President Barack Obama’s new policy regarding use of nuclear weapons has been welcomed by some conservatives as well as some liberals because they believe it is in the “sensible center.”
Obama indeed deserves credit for one facet of the policy. He made it clear that the U.S. reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to aggression by other nuclear powers — including North Korea and Iran.
As Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, “If you’re not going to play by the rules … then all options are on the table in terms of how we deal with you.”
But the new policy also states the United States will not use nuclear weapons against other countries that do not possess the same capability — even those employing biological or chemical armaments.
That is a serious failing in Obama’s thinking, in our opinion.
It needs to be remembered that the first and only use of nuclear weapons in wartime was in 1945, by the U.S. against Japan. Our foe then did not possess nuclear weapons — but it did have the capability of killing hundreds of thousands of Americans with conventional arms.
Biological and chemical weapons pose fearsome threats. Used effectively, biological warfare can kill more people than a nuclear strike.
We applaud Obama’s message to budding nuclear powers such as North Korea and Iraq. But we encourage him to worry more about deterring those who would use biological and chemical armaments, too.
— The Journal, Martinsburg, W.Va.