News Release

Obama Nuclear Stance “Hawk Dressed in Dove’s Feathers”


Stephen Rademaker, assistant secretary of state for arms control in the George W. Bush administration, stated on the PBS NewsHour on Tuesday night: “There’s a lot less change in this report [the Nuclear Posture Review] than meets the eye. I think, in a lot of ways, it was drafted to suggest greater change than is really there, when one parses the exceptions, and the exceptions to the exceptions…”

Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, which just released the assessment “No significant change seen in Obama nuclear posture.”

Mello said today: “This posture review attempts to reconcile liberal ideals with the hawkish realities of current U.S. nuclear policy. Those policies are to continue almost unchanged.

“In fact, an assurance given by Presidents Carter and Clinton — that nuclear weapons would not be used against NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] signatory states without nuclear weapons unless allied in aggression with a nuclear state — is to be significantly weakened. Obama has added an important caveat, namely that this promised self-restraint does not apply to states the U.S. deems ‘not in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations,’ a category which the NPR [Nuclear Posture Review] and President Obama himself say includes Iran and North Korea, specifically. (North Korea renounced its status as a party to the NPT and does not fall under this assurance in any case.) The category of countries we deem ‘not in compliance with … non-proliferation obligations’ could easily include other countries in the future — perhaps many others.

“It is, in other words, a very hawkish nuclear posture — a hawk dressed in dove’s feathers.

“Unless these realities are changed, it is possible and even likely that in the long run Obama will be seen as largely consolidating, ratifying and extending George W. Bush’s nuclear policies.

“Obama may build the hugely-expensive new factories Bush could not build over congressional opposition. Obama may finally set in motion the warhead modernization programs that eluded Bush. This NPR advocates warhead modernization by all three possible means (refurbishment, component re-use and replacement altogether). On a numerical and a percentage basis, Obama’s stockpile cuts will be surpassed by George W. Bush’s.

“This posture review aims for nuclear stability worldwide as a background for the continued application of U.S. ‘hard power.’ There is no vector of change in it, except for a dramatic new program of nuclear weapons investment.

“Obama’s arms control legacy is shaping up to be relatively trivial. We shall be very lucky if it is not negative overall, once the vaulting rhetoric is silent.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167