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Obama Again Stirs Up Rivals
With Statement on Use of Nukes

Sen. Barack Obama ruled out using nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden or terrorist cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday, a promise that quickly became part of the escalating debate among Democratic candidates over national security.

"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," Obama said, when asked if there were any circumstance in which he would use nuclear weapons against Afghanistan or Pakistan. He then added that he would not use such weapons in situations "involving civilians."

"Let me scratch that," he told an Associated Press reporter after emerging from a meeting on Capitol Hill. "There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, responded quickly with a warning against categorical statements about the use of nuclear weapons.

"Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and non-use of nuclear weapons," Clinton said. "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."

Asked specifically whether she agreed with Obama on this specific approach, Clinton declined to address the question. "I'm not going to answer hypotheticals." Asked if she believed his approach was irresponsible - the word she used in a foreign policy spat with Obama last week over whether to meet with hostile foreign leaders - Clinton said she had said all she would say.

Obama has been toughening his approach to foreign policy; delivering a highly publicized speech on Wednesday declaring that he would approve targeted incursions inside Pakistan if the American government learned the whereabouts of terrorists on the other side of the border. Sen. Joeseph Biden of Delaware, another Democratic candidate for president, this morning called him "naive."

"In order to look tough, he's undermined his ability to be tough, were he president. Because if you're going to go into Pakistan, which is already our policy, by the way, if there's actionable intelligence, you need actionable intelligence from moderates within Pakistan working with you," Biden said on NPR's 'Diane Rehm Show.' "It's a well intended notion he has, but it's a very naïve way of figuring out how you're going to conduct foreign policy."

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut added to the criticism of Obama in a statement he issued Thursday afternoon. "Over the past several days," Dodd said, "Senator Obama's assertions about foreign and military affairs have been, frankly, confusing and confused. He has made threats he should not make and made unwise categorical statements about military options."

--Anne E. Kornblut

By Bill Hamilton  |  August 2, 2007; 3:58 PM ET
Categories:  A_Blog , Barack Obama , Security  
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Provokes Protest

Comments

In response to tkjer:

I see where you are coming from when you say that Hilary Clinton needs to discuss with the public her ideas on both real and hypothetical situations. BUT, it is also important to realize that all situations should be taken on a one-by-one basis.

Obama's answer, that he will not use nuclear bombs, is acceptable because it is a "no tolerance policy," if you will, an ethical opintion. Clinton needs to give an answer other than, "I am not going to answer hypotheticals." A very acceptable answer could be that she is not in support of nuclear bombs as the solution to all problems nor is she opposed to using them at all.

Posted by: MeaganCO | August 30, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Most people are nice. For racism to exist in a society most nice people have to be racists.

Racism is subtle.

Obama, Hilary and all those AMericans who support going after Bin laden, w/wo nukes, by attacking the NW TRibal Frontier of Pakistan are racists.

I follow the Golden Rule.

As an imaginal exercise, let us asuume Bin Laden and cohorts are holed up in the Alps of Switzerland and Italy.

Would Obama, Hilary and America support the killing of thousands and thousands of WHITE CHRISTIAN SWISS AND ITALIAN women, children and men??????

Nope because you are all racists!

Posted by: recher | August 3, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama is an idiot but he fits neatly within the American mental midget class of voters.

Posted by: blue_penquin | August 3, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse


I called the Obama and Clinton offices this a.m. The gist was if Obama is sane enough to know that nuclear weapons can not ever be used I might consider voting for him and if she, or any candidate, thinks they can, I wouldn't want them any where near the White house.

Madness to think a nuclear war is doable under and circumstances.


Posted by: tmptmp | August 3, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is not talking about anything other that what the United States has been doing already.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5158423

"Pakistani officials condemn an airstrike that killed 18 civilians. They say it was a CIA effort to kill al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri... who was not present. The United States has not commented. The FBI will reportedly conduct DNA tests on some victims of the attack to see if any are known terrorists."

Posted by: George14 | August 3, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama is not talking about anything other that what the United States has been doing already.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5158423

"Pakistani officials condemn an airstrike that killed 18 civilians. They say it was a CIA effort to kill al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri... who was not present. The United States has not commented. The FBI will reportedly conduct DNA tests on some victims of the attack to see if any are known terrorists."

Posted by: George14 | August 3, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Bush stated his willingness to use nukes first, and everyone rightfully went nuts.

