Palin on Obama’s Nuclear Policy
Sarah Palin, who was governor of Alaska for a few months before launching a career as a talk show host, objects to President Obama’s new nuclear policy thusly:
Now, the president, with all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer, as a part-time senator, and as a full-time candidate, all that experience, still no accomplishment to date with North Korea and Iran.
Some very good responses to this:
- Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, “Good Morning America”: “[I]f the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.”
- Jonathan Bernstein, political scientist and blogger, A Plain Blog About Politics: “You do realize that Obama won, don’t you? And that therefore a whole lot of Americans…I’m gong to guess it’s about 300 million of them — think of him as a President of the United States, not as some upstart nobody. I mean, even the ones who think he’s a Kenyan-born commie-nazi think of him as an impostor president, not an impostor community organization who wishes he was president.”
Also, some less-than-good responses:
- Bob Owens, blogger, Confederate Yankee: “Palin’s view of nuclear weapons was shaped by her stint as the commander in chief of the Alaskan National Guard, our first line of defense against Soviet nuclear weapons. Obama has held his same views since he was a stoner college student and has showed no signs of maturing.”
- Michael Tomansky, blogger, The Guardian: “For those of you abroad who may not be familiar with this, this is one of the crucial nuances, and nuclear is a totemic touchstone in American politics. You see, if you pronounce it correctly, that proves that you are a coastal elitist who can’t be trusted with defending America and who wants terrorists to bomb US cities. It just proves it. Because it just does. Okay?
Look, there are good grounds for questioning the nuances of the Nuclear Posture Review and some of the positions Obama has announced. I don’t get particularly excited about the issue because I think it’s mostly throat clearing: A nuclear-free world is a pipe dream and the preconditions for it (essentially, un-inventing 70-year-old technology and changing human nature) are never going to be met. Further, regardless of what anyone’s announced policy is on first — or even second — strike may be is completely meaningless. Any national leader who strongly feels the need to nuke someone is going to do it, regardless of what he or any predecessor has pledged. But all that’s a post for another day.
Obama’s policy changes are modest, indeed, and widely supported with the national security Establishment, which tends to hold bipartisan consensus on this type of thing. This isn’t an issue where he’s going to waste a lot of political capital fighting an uphill battle. The Republican objections to the new START treaty and the NPR and nuanced and modest, mostly centering on our relations with Eastern Europe.
Moreover, Bernstein is right: Whatever one may think of Obama’s preparation to be president, he current holds the office of . . . president. He has, in fact, held that office for fourteen months and counting. One can question his judgment at this point but not his resume. Furthermore, regardless of whether the SECDEF and JCS are giving Obama advice or he’s giving them orders and they’re spouting the party line, the fact of the matter is that he’s surrounded by people with enormous experience. His National Security Advisor alone has been steeped in this issues since before Sarah Palin won her first beauty pageant.
And, unless you’re writing for “Saturday Night Live” or The Onion, spare me references to the deep knowledge of international security policy acquired during the 31 months she spent commanding the flippin’ Alaska National Guard. Aside from the fact that it comprises something like 1850 part-time soldiers, it only reports to the governor when it’s activated for non-military missions such as disaster relief. When it’s called up for military operations, it reports through the military chain of command which culminates with a certain former community organizer.
On the other hand, while there are all manner of meaningful and clever ways to attack Palin’s vapidness on this, her regional dialect is not among them. Plenty of really bright folks, including genius-level folks with PhDs in nuclear physics, pronounce “nuclear” in other than the way Tomasky and I do. That doesn’t make them idjits.
Oh: One point in the Palin quote others seem to have missed: President Bush didn’t exactly do a bangup job dealing with Iran and North Korea, either. Not because he was incompetent, mind you, but because the options available are extraordinarily limited and unpleasant. Obama hasn’t fixed it, not because he’s mullah-lovin’ commie but because it likely ain’t fixable. And, campaign rhetoric aside, his approach to both cases has been remarkably consistent with Bush’s.