Barack Obama had a long-standing interest in controlling the building and deployment of nuclear weapons. Now he has the opportunity to actually do something about the problem of nuclear proliferation. Terrorists who are willing to commit suicide for their own nihilistic causes would have no problem pushing the bomb's button, nor any worry about how many lives they take. The more, the better.
The challenge of accounting for loose nuclear fissile material and what it could mean in a world with violent extremists is something that demands concerted efforts by the entire family of nations. Dozens of countries will be represented at President Obama's nuclear summit. But not all nations will be there. In fact several key players are not coming.
But this unfortunate reality does not mean that the President should be deterred in his quest to make the world safer. And I do not mean safer from "weapons of mass destruction." The overuse of that phrase in the recent past has so cheapened its core meaning that the words no longer have any usefulness for me. No, it means safer from people who would dearly love to get their hands on a nuclear weapon, or the materials to make one.
Whatever comes out of the nuclear summit will be dismissed by many of the President's adversaries as weak, not enough, without teeth, etc. Others will define his efforts as dangerous, misguided or irrational. But President Obama has made a start. In the wake of the signing of the START treaty, it builds momentum. And it constructs credibility for this crazy idea that the world will survive more certainly if nuclear weapons are beginning to be seen, even if faintly, as things of the past.
We must believe that the family of nations has the will and the ingenuity to prevent extremists from getting nuclear capability. Just because some feel that it is impossible does not mean we should not try our best to prevail despite the odds. We have a consummate despite-the-odds leader in Barack Obama. He appears willing to tackle the hardest issues. . . getting elected and reforming health care, for example. His pragmatism, his ability to find common ground among disparate contenders, his energy and intellect all bode well for this project. We all need to stand in his corner and to wish him well.