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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Assessing the Obama/Lugar Non Proliferation Initiative

When critics and media question Barack Obama, or his surrogates, about his relative lack of accomplishments, one of his accomplishments most often cited is the nuclear non proliferation intiative he worked on with Senator Dick Lugar.

48 million funding increase to be used to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles, intercept weapons of mass destruction and respond to proliferation emergencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) today announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee accepted their request to provide funding to implement the Lugar-Obama nonproliferation initiative. The Appropriations Committee expressed support for the initiative and provided $48 million for Lugar-Obama, $36 million for programs to destroy heavy conventional weapons, $10 million for efforts to intercept weapons and materials of mass destruction, and $2 million for rapid response to proliferation detection and interdiction emergencies. This is the culmination of an 18 month effort to authorize and fund the Lugar-Obama initiative.

First introduced in November 2005 and enacted in 2007, the Lugar-Obama initiative enhances U.S. efforts to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles and to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction throughout the world.

“I applaud the decision to provide funding to implement the Lugar-Obama initiative – a major step forward in addressing critical security challenges faced by the United States and our allies,” said Senator Obama. “Much of this funding will prevent conventional weapons from being used against our service members in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan and from falling into the hands of terrorists and fueling civil wars around the world. This funding will further strengthen our ability to detect and intercept illegal shipments of weapons and materials of mass destruction, enhancing efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. I commend Senators Leahy and Gregg for their support on this critical issue.”

To give the audience an idea of how non controversial this bill was the bill passed on a voice vote.

What he’s referring to that passed Congress I think even on a voice vote,
that had to do with some technical changes to some of the protocols we had in
place, primarily for dealing with surplus, conventional weapons from the old
Soviet bloc. It was a minor housekeeping measure. It was important in the
greater scheme of things. But as far as Congress went, it was so relatively
unimportant and uncontroversial that it passed on a voice vote.

A voice vote occurs because there is general agreement and thus it doesn't even need to go through a regular roll call because everyone knows it will pass. Of course, just because it is non controversia that doesn't mean that it is insignificant. Of course, Dick Lugar, Barack Obama's partner, certainly thinks that this bill is non controversial and productive.

Authored by U.S. Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Barack Obama (D-IL), the Lugar-Obama initiative expands U.S. cooperation to destroy conventional weapons. It also expands the State Department’s ability to detect and interdict weapons and materials of mass destruction. “The United States should do more to eliminate conventional weapons stockpiles and assist other nations in detecting and interdicting weapons of mass destruction. We believe that these functions are underfunded, fragmented and in need of high-level support,” said Lugar, Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“The Lugar-Obama initiative will help other nations find and eliminate conventional weapons that have been used against our own soldiers in Iraq and sought by terrorists all over the world,” said Obama. “The Nunn-Lugar program has effectively disposed of thousands of weapons of mass destruction, but we must do far more to keep deadly conventional weapons like anti-aircraft missiles out of the hands of terrorists.”

“We want to ensure that our government has the capacity to deal quickly with vulnerable stockpiles of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, otherwise known as Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS). Such weapons could be used by terrorists to attack commercial airliners, military installations and government facilities here at home and abroad. Al Qaeda reportedly has attempted to acquire MANPADS on a number of occasions,” said Lugar.

The Lugar-Obama initiative would energize the U.S. program against unsecured, lightweight anti-aircraft missiles and other conventional weapons. There may be as many as 750,000 man-portable air defense systems in arsenals worldwide, and the State Department estimates that more than 40 civilian aircraft have been hit by such weapons since the 1970s. In addition, loose stocks of small arms and other weapons help fuel civil wars in Africa and elsewhere and provide the means for attacks on peacekeepers and aid workers seeking to stabilize war-torn societies. In Iraq, unsecured stockpiles of artillery shells and ammunition have been reconfigured into improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have become an effective weapon for insurgents.

Now, I am all for destroying stray nuclear weapons, however one sure fire way to know that a bill is worthless is to see just how vague the language is. The only thing that is specified is these "lightweight anti aircraft missiles" and even there the bill doesn't identify where they are or what nations they will help secure them. Essentially, all this bill does is authorize that the government spend 50 million dollars on unspecified and undefined programs with the goal of reducing loose nuclear weapons.

There are many problems with this bill. The main one is that the country with the most loose nuclear weapons is Russia, and it really doesn't matter how much money we spend, they aren't going to cooperate with us in securing these nukes.

The second problem is that securing loose nuclear weapons is almost entirely a function of good intelligence. In other words, this becomes a function of courageous spies finding bad guys in far away places that are looking to acquire these nuclear weapons and befriending them, apprehending them, and securing the nuclear weapons. That happens when the military budget is increased, and furthermore, it happens when the military pours enough resources into the matter. In other words such a goal as the one that Lugar and Obama have is accomplished through proper energy, resources, and competence by the military. It does NOT happen because two Senators create a meaningless bill that purports to spend 50 million dollars doing it. In fact, if anything, this is two Senators attempting to micromanage military operations. All this bill really does is have two politicians dictate to the military how they should allocate their budgets. While this is certainly a proper function of the Senate, I for one am much more comfortable having generals decide funding issues over Senators.

Finally, the best way to know this bill is meaningless is because Barack Obama rarely talks about anything it accomplished except in vague terms. What weapons were identified, destroyed, and taken out of play as a result of this bill? No one knows because he says nothing about that. I don't care if he spends 50 million dollars, 500 million dollars, or 5 billion dollars. Ultimately, it comes down to results. If Barack Obama doesn't talk about results, then what that likely means is that there are no results to talk about.

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