Trying to prevent terrorists from obtaining nukes should be national security priority number one. But the Obama administration's plan to combat that threat is puzzling. They've argued ad nauseam that arms reduction treaties like START are the key to keeping loose nukes out of the hands of terrorists. That's absurd. START limits nuclear weapons on bombers, submarines, and ballistic missiles -- these bombs are large and restrained by failsafe mechanisms and unlock values which make them nearly impossible to detonate. In six decades of nuclear custody, there has never been a theft of such a device in either the United States or Russia (though a few have been lost, mostly in bomber crashes during the 50s and 60s).
Loose Russian bombs are a concern, considering their massive inventory of tactical nuclear weapons. Since tac nukes are easier to pilfer, Pentagon officials have expressed concern about the accountability and security protocols for handling these weapons. But Mr. Obama's prized new treaty doesn't touch Moscow's small yield weapons, only limiting long range strategic bombs and their delivery systems.
All this, of course, is tangential next to the real elephant in the room: Iran. President Obama's feeble handling of Tehran's rogue nuclear program exposes his administration's smoke and mirror commitment to halting nuclear terrorism. This terrorism line is a talking point for them, something that allows the administration to posture as muscular on defense while masking the real ideological calculus behind START. That Iran, a nation which sits atop the state sponsor of terrorism list, will be allowed by the administration to develop freely nuclear weapons fully discredits Mr. Obama's seriousness about stopping al Qaeda from procuring a bomb, and disarmament in general.
Nuclear terrorism is prevented by aggressively denying state sponsors of terror from obtaining these weapons, while equally aggressively prosecuting terrorists overseas. It has very little to do with photo ops and pieces of paper like the START agreement. Administration officials argue that START is a first step towards ending the "Cold War mentality" towards nuclear weapons. But is there any policy more "Cold War" than inking out treaties with Russia while ignoring nuclear proliferation in the third world?