Kazakhstan's leader has given permission to the commander in chief to allow U.S. military planes to fly over his country en route to Afghanistan. This was the result of a meeting President Nursultan Nazarbayev held at the White House with President Barack Obama yesterday. That's one accomplishment -- perhaps the only accomplishment? -- of this Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.
But the arrival of the Kazakhstan delegation to town raises some questions about what else Obama is trying to accomplish -- and whether even a successful conference would do more damage than good.
Obama is chit-chatting with leaders (or representatives of leaders) from around the world. Ostensibly, the summit is to work toward a nuclear free world. The reasoning is, the world is safer with fewer nukes, so let's work to get rid of them all. But let's not forget that nukes have been used in exactly one war. And very little of the devastation in that war came from a-bombs (which arguably saved non-combatant lives by shortening the war). For that matter, evil does not need the most powerful of weapons to be carried out.
What's more, by giving a special platform to tyrants, such as Kazakhstan's President Nazarbayev and Jordan's King Abdullah and communist thug Hu Jintao of China, and by sending them the message that getting rid of (or not acquiring) nukes is what they should be focused on, President Obama is sending the wrong message. (Nukes are an issue, of course, but he's focused on the wrong aspects of the problem.)
It's good of the president to be able to extract even small concessions such as use of Kazak airspace. But it is ludicrous to tell the Kazak leader that "we, too, are working to improve our democracy," as President Obama reportedly did. Kazakhstan could learn much from American style democracy, if only the president would make it an issue.