Every businessman knows you cannot sell a product if your customer thinks you are willing to give it away. Businesses do make judicious use of “freebies” at times in order to get customers in the door, create awareness of products and even make a market by creating the perception in the public of a need. But if a business consistently gives away the store it will go broke.
In its enthusiasm for nuclear disarmament, the Obama Administration has been giving away the store. Even prior to entering into START negotiations with Russia, the administration gave away valuable assets such as the Third Site missile defense in Europe and the right to design and build new nuclear warheads. Under “New START” the administration essentially gave away an advantage in strategic delivery vehicles. Since the Russian strategic arsenal was decaying with no prospect of rejuvenation, the administration could have gotten something for its willingness to substantially reduce its nuclear arsenal. In the Nuclear Posture Review, U.S. nuclear-armed, sea-based cruise missiles were given away. Finally, prior to the Nonproliferation Treaty conference, the administration gave away the size of its nuclear arsenal.
All these preemptive give-aways suggest that the administration thinks that the products it is offering, essentially reduced reliance on nuclear weapons, less proliferation and movement towards a world without nuclear weapons, won’t sell. This is odd since the President himself has gone to great lengths to explain how much safer we are because of the new START agreement. You would think that other countries, particularly Russia, North Korea and Iran with their weak economies would be offering to pay above the list price for the kind of deals the administration is willing to make. China does not appear interested in anything short of reductions down to its level.
However, it may really be that his potential customers do not really want what the President is selling. There are only a handful of countries with whom it is important for the administration to close the deal. The vast majority of the 200 plus nations of the world are not nuclear-capable and have no desire to become nuclear-weapons states. The others are the problem. Russia sees the United States as its principal adversary. It also sees nuclear weapons as the way of equalizing the balance of power with this country. It agreed to New START because its arsenal was eroding and it had to reduce the numbers, probably to fewer than are now allowed by the treaty. Iran is clear about its nuclear ambitions. North Korea recently demonstrated that it can engage in an act of war without consequences due primarily to its possession of nuclear weapons.
The administration’s addiction to preemptive nuclear give-aways will be increasingly dangerous as it seeks further reductions in existing nuclear arsenals. It has relatively less to offer while the value of the nuclear capabilities in the hands of those with whom we want to negotiate is rising. This means that the administration will have to dig deep to find new “freebies” with which to entice our putative negotiating partners. The White House could offer up the remaining U.S. deployed tactical nuclear weapons, even though the Russians have ten times the number in the U.S. arsenal. Or it could commit to reducing U.S. advanced conventional capabilities which are of great concern to Russia. Perhaps Iran would cut a deal if the U.S. promised to force Israel to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Or how about if we refused to extend deterrence to our allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia? That might be a deal even the worst proliferator could not turn down. The administration has its work cut out for it if it continues to practice the art of preemptive give-aways.
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