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Tuesday, February 21,2012

Fumbling the Nuclear Football

In the first major foreign-policy speech of his tenure, President Barack Obama told a wildly cheering audience in Prague that the United States would commit itself to "a world without nuclear weapons" and then described in detail the "trajectory" required to get there. In the almost three years since that euphoric moment, the Obama White House has done what it so often does -- forthrightly acknowledge the complexity of its visionary goal, issue nuanced documents that compromise that goal even while reaffirming it, and accept half-measures, then quarter-measures, in the face of utterly unreasonable partisan opposition, surrendering more than planned to get less than expected.

Obama now has the chance -- perhaps his last chance -- to finally make good on his Prague pledge. He has ordered a review of the U.S. strategic arsenal, to be delivered to him in the coming weeks. The president must decide how many nuclear weapons the United States really needs. Arms control advocates think that this time, finally, Obama will grasp the nettle and accept that the country needs far fewer deployed warheads than the 1,760 or so it now has. I hope he does. But the mottled history of the last three years should give any disarmament advocate pause.


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