Fighting the Wrong War
Obama’s worst-case scenario is a terrorist grabbing a nuke from a failed state. So what would his new plan do to prevent that?
First of all, I’m glad that the president is taking responsibility for this decision, instead of claiming that his call is based upon “giving the generals what they need.” I respect our generals, but it’s not their job to decide whether fighting a war is best for America; that’s the sole responsibility of elected officials—Congress and the president.
However, I’m concerned about the lack of clarity in the political solutions at the end of this long dark tunnel. President Obama implied that the worst-case scenario in this war is for a terrorist to acquire a nuclear weapon from a weakened or destabilized government in that region, namely Pakistan. Why, then, is he focusing so intently upon stabilizing Afghanistan instead of shoring up Islamabad first and foremost? Members of al Qaeda don’t need their visas stamped in Kabul before attacking America; any weak or failed state would make a suitable terrorist home, but only one beleaguered country controls nukes.
• More Daily Beast experts weigh in on Obama’s battle cry • Watch: 7 Key Moments of Obama’s SpeechI’m worried that cooperation with Pakistan in the global war on terrorism will be hampered by the political spillover from the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Right now, both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, but neither has signed on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. For this reason, it is politically challenging for world leaders to engage these states on genuine security cooperation. On one hand, we ostracize India and Pakistan for their possession of nuclear weapons; on the other hand, we practically demand their cooperation on anti-terrorism while sending predator drones across the border.
Something has to give. My question for President Obama is whether he is more worried about fighting terrorism or protecting Cold War institutions like “NATO’s credibility” and the so-called grand bargain of the non-proliferation treaty. India and Pakistan will not give up their nuclear arsenals any time soon. Let’s face reality, bring these countries into the global nuclear regime as weapons-bearing states, and change course toward a more genuine partnership on global security against the nightmare scenario that would make 9/11 look small.
Christopher Brownfield drove nuclear submarines before volunteering for duty in Iraq. In Baghdad, he worked as a liaison between the State Department, coalition militaries, and the Iraqi government. He is studying international energy policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has written a book, My Nuclear Family: Growing Up with Energy & Violence.