On Tuesday, the Secretary of Defense released the new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). I was quite disappointed in the document, thinking it is timid and gradualist. So you can imagine how distracting it is when I am part way through writing a blog trashing the new doctrine for not going far enough that I see a flurry of articles about how the new doctrine goes way too far. So now I have to divert my valuable time to defending the NPR. (I will still finish the other blog, promise.) Some of the criticism is simply inane but most comes from not reading, or perhaps not even caring what’s in, the actual report. Still, it is probably a preview of the assaults to come.
Let’s begin with Sarah Palin, who said, “No administration in America’s history would, I think, ever have considered such a step that we just found out President Obama is supporting today. It’s kinda like getting out there on a playground, a bunch of kids, getting ready to fight, and one of the kids saying, ‘Go ahead, punch me in the face and I’m not going to retaliate. Go ahead and do what you want to with me.’”
Where does one start? Let’s begin with the big picture: Nuclear weapons are, by far, the most destructive instruments in human history, able to blow down entire cities within seconds, to kill millions at a shot, to end—quite literally—human civilization as we know it. Is a playground quarrel between a pair of schoolchildren a useful analogy? If we really wish to pursue the analogy then it would be more accurate to say that the NPR’s doctrine is equivalent to a child’s saying, “Even if you punch me, I will punch you back and perhaps beat you unconscious, I may even kill you, but I will not use a hand grenade to do it.” I believe that a no-hand-grenades-on-the-playground policy is something that many parents would endorse.
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