April 6th, 2015

Obama and disarmament: one of his longest-held dreams

Remember this? It’s one of the few papers that Obama wrote while in college or law school that is available; the rest seem to have disappeared. It is a 1983 article in the Columbia campus paper, and it constitutes pretty much Obama’s only paper trail—except for some poetry he wrote while at Occidental—until Dreams From My Father.

The article is mostly straight reportage and quotes about the Nuclear Freeze Movement and organizations called “Arms Race Alternatives” (ARA) and “Students Against Militarism (SAM). But sometimes Obama reveals his own attitude in a few comments such as, “Generally, the narrow focus of the Freeze movement as well as academic discussions of first versus second strike capabilities, suit the military-industrial interests, as they continue adding to their billion-dollar erector sets.” Note the superior tone, the boilerplate Sixties leftist-activist lingo, and the contempt for the military, already present in Obama at a relatively young age. To him, the military are boys playing with expensive toys.

He quotes one activist as saying “everyone’s asking for peace, but no one’s asking for justice,” which (in Obama’s words), causes “one…to wonder whether disarmament or arms control issues, severed from economic and political issues, might be another instance of focusing on the symptoms of a problem rather than the disease itself.” To Obama, the real problems appear to be economic and political issues involving a lack of justice, and the arms race is a mere symptom of that deeper concern (shades of this far more recent policy statement).

Later in the article, Obama writes in his own voice again:

Perhaps the essential goodness of humanity is an arguable proposition, but by observing the SAM meeting last Thursday night, with its solid turnout and enthusiasm, one might be persuaded that the manifestations of our better instincts can at least match the bad ones…

The most pervasive malady of the collegiate system specifically, and the American system generally, is that elaborate patterns of knowledge and theory have been disembodied from individual choices and government policy. What [the students in these groups] try to do is infuse what they have learned about the current situation, bring the words of that formidable roster on the face of Butler Library, manes like Thoreau, Jefferson, and Whitman, to bear on the twisted logic of which we are today a part.

This is a young man who certainly doesn’t seem to like America. He also doesn’t appear able to express himself all that well, but there is no question he thinks he knows better, and has purer and more noble instincts, than those stupidheads in charge. That’s not an unusual point of view for a young man, I suppose. But Obama seems to have managed to carry that sort of attitude right up to the present (excepting the non-stupidhead-in-chief, of course).

Even the NY Times wrote of Obama’s article:

What clearly excited him was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would end the testing and development of new weapons, and thus, in the minds of arms controllers, end the nuclear arms race. The Reagan administration vehemently opposed the treaty. Paraphrasing Mr. Bigelow’s views, Mr. Obama said the United States should initiate the ban “as a powerful first step towards a nuclear free world.” That phrase would reemerge decades later…

Barack Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called ‘the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country’ amid ‘the growing threat of war.’ The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”

And Obama biographer David Remnick called Obama’s article “muddled.”

The USSR fell not that many years after Obama wrote that 1983 piece, and many people believe this happened in part because of the arms race. See this on Reagan and Star Wars:

In the arms control negotiations with the Soviets, SDI proved to be a very powerful bargaining chip, primarily because the President did not believe it was up for discussion. Secondly, as many of us who met with USSR officials came to realize, the Soviets were the most fervent believers that the U.S. could actually develop and field the complex systems needed for SDI to work! Moscow had apparently concluded that this system would tip the strategic balance toward the United States.

This came at a time that the USSR itself was falling further behind economically—much more so than many in the U.S. Intelligence Community believed.

We did not fully appreciate then that Gorbachev, unlike his predecessors, was aware of the depths that the Soviet economy had fallen. It also appears that Gorbachev was deeply concerned about the President’s SDI program, feeling that what was at stake was more than just a space defense program. He believed that if the United States combined its technological superiority with its economic potential, America would make an enormous “skachok” (leap) ahead. In doing so, we would, to use the Marxian phrase, “consign the Soviet Union to the ash- heap of history”!

I am virtually certain that Obama hated Star Wars. Almost every liberal did at the time (although I remember thinking it didn’t sound so stupid for us to start working on something like that; this probably was an early sign of what was later to become my political conversion). Star Wars didn’t single-handedly cause the USSR to topple, of course, but it seems to have helped.

You might also remember this:

…President Obama erred in 2013 with his decision to scrap — in response to Russian objections — a planned system in Europe to defend against missile threats from the Middle East. Obama won no good will from the Russians, even as he forfeited an important opportunity to strengthen U.S. allies against future threats. Missile defense allows strong nations to defend themselves against weaker enemies without resorting to terrorist tactics or fighting bloody wars. This is a win-win, except for terrorists like Hamas and national rulers bent on aggression against neighbors.

