Jonathan Granoff is president of the Global Security Institute. He responded on 15 February 2010 to the Mello-Knight exchange of views on nuclear disarmament and the Obama administration.
Jonathan Granoff is the author of Memo to Obama: Nuclear Weapons, which appeared in Tikkun Magazine, January-February 2009.
Was President Obama outplayed by DOD and DOE? They have posed a very clever analysis. If progress is to be had on nonproliferation, such as support for a test ban, then modernization and the ability to strengthen the capacity to improve the arsenal seems to be the cost. Does this still allows them to say that the modernization “might require testing someday?” This will be an enormous benefit for those who want to stop the test ban. Will it not be like the Clinton administration’s deal with Stockpile Stewardship where he thought funding it would generate their support for the test ban but did not gain the full out support of DOE?
I am consistently surprised by how naive politicians appear when challenged by strategic military planners. So, I state this as an example where it appears that President Obama really wants to make progress (not necessarily on disarmament, but certainly on nonproliferation) and even here he is getting cul de sacked.
Or, is he fully aware of the strategy being played out. Does Mr. Mello think he was being deceptive in the Prague speech, or just a bit cute?
Regardless, the current programs being funded that Mr. Mello highlights will certainly make achieving any strengthening of the nonproliferation aspirations of the Administration at the upcoming NPT very difficult. They certainly do not seem to be consistent with a commitment to disarmament.
I sincerely hope I am wrong and look forward to hearing from some of the people in the current Administration whom I respect very much, such as Ambassador Rice and Assistant Secretary of State Gottemoeller.
Greg Mello responds to Jonathan Granoff:
Among your other interesting points, you raise this question: “Does Mr. Mello think he [Obama] was being deceptive in the Prague speech, or just a bit cute?” I would say neither. The substitution of an aspiration for a commitment or promise is a rhetorical device so normal these questions don’t arise. Both the speaker and the audience expect some sort of ritual acknowledgment of our common aspirations. The gap between those aspirations and our actual practice is fairly embarrassing; many members of the audience are looking for some sort of fantasy bridge between the two. They don’t want bad news, they want “hope.”
Somehow we have gone from “I will put a chicken in every pot” to “I will seek to put a chicken in every pot.” There is less accountability in the second formulation, which may be especially helpful in a time of contracting national prospects — in which contraction, the increased nuclear military spending I am criticizing plays a central symbolic role. Our hopes are greater than the realities available to service them. We, and our donors and supporters, want Santa Claus.