Obama has essentially said nothing worse than that he would not target civilian noncombatants, implying that America should stand by it's stated principles and morals. Am I missing something? What's wrong with that?

And if Hillary - or any politician - won't answer questions, then they shouldn't get any votes at all. I'm so sick to my stomache of politicians giving mealy-mouthed, dance-around-the-question, "no-response" responses.

Be a leader Hillary. Answer the questions. State your positions, and justify them. Don't avoid questions just so you can cover your butt and get elected.

The American People stand up and take a position every time we vote. Our politicians sure as heck should do the same.

Posted by: cjfaiella | August 3, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I would never vote for someone who would openly advocate or "keep the option open" of using nukes. Wingnuts better think long and hard about what this actually means. Maybe take a look at some photos from Hiroshima or even talk to the Gulf War vets who are living with illnesses caused by the U.S. using depleted uranium shells. Are conventional weapons not deadly enough without spewing poison into the world that will last for hundreds of years? What is wrong with the press in covering this issue? I have seen Obama be accused of being somehow "weak" because he doesn't think melting civilian populations with nukes is a good idea. Look around America. You are becoming a nation of blood-thirsty paranoid monsters.

Posted by: marSF | August 3, 2007 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't look too good for Hillary to be part of the "crowd" trying to knock Obama down. Kind of gives the impression that she, like they, are losing and just trying to slow him down.

This is nothing but good for Obama because it makes it look like he is out in front and everyone else is trying to catch up.

Posted by: gthstonesman | August 3, 2007 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I am SO encouraged to see the Mantle of Obama so proudly displayed here and in just about all the forums and discussions I've seen across the net. Have you noticed how vocal and numerous Obama's supporters are? Have you noticed his "slipups" don't actually make you wince? Have you noticed that his "mistakes" only serve to rally the faithful and enlighten more of the deceived?

HILLARY "won't discuss hypotheticals?" isn't that the ENTIRE purpose of campaigning and debating "When I'm president" "If I'm president" "When I'm elected President" These are ALL hypotheticals! You don't get to pick the questions Hillary, apparently though you do get to decide which one's you'll answer publicly. Sounds like another secretive administration that keeps its policy behind closed doors within a political dynasty.

NO MORE DYNASTIES! NO MORE SECRECY, NO MORE BUSHES, NO MORE CLINTONS!! With Obama, he's telling us like it is, thank God. And as Obama is a constitutional expert, scholar, and DEFENDER, I think we, the media and even the Washington Post will finally be allowed to shed some sunshine on all the shadowy actions of this, most secretive of all administrations.And we can hope that we won't see this type of darkness and deception for some time.

Posted by: Nemotoad | August 3, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I think Obama is right. The days of world domination via the nuclear threat are over. First, a lot of the bad guys now have nukes too. Second, the bad guys know the US won't use the nukes as a first strike. Third, as we've seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, South Lebanon, the answer to the terrorist threat cannot be solely a military one.

It takes teamwork of all the nations and the people in those nations to isolate extremists, eliminate their sources of funding, and expose their plans before they come to fruition. Its a battle for the hearts and minds of the world's population. It takes a different type of diplomacy. It takes the honest team-building approach -- instead of trying to coerce governments using a phony nuclear threat, admit the truth -- that our morals don't permit us to use the nukes in 99.999999% of conflict situations -- and agree to sit down -- without preconditions on either side -- to talk to the leaders of other nations. Isn't it a sign of weakness if you are unwilling to even talk.

I think Obama's honest, open, team building approach is the new type of diplomacy we need to deal with the new threat to our new global community.

Posted by: alan | August 3, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I do not agree with Obama onmany occassions however his latest remarks about hi foreign policy regarding the abuse and non-use of nuclear weapons show he is not as messed up in the head as i though.
Meanwhile when asked on the same issue our sen hillary clinton refused to answer the "hypothetical question." Whats funny is the fact all her answers are answers related ot hypothetical questions example "what will your stand be on the American helthcare situation when you are president" This like many other is a hypothetical question because she is not the president yet.

Posted by: EqanAsif | August 3, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I do not agree with Obama onmany occassions however his latest remarks about hi foreign policy regarding the abuse and non-use of nuclear weapons show he is not as messed up in the head as i though.
Meanwhile when asked on the same issue our sen hillary clinton refused to answer the "hypothetical question." Whats funny is the fact all her answers are answers related ot hypothetical questions example "what will your stand be on the American helthcare situation when you are president" This like many other is a hypothetical question because she is not the president yet.

