June 20, 2011 | Commentary on Arms Control and Nonproliferation

START Exposes Obama's Half-Truth National Security Talk

"I never let my right hand know what my left hand is doing." - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

In the run-up to World War II, FDR's penchant for playing fast and loose with the truth in pursuit of political ends spawned a climate of distrust in Washington.

By the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, mistrust was so rampant that people suspected the president of knowing about the impending attack, but doing nothing to stop it in order to drag the U.S. into World War II.

Today, FDR's deeds as a war president have washed away remembrance of his penchant for half-truth politics. History may not be so kind to President Obama. Mounting evidence indicates that the president is double-dealing with America's national security.

Keith Payne, a widely respected scholar on nuclear matters, recently reported on the first "data exchange" under the new START Treaty -- President Obama's signature arms control deal with Russia.

The treaty requires "data exchanges" in which each side lists exactly how many nuclear weapons and launchers it has. The Russians reported that they are already under the limit set by the treaty.

Indeed, the treaty allows them to build a dozen more nuclear weapons if they want. And Russian officials have publicly stated they intend to build more launchers Meanwhile, the treaty requires to U.S. to cut weapons and platforms -- including a quarter of our launchers.

As Payne notes, in pressing for Senate approval of the arms pact, the State Department emphatically declared, "The Treaty does not force the United States to reduce unilaterally."

Indeed, the Obama administration promised the treaty would reduce U.S.-Russian nuke inventories by 30 percent. The facts revealed in the data exchange sure make it look like, in selling New START, the White House sold the Senate a bill of goods.

Furthermore, when pushing for the treaty, Obama promised to modernize U.S. nuclear stockpiles. Yet when Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, wrote into the Defense Authorization Act provisions to make good on that promise, the president threatened to veto the bill.

It is not over yet. Now, the White House is pushing for deeper reductions in nuclear arms, and it may well "play" the Pentagon to make its case.

Here's how it works: Periodically, the president undertakes a "nuclear targeting review" laying out the military objectives the Pentagon must be able to achieve through its nuclear force. The military, in turn, lays out the "force structure" (weapons and launchers) needed to reach the identified targets.

In all likelihood, the next White House review will cut the number of targets to be covered. The military will then say it needs fewer nukes and -- ta-da! -- the White House will declare the military "supports" cutting our nuclear arsenal. Orwell would be proud.

America's friends and allies are waking up to the fact that our president does not always mean what he says on matters of foreign policy and national security. Czech officials announced last week they are pulling out of Obama's new missile defense plan for Europe.

When he scrapped George W. Bush's plan, the president swore to replace it with a proven, cost-effective alternative. The Czechs, once keen to be part of America's missile defense umbrella, don't think Obama's alternative fits that bill. Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra told reporters his country wanted to participate, but "not in this way."

Questioning allies, questionable promises and quizzical policies suggest a national security national security approach that keeps left and right hands distant strangers.

James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at the Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First appeared in The Washington Examiner