Roundtable on the New Nuclear Rules

Roundtable on the New Nuclear Rules

By Special Report With Bret Baier - April 6, 2010


HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We are reducing the role and number of weapons in our arsenal while maintaining a safe, secure, and effective deterrent to protect our nation, allies, and partners.


JIM ANGLE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Well, there is Secretary Clinton along with any number of other officials who were announcing fundamental change in U.S. nuclear policy today.

Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Now, the interesting thing about this was that - there are all sorts of interesting things about it. One, the wire story summarized the policy as: "Under the new plan the U.S. promises not to use nuclear weapons against countries that don't have them." I didn't know that was our policy to begin with.

But nevertheless, for decades the U.S. has kept open the possibility of using nuclear weapons under various certain circumstances against the Soviet Union in particular if it were necessary. Now President Obama says he is changing that by narrowing the circumstances and the number of countries who might be threatened, Charles.

What does this mean in practice? And why now?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Let me tell you one scenario they brought up exclusively, and that is if the United States is attacked by a country with biological or chemical weapons, under the old policy of every administration for decades our response is we will obliterate that country with a nuclear response. That has been the Clinton policy, Reagan policy, everybody.

And now we have a new policy that if that occurs, before we would retaliate in that way, the White House lawyers would ascertain if that country is in compliance with the NNP, nuclear nonproliferation treaty. If it is, if it is kept up with the IAEA inspections, it gets immunity from the massive nuclear retaliation. It gets instead, I suppose, a retaliation with the TNT and Marines shooting guns. This to me is either insane or ridiculous. I can't decide. I report, you decide. It's ridiculous even in the moral sense where our assumption of this is the scenario where the greatest war crime in history is committed let's say in Boston and we will look to see if the country is in compliance with the IAEA regulations to determine if it's immunized from a nuclear retaliation or not? Secondly, and probably more importantly, is the idea we are not going to use nukes defending an ally or deterring an attack on an ally with conventional weapons. We kept the peace for 50 years where the Soviets had a huge advantage in tanks and could have occupied Western Europe overnight because from Kennedy on we had a policy of extended deterrence. You attack with tanks, and we retaliate, and Moscow disappears. Is it a credible threat? Who knows? But the Russians had to worry about it, and it was our policy from Kennedy on up until Obama, and now it disappears. If you are an ally, what are you going to think of America as your defender and America as a deterrent of attack on you?

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: We have not ruled out first use. The ultraliberals want him to rule out first use. If there is an attack in Europe, we still have a nuclear umbrella over it, and that is specifically why he did not renounce first use.

But this, the amount of change here from the Bush policy is rather minor. The fact is if - what we said is if we get attacked with chemical and biological weapons by Iran or North Korea, we can still respond with nukes.

And the lawyers, believe me, will far precede the attack. There will be a list. And Iran and North Korea are on notice.

Furthermore, Obama said that he wants to get rid of all nuclear weapons. This is moving in that direction very, very slowly. We have going to have 1,500 nuclear warheads under the START treaty. We are not renouncing first use, et cetera.

And it's amazing, not only did Ronald Reagan want to get rid of the nuclear weapons - George Schultz does, Henry Kissinger does. Obama is much more realistic than they are.

ANGLE: Here is what I can't figure out, Steve. There were 150 meetings about this, and the president is said to have intervened in many of them. What has he ruled out? It's hard for me to figure out exactly what is different about this policy than our previous one.

One thing said today is we'd only use nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances. Well, I would hope so!


STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think it's interesting - I agree with part of what Mort said and part of what Charles said.

I think in a sense the policy is more incoherent than Charles suggested because if you look at the first example, right after they in effect, they rule out the counterattack after a chem-bio attack, they say a couple pages later we revised - we could revise our opinion and reconsider the attack if we decide to. Of course, of course you can.

But the bigger problem is this is classic Obama. It's big on language, big on rhetoric. The changes are not earth-shattering. But what it does is sets up the United States as the good example once again. And he seems to think this is an effective way to conduct nuclear policy.

The lessons of the past 30 years suggest otherwise. We reduced our warheads from 10,000 to between 5,000 and 6,000. We haven't designed a new warhead. There are all sort of things we've done to set a good example over the past several decades, and yet the world is becoming more and more nuclear and more dangerous.

KONDRACKE: But one other thing. The real danger is Iran and North Korea. And Hillary Clinton as I understand it just got through advising the leadership of Congress not to go ahead with a conference committee report on a bill calling for gasoline embargoes. That is counterproductive.

ANGLE: Why not?

KONDRACKE: Well, because we ought to be threatening a gasoline embargo -

ANGLE: Why did she call for them not to do it?

ANGLE: Because they don't want to hurt the Iranian population. You're not going to have sanctions that bit or cripple without hurting or affecting the population.

KRAUTHAMMER: I have to correct you on the use of nukes. Our declared use of nukes as we have had for 50 years is protecting an ally or deterring an attack on an ally with conventional weapons. Under this new policy, it doesn't exist. No first use or not.

ANGLE: We have to go, Charles.

KRAUTHAMMER: It takes away nuclear umbrella.


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