Posted by: EqanAsif | August 3, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

If we are actually not planning to use nukes, which I hope we are not, then it would NOT be smart for us to pretend like we are keeping nukes on the table. Obama is right.

A bluff can't last forever, people will start ignoring us. This is common sense. Once we start hiding behind a transparent bluff, we are giving up our own power to negotiate effectively.

Obama realizes this. It is Dodd, Clinton, Biden who don't see it. They are in an old world. Their viewpoint is understandable in the big picture, but needs modification of its details in the present day. Obama is the one who gets it.

Posted by: sickofspam | August 3, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

By saying, "Many years of strategic thinking and policy making surround the issue of possessing and using nuclear weapons", and then saying that it is "dangerous" and not useful to discuss in the public forum you imply that we are not mature enough to understand or debate nuclear force. If so many years of strategic thinking have gone into this than there is no reason not to give a well thought out response. As a potential leader of the free world I would hope that Senator Clinton would have something to say about an issue that has been thought of for so "Many years". She says, "Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and non-use of nuclear weapons", and then she refuses to discuss it. But this is precisely why she and all the candidates should discuss it. This is not a debate we can cede to the invisible geniuses of yesteryear. If there is some incontrovertible truth distilled by our forebears on this issue than state it and use that as the answer. That we should be careful with nuclear issues is a forgone conclusion and stating such is a waste of time. She failed to answer any questions that reveal anything about her better judgement. Senator Obama answered the question and we are now free to judge for ourselves his potential. Senator Clinton still hides from this scrutiny. The questions that presidents need to be careful in discussing are the ones to which we need answers.

Posted by: claronridge | August 3, 2007 5:05 AM | Report abuse

to: politicallogic

Obama gave the morally right answer by choosing to not use nukes under any circumstance

what do you think will happen once we nuke somebody?

something that will be alot worse that 9/11 i can assure you that

Posted by: SeanFoots | August 3, 2007 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Many years of strategic thinking and policy making surround the issue of possessing and using nuclear weapons. Hillary is correct in not getting into hypotheticals in a public forum. Nothing useful will be achieved this way. This stuff is about as dangerous as you can get. Obama caught himself after some initial stumbling. He should have had this thought out ahead of time -- as Hillary did.

Posted by: politicallogic | August 3, 2007 1:08 AM | Report abuse

uhm wrong, Obama does not want to invade pakistan. Theres a difference between sending some stealthy marines to take out Bin-Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders, which is what he was talking about, and invading a country with some 100,00 troops, which is not what he suggested. And how can anyone support someone who is actually willing to nuke thousands of civillans to kill 3 or 4 terroists, as clinton would appearantly do.

Posted by: SeanFoots | August 3, 2007 12:02 AM | Report abuse

"I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," Obama said, when asked if there were any circumstance in which he would use nuclear weapons against Afghanistan or Pakistan. He then added that he would not use such weapons in situations "involving civilians."

"Let me scratch that," he told an Associated Press reporter after emerging from a meeting on Capitol Hill. "There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."


WAIT WAIT WAIT - Someone ask David Axlerod how this played with a focus group. Was this on the table? What was my talking point?

When you let the Chicago machine take an empty vessel and try and transform it into a presidential candidate - this is what you get. Let's talk with foreign despots, then propose invading a nuclear armed ally of 160 million people whose government is teetering and may be replaced by yet another radical Islamist government - now let's talk about when, were, and how we might use our nuclear weapons - and with a little luck, John Stewart or Colbert will eventually catch on that I'm a bigger clown than that Gravel guy!

Posted by: clawrence35 | August 2, 2007 11:33 PM | Report abuse

THANK GOD

obama wouldn't use nukes!

HAS EVERYONE ELSE

GONE INSANE???


Hillary would actually NUKE
hundreds of thousands of innocent
civilians in order to kill Bin Laden
and a few of his buddies???

Good lord.

Using a nuke during war with
another COUNRTY would be tragic
enough, but to nuke an entire country
WHO WE ARE NOT AT WAR WITH
in order to get at dozen of it's renegade
terrorists is total insanity.

Posted by: julieds | August 2, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Believe me, if the USA doesn't reinstitute "THE DRAFT" fairly soon, nukes may very well be the only option we have left.

Posted by: Vunderlutz | August 2, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

In what possible context could the US use nuclear weapons against Afghanistan or Pakistan. This difference clearly points out why we need Obama as our next president; we need a fresh and honest vision of leadership for the world, not the same tired Cold War mentality. I believe Hilary stepped right into this one and demonstrated her own naivety and proving the point that she is Bush-lite and the old ways while Obama is a new direction.

