billion program to modernize the country’s weapons laboratories.” In spite of the White House agreement to finance the weapons labs as the price of winning Republican votes on the new Start three years ago, one senior defense official said late last year that “the environment of looking for cuts in the national security budget makes this an obvious target.”
The need for cuts grew out of the mandated sequestration of military spending in the 2011 debt ceiling extension agreement. Whose idea was sequestering military spending? According to Politifact and Bob Woodward, it was President Obama’s.
What would the sequester do? In the Federal Times of Feb. 1, 2013, Leon Panetta “said those $500 billion, 10-year cuts” would create a “hollow force.” The New York Times reported on Feb. 7, 2013 that “the Pentagon announced that the pending budget cuts had forced it to delay the deployment of a second aircraft carrier to the crucial Persian Gulf.” So much for the “all options are on the table” policy in dealing with Iran!
I suggest that, if the American public knew last year of Obama’s proposed cuts — and his considering possible unilateral imposition of those cuts — he never would have been re-elected.
Now, the president has nominated Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense. In May 2012, Hagel co-authored a report for Global Zero, an organization working to abolish all nuclear arms, which proposed:
• U.S. nuclear warheads — reduction from 1,790 to 900 (page 1);
• Trident submarines — reduction from 14 to 10, leaving half of U.S. strategic weapons vulnerable to a breakthrough in anti-submarine radar (page 7);
• Bombers — reduction from 72 to 18 (page 7); in spite of the fact that Forbes reported: “The Air Force … wants 80-100 [of a new “Long-Range Strike Bomber”]
• Land-based ICBMs — reduction from 450 to zero (page 7);
• Tactical nuclear weapons — reduction to zero (page 7);
• Missile defenses — The United States is to reduce spending by 10 percent to 50 percent for Europe — but Russia will spend $150 billion dollars on “air-space defense” over 10 years (page 11);
• Unilateral implementation of cuts (page 18).
• Containment of a nuclear Iran — (page 10).
When, at his confirmation hearing, Hagel spoke of supporting the Obama policy on containment of a nuclear-armed Iran, was he accidentally speaking the truth?
Chuck Hagel should not be confirmed. And any lawmaker who allows any continuing resolution for defense spending without a provision preventing destruction of any nuclear warheads without prior congressional approval is simply ratifying the Obama plan for weakening America’s defenses.
Robert M. Lipshutz is an attorney in Center City.