Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama on Nuclear Weapons

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) delivered an address on national security at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on August 1, 2007. In his speech, Obama argues for the need to do more to safeguard nuclear weapons and material and to use diplomacy to prevent countries from obtaining nuclear weapons.

More specifically, he wants to secure all nuclear weapons and material at vulnerable sites within four years and to negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material. Both goals are ambitious, admirable, and attainable.

Included below are the excerpts related to nuclear weapons issues.

It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world’s most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.


We must also do more to safeguard the world’s most dangerous weapons. We know al Qaeda seeks a nuclear weapon. We know they would not hesitate to use one. Yet there is still about 50 tons of highly enriched uranium, some of it poorly secured, at civilian nuclear facilities in over forty countries. There are still about 15,000 to 16,00 nuclear weapons and stockpiles of uranium and plutonium scattered across 11 time zones in the former Soviet Union.

That is why I worked in the Senate with Dick Lugar to pass a law that would help the United States and our allies detect and stop the smuggling of weapons of mass destruction.

And that is why, as President, I will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons and material at vulnerable sites within four years. While we work to secure existing stockpiles, we should also negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of new nuclear weapons material.

And I won’t hesitate to use the power of American diplomacy to stop countries from obtaining these weapons or sponsoring terror. The lesson of the Bush years is that not talking does not work. Go down the list of countries we’ve ignored and see how successful that strategy has been. We haven’t talked to Iran, and they continue to build their nuclear program. We haven’t talked to Syria, and they continue support for terror. We tried not talking to North Korea, and they now have enough material for 6 to 8 more nuclear weapons.

It’s time to turn the page on the diplomacy of tough talk and no action. It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward, and that Presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear.

President Kennedy said it best: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” Only by knowing your adversary can you defeat them or drive wedges between them. As President, I will work with our friend and allies, but I won’t outsource our diplomacy in Tehran to the Europeans, or our diplomacy in Pyongyang to the Chinese. I will do the careful preparation needed, and let these countries know where America stands. They will no longer have the excuse of American intransigence. They will have our terms: no support for terror and no nuclear weapons.

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