The Obama administration has a penchant for laying most of its cards on the table, a poker technique many experts would avoid, and they continued this strange game by telling the world we have a nuclear arsenal of 5,113 weapons.
The heretofore stunning announcement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at an arms proliferation meeting before the United Nations General Assembly shattered a taboo dating back to the Cold War.
“We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can about the nuclear program of the United States,” she told reporters. “We think that builds confidence.”
Whether the other atomic bomb nations such as China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel, France and Great Britain, among the most notable, go along with the United States remains to be seen.
Unimpressed was Iran whose puppet leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the only president of all the nations attending the conference. Despite a member of the non-proliferation treaty, Ahmandinejad said nuclear nations are preventing Iran from seeking peaceful uses of atomic energy.
But Ahmadinejad was greeted with a public scolding about his country’s secretive nuclear program from the United Nations’ top leadership. The comments by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the chief nuclear arms watchdog, Yukiya Amano, constituted an extraordinary rebuke of a head of state in the General Assembly hall.
Jabbing his finger in the air, the Iranian leader began jabbering about the duplicity of UN leaders which was greeted with representatives from the U.S. and other delegations walking out of the session in protest.
The Obama administration debated the efficacy of releasing the arsenal numbers for months in which some intelligence officials worried it would give clues how much plutonium the U.S. had on hand required for nuclear weapons. Clinton and State Department diplomats won that argument.
Clinton noted that reliable private estimates of the stockpile were readily available. That was confirmed with previous estimates by arms-control groups at 4,500. After Clinton’s UN speech, the Pentagon issued a fact sheet saying that the number of working U.S. nuclear warheads had plummeted from a peak of 31,255 in 1967. In addition to the functioning weapons, thousands more have been retired and await dismantlement, the Pentagon said.
The month-long UN conference is a showplace where the Obama administration wants to revise the 40-year-old, 189-nation treaty to address rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.
It is essentially a bargain: The five initial nuclear powers promise to gradually destroy their stockpiles, while other countries pledge to never develop them. In exchange, the other countries get help on developing peaceful nuclear energy programs, subject to U.N. monitoring. The U.S. has pledged half of the $500 million over a five-year span to help the compliant nations develop peaceful programs run on nuclear energy.,
U.S. conservatives who still cling to a Cold War mentality no doubt will accuse the Obama administration of giving away state secrets. My question to them is isn’t 5, 113 atomic warheads of wiping out an aggressor a case of overkill in and of itself? On the other side, does the Obama administration really believe the other countries who hold nuclear missiles will report their arsenals? As I said, the Obama people play poker in a much different way than I learned.
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Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.