Posted by: sapphiretini | August 2, 2007 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I believe Obama is displaying a foreign policy that a solid, ethical and wise America could follow. The United States of America has much in its disposal to solve great many problems without the need to even consider its nuclear arsenal. Unfortunately, the current administration had made and confessed to making many mistakes that has weakend the country's world wide status to the point that its politicians consider using force over force on very weak nations. Obama is setting policies that from my perspective will alleviate America's distress in dealing with current affairs and depict a new picture of a trustworthy, powerful, and ethical America.

Posted by: mehdi.bazargan | August 2, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

That the USA would consider using nuclear weapons in the pursuit of terrorists is unconscionable. World leadership demands the US set the pace in taking nukes off the table.

"Experienced," when Clinton says it, seems to mean "won't challenge assumptions" of cold war foreign policy.

Posted by: monteasbury | August 2, 2007 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Obama is just too green, he's all over the place. He clearly hasn't thought through his answers, he seems to have given three in as many setances.

Posted by: sfmandrew | August 2, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Obama is really establishing some foreign policy credentials with his speech. Naturally all Hillary could do was imply that Barack was being nieve. She doesn't feel the need to tell us anything about what she believes. She thinks she's entitled to the position of president, so why take the risk of opening up. We should all forward this speech to our friends to let them know what an Obama administration could do for our image in the world.

Posted by: markdmorris | August 2, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Three Cheers for Senator Obama!!!
He is definitely the kind of President I want. He spoke the truth from his heart, and knows that you cannot use nukes incidental third party host nation's of terrorists. The issue of Warring against an NGO (non-government organization) is totally preposterous in the first place. Military action against terror networks does not work....ask the Brits, or better yet see how well it is going in Israel?

No you cannot go plunking nukes down wherever you want them just because you got them....that would be a violation of national sovereignty issues....something our current king has overlooked. Afghanistan, yeah, good target. IRAQ dumb. Hell by that logic, old W should have nuked Baghdad because remember Iraq supported terrorism.

Nope way to go Obama keep telling the truth !!! It will not get you elected though, sorry.

Posted by: tennscott | August 2, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I hope no one truly believes Clinton "declined the opportunity" to answer the question because she didn't want to answer "hypotheticals"! She has no problem doing that when it suits her. Maybe it's because she said exactly the same thing as Obama did during a radio interview yesterday, but OF COURSE, it's not "naive" or "irresponsible" when she says it. And I don't think she could utter a "blanket statement" about anything. I have no problem with Obama saying he won't use nuclear weapons against Pakistan. That's a BAD THING? There are several other methods of killing people. Obama's speech was excellent, and so it's especially unfortunate that so many are senselessly focusing on such a small part of it and ignoring some very salient points made. I don't care what "experts" in WA think - and especially not his opponents - Obama's approach makes sense. I have a son in Iraq so I take what is said about this seriously. I wish the media inform people, not mislead with sensationalist headlines.

Posted by: literate1 | August 2, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

I hope no journalists or debate moderators allow any candidates to get off the hook by refusing to answer hypothetical questions as Hilary did. That is a disgraceful copout. We better get their answers to how to handle a great many hypothetical as well as real/current world and national problems. If any candidate responds to me "I don't answer hypothetical questions," I will say, "So you're either admitting your plan is the same as G. W. Bush (because that was his stock answer), or you haven't bothered to think about anything so complicated, or you just don't know. In other words, you'll just be another lame brain in the White House."

Posted by: TeddyRoosevelt | August 2, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Senator Clinton's response to Senator Obama's comments regarding the use of nuclear weapons is deeply disappointing. She is quite right that presidents have used the threat of nuclear attack to achieve a variety of strategic goals; but Obama is surely right that targeting noncombatant population centers or subjecting them to substantial risks is as morally objectionable now as it was at the height of the Cold War. The use of military force may sometimes be necessary--though it is troubling that so many of the Democratic candidates seem to view a willingness to go to war as a badge of honor--but, however high the stakes in an armed conflict, the demands of justice persist, and these include the basic principles of discrimination and noncombatant immunity, principles it is very difficult to respect when employing nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction). Bellicosity does Senator Clinton and her competitors for the Democratic nomination no credit.

Posted by: gchartie | August 2, 2007 5:25 PM | Report abuse

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