Obama’s Arms-Control Delusion

By R. James Woolsey & Peter Vincent Pry

National Review

August 26, 2015

Advocates of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran argue that, despite the duplicity of the Iranian regime, the deal will work because arms control worked to contain the nuclear threat from the “evil empire” that was the Soviet Union. 

In fact, the USSR massively violated most of the arms-control agreements it concluded with the United States. Russia today is violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons and was therefore widely regarded as the most successful arms-control agreement in history — until recent cheating by Russian president Vladimir Putin. 

To help set straight the dismal record of arms control, journalists should submit a Freedom of Information Act request to declassify “A Quarter Century of Soviet Compliance Practices under Arms Control Commitments: 1958–1983,” the report of President Reagan’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. 

Historically, no nuclear-arms-control agreement, such as the Obama administration’s deal with Iran, has ever succeeded in persuading or compelling any state to abandon nuclear weapons or a nuclear-weapons program. Sanctions and military force have worked to stop nuclear proliferation, while arms control has spectacularly failed to stop nuclear proliferation. For example: 


The most successful nuclear non-proliferation regime in history has been robust U.S. military and nuclear capabilities, credibly brandished by U.S. presidents to ensure the security of allies in Europe and Asia. Numerous U.S. allies have the capability to become nuclear-weapons states. Because of their confidence in America’s military and nuclear prowess, and the political will of U.S. presidents to uphold security guarantees, most U.S. allies and friends have not resorted to developing their own nuclear weapons — yet.

America’s superpower status, the most successful and important bulwark against nuclear proliferation, is fading, and may be on the verge of failing catastrophically, in the face of aggression and nuclear threats from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Increasingly, adversaries and allies see a power vacuum where the American superpower’s guarantee of “peace through strength” used to be.

If terrorist-sponsor Iran follows failed-state North Korea in getting nuclear missiles, that could be the straw that breaks American credibility and transforms the present U.S.-led world order, once so promising for the global advancement of political and economic freedom, into a future of nuclear terror and chaos.


— R. James Woolsey was director of central intelligence and is chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and served on the Congressional EMP Commission and the House Armed Services Committee and in the CIA.