But the dream dies hard, doesn’t it?

[NOTE: Let me add a personal note about the nuclear disarmament movement of yesteryear. Some of its activists were idealists. But a certain percentage (I don’t know how large) were pro-Soviet Communists. I say that from personal experience; I’m talking about a relative of mine who combined his pro-Soviet, pro-Communist proclivities with prominence in the nuclear disarmament cause.]

11 Responses to “Obama and disarmament: one of his longest-held dreams”

  1. parker Says:

    Bho is interested in disarming the USA, he wants our enemies armed to the teeth.

  2. NeoConScum Says:

    Dear Infantile Majesty,

    Disarmament? Yep, in a massively dangerous world—much of it currently aflame—UNILATEREL Disarmament is a brilliant action. It demonstrates righteous intentions, purity of heart & motive, weakness as a model for others and fine role modeling.

    An Icon of Brilliance & Fine Protection for our country and our friends worldwide. TRUST & Respect is what those friends have for us as a result of your actions. Bless you….Yep. Bless Your High Mindedness,’Yo.

  3. Beverly Says:

    He wants to bare our throat for the knife.

  4. Tonawanda Says:

    To address a tiny part of this post:

    When Gorbachev came to NY as a hero (when as Rush has said many times, the American media had a Gorbasm) he gave a press conference.

    The Times reported what he said in a very long article. I may not remember the details well, but one thing I do remember.

    At the very end of the article Gorbachev was quoted as saying explicitly that Ronald Reagan and SDI played a principal role in the destruction of Russian tyranny and militarism.

    I remember this because what he said should have been in the first paragraph and the headline. But what he said contradicted all the party line thinking of American leftists for many years.

    I wonder on occasion (such as this) whether anybody since has repeated what Gorbachev said as reported in the Times (other than me).

    It would seem pretty definitive.

  5. Matt_SE Says:

    I wonder what the left’s response will be when Iran tests its first nuke?
    What will be their response when Saudi Arabia tests its first nuke a month later?
    It’ll be hard to deny the proliferation taking place at that point.

  6. rickl Says:

    Beverly put it more succinctly, but I wanted to note that arms control advocates seem to have a lot in common with gun control advocates.

    Do they not understand that only moral and decent individuals and nations obey such laws and treaties, while criminals and outlaws flout them and thus gain an advantage?

    Or do they understand that, and consider it a preferred outcome?

  7. parker Says:

    It is a preferred outcome until the crocodiles eat them, and then its too late. Hateful fools one and all.

  8. Artfldgr Says:

    he didnt write dreams of my father, so that technically is not part of his paper trail.

    Intent of Russian military aircraft near U.S. shores remains unclear
    U.S. F-22 fighter jets scrambled about 10 times last year — twice as often as in 2013 — to monitor and photograph Russian Tu-95 “Bear” bombers and MiG-31 fighter jets that flew over the Bering Sea without communicating with U.S. air controllers or turning on radio transponders, which emit identifying signals.

    The Russian flights are in international airspace, and it’s unclear whether they are testing U.S. defenses, patrolling the area or simply projecting a newly assertive Moscow’s global power.

    “They’re obviously messaging us,” said Flores, a former Olympic swimmer who is in charge of Tin City and 14 other radar stations scattered along the vast Alaskan coast. “We still don’t know their intent.”

  9. Artfldgr Says:

    Eastern European civilians undergo military training amid Russia threat


    Report: Poland to build watchtowers along border with Russia

    wouldnt war be a convenient way to reset the finances, rejuggle things, change the US, remove the last of the caucasian males finalizing extermination and imposing jewish type homelessness on the planet, and more…

    just think… obama gives up and one world government is a fait accompli…

  10. Dennis Says:

    Artfldgr Says:

    “wouldnt war be a convenient way to reset the finances, rejuggle things, change the US, remove the last of the caucasian males finalizing extermination and imposing jewish type homelessness on the planet, and more…”

    I was following the argument just fine until I ran across this paragraph. Then I became totally confused.

  11. Ray Says:

    This came at a time that the USSR itself was falling further behind economically—much more so than many in the U.S. Intelligence Community believed.

    After the collapse of the USSR the Russians admitted that those wonderful economic statistics published by the soviets were just fiction. However they fooled lots of western analysts who concluded that the USSR was doing just fine.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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