Editor’s Note: Reducing our nuclear stockpile is a purely political move. It is motivated by the fear of powerful weapons and the misguided belief that humans have moved past the urge to kill each other on a mass scale; a stunning example of double-think.
Amid all the talk of the isolationism that supposedly characterizes the Obama administration’s foreign policy, we forget that since World War II, the global order has largely been determined by U.S. engagement. The historically rare state of prosperity and peace that defined the postwar world were due to past U.S. vigilance and sacrifice.
Germany in the last 150 years has been at the center of three European wars, winning one, losing another, and destroying much of Europe and itself in the third. Yet present-day Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. It is a global leader in high technology and industrial craftsmanship. For seventy years Germany, even after its second historic unification in 1989, has not translated such economic preeminence into military power, much less aggression. In fact, the strategic status quo of postwar Europe—with Britain and France, and their relatively smaller and weaker economies, as the continent’s two sole nuclear powers—remains mostly unquestioned.
That strange fact is due almost entirely to the U.S.-led NATO’s determination to protect the Eastern flank of Europe from potential enemies, to reassure Germany that it need not rearm to enjoy pan-European influence, and to quietly support the European nuclear monopolies of Britain and France. While the U.S. has always talked up the American-inspired United Nations, its first allegiance has always been to assure liberal democratic states in Europe of unshakeable American support. Any weakening of the latter might send Europe back into the tumultuous twentieth century.
A similar paradox exists in Asia. Pakistan and North Korea are two of the weakest economies and most unstable political systems in the region. Yet both nations are nuclear—despite rather than because of U.S.-led efforts at nonproliferation. In comparison, by any logical measure, far wealthier and more sophisticated states like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, and perhaps the Philippines should all be nuclear, given their expertise, dangerous locales, and the looming shadows of three proud, and sometime aggressive nations—China, India, and Russia—in their midst. Yet none have. That fact too is largely because of American security guarantees.
Why, then, has the Obama administration sought to negotiate nuclear arms reduction agreements solely with the Russians? The latter does not have any responsibilities resembling the host of American dependents and clients in Asia and Europe that could become nuclear, but choose not to, only because of U.S. guarantees of their strategic security.
Economically successful but non-nuclear Asian nations claim a portion of the U.S. deterrent force as critical to their own survival. Any failure to reassure our Asian and Pacific partners that our own nuclear forces are pledged to their survival would lead to a sizable increase in the world’s nuclear family.
In addition to protecting postwar Europe and the Pacific, the United States has traditionally sided with historically persecuted and vulnerable peoples, who, in the calculations of realpolitik, might not otherwise warrant such staunch friendship. U.S. security guarantees to Israel—a mere 7 million people, until recently without oil reserves, and surrounded by a host of more numerous and oil-wealthy enemies—for a half-century have assured the viability of the Jewish state.
For all the present acrimony over the Iraq War, we forget that one dividend was the emergence of a semi-autonomous and largely constitutional Kurdistan of some 7 million people, whose recent tragic history had been one of ethnic cleansing, gassing, and slaughter. Only prior liberation by and current support from America keep viable the small landlocked province.
The same is largely true of Taiwan. While the current security guarantees accorded Taiwan by the U.S. are nebulous, even such uncertainty for now continues to keep Taiwan autonomous amid constant Chinese pressure. Also consider tiny Greece, a country that has been alternately friendly and hostile to the United States. But its long unhappy history is a testament to the dangerous neighborhood of this country of 12 million inhabitants: the turmoil of the Arab spring is to its south, an ascendant Islamist and neo-Ottoman Turkey are to the east, and the ethnic powder keg in the Balkans lie to the North, capped by understandably unsympathetic European Union creditors. Only Greece’s NATO membership—a euphemism for an omnipresent American 6th fleet—has offered the Greek people both security and the opportunity to chafe at its dependence on U.S. arms.
In fact, there are a host of tiny moderate nations, which, while not formally allied with the U.S., count on American friendship in extremis, from Jordan and Kuwait to Chile and Colombia. Any American recessional puts at risk all such vulnerable states. The Obama administration’s policy of forcing concessions from the Israelis, pulling out all constabulary troops from an unstable postwar Iraq, and cozying up to an increasingly absolutist and Islamist Turkey makes no sense.