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April 13th, 2010
10:21 AM ET

Why controlling nukes is good politics

According to Julian Zelizer, the American public prefers politicians willing to take risks to prevent nuclear war.

According to Julian Zelizer, the American public prefers politicians willing to take risks to prevent nuclear war.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Julian Zelizer.

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

In the week leading up to the meeting of world leaders in Washington, President Obama has been demonstrating a strong commitment to nuclear arms control.

Last week, he signed the first major agreement with the Russians since 2002, which reduces the number of nuclear warheads and long-range missiles.

Obama released the Nuclear Posture Review, saying the United States would not use nuclear weapons against countries that complied with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, even if they attacked with conventional weapons. At the same time, the president said the countries that refused to abide by the treaty could be subject to nuclear reprisal.

Although Obama's Nuclear Posture Review does not go nearly as far as many of his supporters were hoping, some Republicans immediately attacked.

Sens. John Kyl and John McCain warned that "we believe that preventing nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation should begin by directly confronting the two leading proliferators and supporters of terrorism, Iran and North Korea. The Obama administration's policies, thus far, have failed to do that, and this failure has sent exactly the wrong message to other would-be proliferators and supporters of terrorism."

Some Democrats, constantly leery about appearing weak on national security, will buckle as the politics of nuclear weapons heats up when the treaty with the Russians reaches the Senate for ratification. But the administration should pursue this treaty aggressively and with confidence that they can win public opinion on this issue.

The president must remind fellow Democrats, as well as Republicans, that historically the public has tended to strongly support nuclear weapons treaties, and the presidents who pursue them.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Kyl and McCain sounds like fools, you can't confront Iran and North Korea until supply and demand for nuclear material is under control. You first must take away the "arsenal" then confront them, not while there are still lose nukes out there. These two men are total idiots.

    April 13, 2010 at 12:57 pm |

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