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A nuclear-free world? Not yet.

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Wisely, President Obama warned that such a goal "will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime."

That may be an understatement.

A recent Council on Foreign Relations blue ribbon task force on US weapons policy finds that "the geopolitical conditions that would permit the global elimination of nuclear weapons do not currently exist." And a recent Department of Defense task force, chaired by former Secretary James Schlesinger, found that nuclear weapons remain "fundamental to deterrence." As one participant in the task force's review of US nuclear readiness put it: "Global disarmament of nuclear weapons is fine as long as we are sure we have the last one to be destroyed."

Global nuclear disarmament remains an eminently worthy goal. But it cannot be achieved in today's climate, while:

•A nation with fickle leadership such as North Korea develops nuclear weapons.

•Terrorist groups yearn to acquire one.

Syria may aspire to join the nuclear club.

Iran, despite its protestations of peaceful nuclear development, is probably developing nuclear weaponry.

Pakistan and India will not surrender their nuclear weapons so long as they distrust each other.

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