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Obama to Set New Nuke Policy

Every new presidential administration comes out with a Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) a year after coming to office to set U.S. nuclear policy. President Barack Obama has not delivered his NPR, but it is not due to a lack of discussion. Rather, intense debate has continued throughout the White House regarding how far and how fast the U.S. nuclear program should be scaled back. The Obama administration will likely state its desire to move away from the Bush administration’s policy of using nuclear weapons in a preemptive manner for a potential chemical or biological attack. However, one of the biggest issues remains whether to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent for attack against the U.S. or to continue the pledge to support U.S. allies with nuclear weapons.

Obama said in a speech marking the fortieth anniversary of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that the NPR will “reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, even as we maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.” Rhetoric to end Cold War policies is partially the reason for Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize a year ago.

Those wanting the White House to make bold cuts in the nuclear arsenal argue that the U.S. is being hypocritical. “The United States can’t go around and ask others to give up their nuclear weapons while we maintain a list of official purposes for our nuclear weapons” that necessitate a large arsenal, said Jan Lodal, a senior Defense Department official in the Clinton administration.

On the other side of the spectrum, proponents of minimal cuts state that a large nuclear arsenal is needed for deterrence and that we should not give up our weapons without pledges from other nations to do the same. “We’re better off when we communicate that all options are on the table,” said Thomas Mahnken, a senior Defense Department official in the Bush administration. “As a practical matter, they are.” Additionally, proponents for minimal cuts argue that some of our allies, like Turkey or Japan, may feel the need to develop nuclear weapons without the U.S. acting as a deterrent for a nuclear attack against their country.

The Pentagon currently has a stockpile of over 5,000 nuclear weapons.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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