Throughout his campaign, President elect Barack Obama displayed mixed messages about his stance on nuclear arms. However, when Obama takes office in January, he will need to clarify where he stands.
The Bush administration planned to build the first new U.S. warheads since the end of the Cold War, but Congress has decided to defer any decision on the matter to next year when Obama will assume office.
During the campaign, Obama said that he seeks “a world without nuclear weapons,” but he also said that the United States must “always maintain a strong (nuclear) deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist.”
According to Clark Murdock, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, these challenges have been growing for some time and the Obama administration will have to finally face them. “This is not just a decision about the future of U.S. nuclear weapons, but about how the United States will address the challenges of … nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation and our entire 21st-century nuclear strategy,” said Murdock.
Bush’s nuclear arms plan focuses on producing a “Reliable Replacement Warhead” (RRW), which the administration says is a better, more durable substitute for warheads. Additionally, the new warhead would have a feature that would ensure it could not be detonated if stolen by terrorists.
Obama’s statements have offered no definitive stance on Bush’s plan and his transition team has declined to elaborate. But after Obama is inaugurated he will have to determine which direction he wants his administration to move in.
In the meantime, Obama’s comments have led to speculation on both sides of the issue. Junior Chris LaFleche doesn’t think it’s practical for America to stop updating its nuclear weaponry.“While Obama’s idea to stop the development of new nuclear weapons and to place a global bad on production is ideal, it is not necessarily safe to stop while others still have them,” LaFleche said. “With Great Britain, France, Russia, and China all modernizing their nuclear arsenals, the united states should too.”
The controversial nature of this issue transcends the discussion on war for junior Eric Troiano. Obama must be extra careful to exercise caution in his nuclear policies, he said. “I’m not a huge advocate of RRWs because as a nation we hold over 5,000 warheads to this day and spending more money on weaponry is irresponsible when there are more pertinent causes to contribute to,” said Trioano.
For students like junior Anthony Bilotto updating nuclear arms is simply not a sound economic decision. It could cost millions of dollars and not serve any practical use.“Why put all this money into something we aren’t going to use,” Bilotto said. “Why not spend it on better armor for our soldiers who get shot everyday then a weapon we are trying to ensure we will never use?”
One student expressed his concern that the United States would lose credibility in the global community if it pursued the nuclear arms plan proposed by the Bush administration.“It seems impossible to even advocate such a position without inviting the rest of the world to criticize us more, and disregard our opinions on there nuclear programs,” said senior Andrew Slafta. “Still, I don’t see a problem with modernizing the weapons as long as its in the interest of safety, and not in the interest of increasing potency.”
Some students are even calling for the immediate stop to nuclear weapons creation. “I feel that nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous and should not be used, unless under extreme circumstances,” said senior Sara Laing. “As far as President-Elect Obama is concerned, I hope he will make the right decision for the country. I would advise him not to build warheads and to simply utilize the weapons we already have should the need arise.”