- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In response to questions about the Iranian nuclear threat, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton recently adopted a dramatic stance. She has taken to talking about how, if she were president, she would “totally obliterate” Iran if it attacks our friends in the region with nuclear weapons.

When asked during her most recent debate with Sen. Barack Obama in Philadelphia whether an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel would result in a U.S. nuclear attack on Iran, Mrs. Clinton responded: “Of course, I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States.”

Mrs. Clinton subsequently went even further. During an interview last week with “Good Morning America,” she declared: “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran. … In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

The former first lady has even offered explicitly to extend the protection of America’s nuclear umbrella to new parts of the world. In the Philadelphia debate, she said: “We should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. … I would do the same with other countries in the region. …You can’t go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or U.A.E. [United Arab Emirates] and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say, ‘Well, don’t acquire these weapons to defend yourself’ unless you’re also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup.”

We can only speculate about the motivation for these pronouncements. Do they reflect a genuine concern that Tehran will shortly be able to act on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s oft-stated threat to wipe Israel off the map? Are they little more than cynical posturing, animated by the perceived need to demonstrate toughness as a prospective commander in chief?

Or is Mrs. Clinton staking out a basis for opposing any effort the Bush administration might make in its last days in office to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon? Is she espousing deterrence in the belief that a nuclear-armed mullahocracy can be contained via the sort of “balance of terror” that operated during much of the Cold War?

Whatever the rationale, the New York senator has helpfully elevated a topic that should be featured prominently in the presidential election now approaching its end-game: Does the United States need a credible nuclear deterrent — for its own security and/or that of its friends and allies? If so, are the candidates espousing policies that will ensure we have such a deterrent?

Certainly, Hillary’s recent statements suggest a conviction we must have — at least for “the next 10 years” — a deterrent that is credible in order to protect ourselves and our allies from the nuclear ambitions of terror-sponsoring states like Iran. Presumably, she would agree any such deterrent must be safe, reliable and effective to be able to dissuade successfully.

Yet, Mrs. Clinton has long espoused policies with respect to our nuclear arsenal that are undermining our deterrent and rendering ever-more-incredible threats such as those she is now making.

In fairness, Hillary is not alone in her incoherence on nuclear weapons. Her husband’s administration deliberately pursued what Bill Clinton called “denuclearization.” At the time, the House Armed Services Committee characterized the Clinton program as “erosion by design” of our deterrent and the infrastructure required to assure its reliability, safety and effectiveness.

Concerns about the Clinton policies prompted a majority of the U.S. Senate to reject their cornerstone: the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This unverifiable treaty would have made it impossible for the United States to perform the sorts of underground nuclear tests that assure its weapons work when they are supposed to, and don’t when they are not.

Not content with perpetuating a 17-year-long, unilateral U.S. moratorium on testing — which has given rise to growing uncertainty on both of these scores, Mrs. Clinton announced in Foreign Affairs last winter that she“will seek Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by 2009, the 10th anniversary of the Senate’s initial rejection of the agreement.”

Mrs. Clinton has also staked out other positions dear to the denuclearizers. She told a March 2007 meeting of the National Education Association of New Hampshire: “I will certainly reduce our [nuclear] arsenal. … I also am strongly against [the Bush administration’s] efforts to have a new generation of nuclear weapons. … I voted against them several times, they want to create these new nuclear weapons, they want to modernize the existing weapons, they want to have a new nuclear weapons program in America, and I think that’s a terrible mistake.”

Mrs. Clinton’s record in the Senate bears out these sentiments. For example, she has voted for a ban on low-yield nuclear weapons research and development and against R&D; on a nuclear earth-penetrator (“bunker-buster”).

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain — and, for that matter, every other candidate for federal office — must address forthrightly their views on the need for U.S. nuclear deterrence.

It is no longer acceptable to simply talk the talk. They must walk the walk, by espousing policies and activities that assure the future of our nuclear arsenal and the infrastructure that makes possible its safety, reliability and effectiveness, and therefore its credibility.

Frank J. Gaffney is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times. Ben Lerner, the Center’s senior research associate, contributed to this column.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide