Hillary Clinton yesterday outdid herself in trying to appear “tough” on foreign affairs when she refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama Bin Laden or other terrorist leaders in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The WaPo’s Anne Kornblut wrote there that,
- Clinton’s comments came in response to Obama’s remarks earlier in the day that nuclear weapons are “not on the table” in dealing with ungoverned territories in the two countries, and they continued a steady tug of war among the Democratic presidential candidates over foreign policy.
“I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance” in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Obama said. He then added that he would not use such weapons in situations “involving civilians.”
“Let me scratch that,” he said. “There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”
Obama (Ill.) was responding to a question by the Associated Press about whether there was any circumstance in which he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorism and bin Laden.
“There’s been no discussion of using nuclear weapons, and that’s not a hypothetical that I’m going to discuss,” Obama said. When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.
By the afternoon, Clinton (N.Y.) had responded with an implicit rebuke. “Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons,” she said, adding that she would not answer hypothetical questions about the use of nuclear force.
“Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace, and I don’t believe any president should make blanket statements with the regard to use or nonuse,” Clinton said.
It is well known that– ever since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, almost exactly 62 years ago today– the US has never been prepared to state openly that it would “not be the first to use” nuclear weapons. Russia, and before that the Soviet Union, did have an explicit “no first use” stance.
The US’s stance therefore leaves open– or, as US pols like to say, “on the table”– the possibility that the US might use nuclear weapons in response to somebody else’s non-nuclear attack.
But to leave “on the table” the possibility that the US might use nuclear weapons against terrorists??? This is even more shocking, and seems to reveal that neither Hillary Clinton nor any of the other pols who adopt the same, striving-to-be-tough stance, basically have no idea about the nature of nuclear weapons or the consequences of their use.
The use of even what the US calls “tactical” nuclear weapons would be devastating for a wide area around the detonation site. And upon using any nuclear weapon in such circumstances, the US would also immediately lose just about all credibility as a leader of any moral standing in the world.
Barrack Obama is quite right to say that the use of nukes should not be on the table in the discussion of combating Al-Qaeda or other terrorists.