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Kristol Goes Nuclear

3:55 PM, Apr 6, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Tomorrow's Washington Post column goes online today:

In Prague on Sunday, President Obama committed his administration to putting us on a "trajectory" towards "a world without nuclear weapons."

Of course, we had a world without nuclear weapons not so long ago -- say, in 1939. The war that began in that nuclear-free world led to a crash project to develop nuclear weapons. It ended with America's use of them -- something Obama alluded to: "As a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act."

It's not clear whether this statement implies disapproval of our use of nuclear weapons in 1945. It's telling, however, that Obama never referred in his Prague speech to the Second World War. Instead, he called the existence of thousands of nuclear weapons "the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War." This framework makes it possible to think of a world without nuclear weapons as a logical response to the end of that conflict: "Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not."

Yet to justify a world without nuclear weapons, what Obama would really have to envision is a world without war, or without threats of war. That's an ancient vision. It's one reason American presidents have tried to encourage the spread of liberal democracy and responsible regimes around the world....

But we have a long way to go before achieving a world of pacific liberal regimes. And hard-headed nuclear arms control is very different from a vision of nuclear arms-elimination. In fact, the allure of a world without nuclear weapons can be a distraction -- even an excuse for not acting against real nuclear threats.

As the boss points out, Obama no longer speaks of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons as "unacceptable," but instead as a choice for Iran that, if left unchecked, will lead to "increased isolation, international pressure, and a potential nuclear arms race in the region that will increase insecurity for all." Kristol goes on, "So while Obama talks of a future world without nuclear weapons, the trajectory we are on, in the real world in which we live, is towards a nuclear- and missile-capable North Korea and Iran -- and a far more dangerous world."

Read the whole thing here.