Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Argument against Ratifying New START

While some consider the argument against strategic arms reduction to be unthinkable, ignorant, or even inhumane, some consideration should be given to those in Congress who hesitate to obediently pass the New START just because Secretaries Clinton and Gates tell us to. Senator Kyl of Arizona has reasonable grounds in his proclamation that more time should be devoted to the treaty than can be given in the Lame Duck session before the New Year. This, of course, implies that blocking the ratification is something more than partisan politics as many of his critics attempt to boil it down to. Namely, that ambiguous language in the treaty signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev threaten advancement in critical missile defense technology, and amounts to trying to make Russia happy.
The most troubling issue in the Treaty is language in the preamble “Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced, and that current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties.” The ambiguity of this language brings out three questions: What does this mean for National Missile Defense? How will their interrelationship become more important in the future? And what is America getting out of it?
The language implies acquiescence to the Russian Federations complaints about Missile Defense Systems in Eastern Europe. Perhaps understandably, as the NMD systems, coupled with the precision with which America can employ its nuclear weapons in a first strike, seriously threatens Russia’s Second Strike capability. Marginalizing Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Program takes the country from world power status, eliminates the prestige of the Russian strategic weapons program, and makes them feel bad. Though we are supposedly OK on NMD, based on the most recent NATO summit, it certainly seems that the administration is paving the way for further submission, hence, the interrelationship becoming “more important as strategic arms are reduced.”
Finally, the dirty-nasty question, “What do we get out of it?” Touchy-feely’s now get mad because I am “interested.” Well…..yeah. That’s what treaties are about. If it is just making Russia feel good, I have to ask “Why?” Russia, especially with a marginalized strategic nuclear program, should not be getting that much of our attention. Our lame duck Congress could easily spend this time on our economy, deficit, or the health care fiasco. Russia is not the issue anymore!
If it is to provide some beacon to other countries that will gaze upon us and therefore abandon all advances in their nuclear program, I’d say “Dream On!” I do not believe that Iran, North Korea, or other nefarious state and non-state actors, are seeking guidance on how to deal with the overwhelming moral dilemma of having weapons of mass destruction. Given the recent discoveries of the North Korean program and the continued trouble-making in Iran, now seems hardly the time to wave a dove flag.
Maintaining our ability to develop missile defense systems will prevent a lag in technology and capabilities in that skill in the future. This is in our National Security interests for when other, less-stable powers than Russia begin to acquire the ability to launch nuclear, or large conventional, warheads on missiles. This is not, however, a purely realist or zero-sum argument. While I believe in the reduction of our strategic stockpile, I do not believe that we should abandon the program altogether. Regarding New START, I believe that Senator Kyl is right to delay ratifying the treaty until Congress can appropriately consider the implications of its language. The fact that others disagree and a dialogue has begun, I believe, proves the Arizonan Senator’s point.

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