By Barry Rubin

The New York Times must praise Obama even if it can’t figure out how what he’s done is so great. Consider, “Obama Seizes on Missile Launch in Seeking Nuclear Cuts,” April 5, 2009, by Helene Cooper and David Sanger

The lead tells us that following the North Korea missile test, he has “laid out a new approach to American nuclear disarmament policy — one intended to strengthen the United States and its allies in halting proliferation.”

So what is the strategy to halt proliferation: That the United States will reduce the number of its nuclear warheads. Just to quote the Times article is to show the irrationality of thinking there is a linkage:

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“It is a strategy based on the idea that if the United States shows it is willing to greatly shrink the size of its atomic arsenal, ban nuclear testing and cut off the worldwide production of bomb material, reluctant allies and partners around the world will be more likely to rewrite nuclear treaties and enforce sanctions against North Korea and Iran.”

So let me get this straight, if the United States stops doing it this will encourage England, France, China, Russia and others to get tough on North Korea and Iran?

Obama said that “violations” must be punished. But it is clear that he has no intention of punishing North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan, or others for aggressive behavior. When it comes to carrots and sticks, the Obama White House is the carrot farm.

He turned to the UN Security Council but, the Times tells us, “At the United Nations Security Council on Sunday, members were at an impasse on whether to condemn the test.”

Is this really such a tough decision?

The article explains that China is “ambiguous.” Is that because North Korea is its ally or because the United States has too many nuclear warheads?

The Russians also said they didn’t think it was violating any previous resolution. Perhaps they, too, would be impressed if America got rid of some of its nuclear weapons?
Continues the article, “Despite his categorization of Iran and North Korea as threats, the new nuclear strategy as laid out in his speech sidestepped the question of exactly how to handle them, or the risk posed by Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.”

We look forward to hearing about his plan. Presumably it includes: negotiating with these countries, offering them concessions, going to the UN, and more negotiations with these countries.

One thing the Times rules out, though, is sanctions. They don’t work, you see:

“Past threats to isolate Iran were stymied first by high oil prices — which washed away the effects of modest economic sanctions — and then by Iran’s determination to enrich uranium no matter the cost.”

Might they at least mention another possibility: the sanctions were too weak and Iran saw the West was divided and uncertain?

The article goes on: “On the North Korean issue, President Bush’s six-party talks, a process that Mr. Obama has embraced, set up a diplomatic framework. But they still failed to prevent the country from harvesting the fuel for six or eight weapons, testing one device, and advancing plans to test missiles.”

Why wasn’t the North Korean dictatorship, which doesn’t hesitate to starve its own people not deterred by a “diplomatic framework”?

Well, there is someone who thinks the United States should get rid of nuclear weapons and it is Iran . According to a Reuters dispatch, a high-ranking Iranian official stated: “Our expectation from the U.S. and others is to take serious and practical measures toward nuclear disarmament and dismantling of weapons of mass destruction.”

So perhaps Obama is following Iran’s advice. What will he do when the Iranian regime throws a pie in his face?

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to