Fumbling the Nuclear Football

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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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