Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Obama press conference: Sanctions aren’t a magic wand

Obama held a press conference following the Nuclear Security Summit.

CONCRETE COMMITMENTS: “I said this morning that today would be an opportunity for our nations, both individually and collectively, to make concrete commitments and take tangible steps to secure nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who would surely use them.” As paper weights? Surely you need a weapon to put them in as well.

NO, JUST SHORT ULTIMATUMS: “This was not a day of long speeches or lectures on what other nations must do.”

IRAN AND NORTH KOREA WERE NOT INVITED: “We listened to each other, with mutual respect.”

WHAT EXACTLY WAS SERVED AT THAT DINNER? “Coming into this summit, there were a range of views on this danger. But at our dinner last night, and throughout the day, we developed a shared understanding of the risk.”

THEY’RE VULNERABLE AND THEY JUST WANT TO BE HELD: “I am very pleased that all the nations represented here have endorsed the goal that I outlined in Prague one year ago -- to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years’ time.”

DAMN, LOOK AT THIS GAFFE, HE IS JUST LIKE GEORGE BUSH: “So we’ve committed ourselves to a sustained, effective program of international cooperation on national [sic] security, and we call on other nations to join us.”

THE CANADIAN THREAT HAS BEEN DEFUSED; I REPEAT, THE CANADIAN THREAT HAS BEEN DEFUSED: “Canada agreed to give up a significant quantity of highly enriched uranium.”

“PEACEFUL NUCLEAR ENERGY” – LIKE IT’S THE ENERGY’S FAULT: “for nations that uphold their responsibilities, peaceful nuclear energy can unlock new advances in medicine, in agriculture, and economic development.” Agriculture?

CBS’s Bill Plante asked whether all these agreements he was announcing weren’t entirely voluntary. Took Obama a while to admit there was no enforcement mechanism.

NOT A MAGIC WAND: “Sometimes I hear the argument that, well, sanctions aren’t really going to necessarily work. Sanctions aren’t a magic wand.”

Scott Wilson of the WaPo asked if it wasn’t hypocritical never to call on Israel to declare its nukes and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Obama decided he was comfortable with his hypocrisy: “And as far as Israel goes, I’m not going to comment on their program.” Heaven forfend. “What I’m going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT. So there’s no contradiction there.” Bullshit, yes, contradiction, no. Later, he said more or less the same thing about Pakistan. He added that the security around Pakistan’s nuclear facilities was okay, but there can always be improvements, mentioning that time when US nukes were loaded on a plane without anyone realizing. Of course our military probably has fewer friendly ties with Al Qaida and the Taliban than Pakistan’s.

PHFEW: Asked if the sanctions he’s proposing for Iran aren’t exactly the tactic that failed against North Korea: “Well, I’m not going to give you a full dissertation on North Korean behavior.”

NOT A MAGIC WAND, REDUX: “As I said, sanctions are not a magic wand. Unfortunately, nothing in international relations is. But I do think that the approach that we’ve taken with respect to North Korea makes it more likely for them to alter their behavior than had there been no consequences whatsoever to them testing a nuclear weapon.” So, doing something which has no effect is better than doing nothing which has no effect.

SAINTLY, EVEN: “I think the work that we’ve done in recent days around nuclear security and nuclear disarmament are intrinsically good. They’re good just in and of themselves.”

A PARTNER WITH HOT SPOTS: “And I remain committed to being a partner with countries around the world, and in particular hot spots around the world”.

WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT: “It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower”.

SO THEY’LL BE MEASURE NOT IN DAYS OR WEEKS BUT IN TIME? “But I think on all these issues -- nuclear disarmament, nuclear proliferation, Middle East peace -- progress is going to be measured not in days, not in weeks. It’s going to take time.”

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