The dead end of Obama's no-nukes dream?

Scrutinizing culture.
March 8 2010 5:19 PM

Zero Hour for Zero

Will the START treaty be the dead end of Obama's no-nukes dream?

(Continued from Page 2)

Meanwhile, U.S. negotiators have made any incorporation of restraints on BMD a no-go area for negotiations, believing that any such restrictions would condemn a treaty to death in the Senate. In other words, they've capitulated to the Republicans pre-emptively on what could be a more ambitious treaty. Acton said what could not be known is just how substantive the differences were. If they were indeed "niggling details," Obama and Medvedev might step in and resolve them at the last minute. But if they involved ballistic missile defense, the problems might be insoluble.

When I asked Acton whether there was anything Obama could to break the logjam, he said he wasn't sure—the delay might turn out to be a symptom of what veteran arms control negotiators had told him was a Russian negotiating tactic: make concessions along the way and then just as it looked as if agreement could be reached, "put everything back on the table."

"Meaning?" I asked.

Take back the concessions and see what else you can extract from the pressure of what seems like proximity to finality.

Proximity to finality. Zero always was a long-term dream. But the first step has been so agonizingly difficult, it begins to seem less like a dream and more like an ever tantalizing, never approachable delusion.

Alas, "proximity to finality" may be the epitaph for the START Treaty, for Zero, for the prospects of avoiding a nuclear cataclysm. Proximity to finality, yes. Zero may be stopped in its tracks before it could get STARTed.

I would argue there is one thing Obama could do. Recognize that this is at least as important as health care in terms of the urgency with which he treats it. And that he has to get involved personally and politically. He has to find out whether the Russians are serious, whether the Pentagon is sabotaging him, whether there's any hope left. He has to realize that a nuclear war would be a rather substantial health care crisis, for instance, if he wants to put it in that framework. Recognize that this is truly the way he could make a mark on history unlike that of any previous president. And if he won't follow my advice and appoint a Zero czar, at this very late hour, he should become the Zero czar himself.


Become a fan of  Slate on Facebook. Follow us on  Twitter.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 17 2014 4:21 PM Why the Poor Pay $1,400 for Old iPads #MuckReads: A weekly roundup of investigative reporting from ProPublica.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 1:54 PM Republican Midterm Debate Strategy: Be Pro-Life, But Not Anti-Abortion
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 8:32 AM Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy—and a Mess. Can the Movies Fix It?
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.