Clearly, the “no nukes” policy is one close to the president’s heart. The Prague speech even carried echoes of that most famous of all Obama speeches, the one he made after losing the New Hampshire primary. “There are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it is worth setting a goal that seems impossible,” he told his Czech audience. (Recall: “We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics.”) “When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens,” he continued. (“We are not as divided as our politics suggests.”) He didn’t say “Yes, we can” at the end, but he did say “human destiny will be what we make of it” — which amounts to the same thing.
Which is all very nice — but as the central plank in an American president’s foreign policy, a call for universal nuclear disarmament seems rather beside the point. Apparently, Obama’s intention is to lead by example: If the United States cuts its own nuclear arsenal and bans testing, then, allegedly, others will follow.
Yet there is no evidence that U.S. nuclear arms reductions have ever inspired others to do the same. All of the world’s more recent nuclear powers — Israel, India, Pakistan — acquired their weapons well after such talks began, more than 40 years ago.