In Prague on Sunday, Barack Obama boldly proclaimed that as long as there is a potential nuclear threat from Iran, the United States “will go forward with a missile defense that is cost-effective and proven.” Many observers saw that as a statement of toughness from a president determined to counter Tehran. It turns out it was a carefully-worded dodge from a president with little desire to build a strong American missile defense. Here is the story behind the story:
A few months before the January 2008 Iowa caucuses, a left-leaning group called Caucus4Priorities asked Obama and other Democratic presidential candidates to spell out their positions on defense issues. Caucus4Priorities was an offshoot of a bigger group, the Priorities Action Fund, created by Ben Cohen, the peace activist and co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The organization hoped to divert billions of dollars in spending from the Pentagon to education, health care, job training, world hunger, and other causes. One of its goals was to put an end to missile defense.
Candidate Obama made a video in response to Caucus4Priorities. “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems,” Obama said. “I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systemsâ€¦”
Senate Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden have been foes of a national missile defense system for decades.
â€œThis premise, that one day Kim Jong Il or someone will wake up one morning and say â€˜Aha, San Francisco!â€™ is specious,â€ Senator Joe Biden told AP in May 2001.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Carl Levin (D., Mich.) offered in June to cut off funds for the ground-based interceptor program that Mr. Bush recently activated in Alaska in anticipation of the North Korean launch. Mr. Levin wants to stop new interceptors from being built, but Senate Republicans wouldnâ€™t bring his proposal up for a vote. Mr. Levin has been waging his own private war against missile defenses for a generation, to the point of outflanking Russian objections on the political left.
In May 2001 the Boston Heraldâ€™s Woodlief wrote that John Kerry â€œwants to croak the hugely costly nuclear missile defense system.â€ And just one day before the 9/11 attacks Joe Biden (D., Del.) gave a National Press Club speech outlining Democrat opposition to national missile defense.
Why should President Obama be any different?
What Obama is practicing is DOUBLESPEAK.
So here is the lesson. When the president says he will “go forward with a missile defense,” don’t assume that he will go forward with a missile defense. Don’t listen to what he said in Prague. Listen to what he said in Iowa.
But, Obama will NOT be able to use Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman for ANY political cover.
Lieberman had begun to sing Obamaâ€™s praises in recent weeks, but his song sounded a decidedly harsh note this week. As during the campaign, the latest tension stems from disagreement over national security and foreign policy.
Lieberman, who campaigned for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last year, has a reputation in the Senate as a defense hawk.
â€œCooperation on missile defense is now a critical component of many of our closest security partnerships around the world,â€ Lieberman wrote in a letter to the president. â€œWe fear that cuts to the budget for missile defense could inadvertently undermine these relationships and foster the impression that the United States is an unreliable ally.
â€œMoreover, sharp cuts would leave us and our friends around the world less capable of responding to the growing ballistic missile threat.â€
Lieberman, a longtime supporter of a robust missile defense program, is the lead signatory on the letter.
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