As Peter Schweizer noted here yesterday, President Obama served notice on the newly elected Senators and the constituents who voted for them on Tuesday: He does not want them to have a say in one of the most important national security issues of the day – the strategic arms reduction accord Team Obama negotiated with the Russians earlier this year, known as the “New START” Treaty.
Instead, Mr. Obama wants only yesterday’s Senate to determine the fate of an agreement that will slash U.S. nuclear forces in a way that will reduce them to numbers of deployed nuclear weapons vastly inferior to those the Russians will have (particularly when Moscow’s vast advantage in so-called “tactical nuclear weapons” is factored in). He wants Senators who have been voted out of office and others who are retiring voluntarily to decide whether an accord that is unverifiable, that will restrict our non-nuclear prompt global strike options and restore a de facto Kremlin veto over American missile defenses is good-enough-for-government-work.
Fortunately, Mr. Obama’s pronouncement on the margins of his Cabinet session on Thursday to the effect that he is going to go for it on New START in the lame-duck session can only reinforce the sense the American people expressed so vociferously at the polls this week: Barack Obama is so committed to his radical agenda that he is indifferent to the will of those he is supposed to represent.
In this case, the President’s agenda is particularly radical: New START is explicitly depicted as a building block for his bid to achieve “a world without nuclear weapons.” If he can get a Senate that has yesterday’s mandate to give him what he and his fellow denuclearizers will portray as not only a ratification of this accord but an affirmation of the larger disarmament program, he will be encouraged to continue to take our deterrent down.
The regrettable truth is that such an outrageous prospect will not require dramatic new, visible and easily countered action on Obama’s part. This is so thanks to; the obsolescing of our nuclear weapons – whose average age is over 30 years; the sustained failure to modernize their missile and aircraft delivery systems; the Manhattan Project-era and other unsustainable facilities that make up the vital nuclear weapons industrial complex; and the steady attrition of scientists and engineers with actual experience in designing and testing our nuclear arms. The President need only insist on his stated positions – i.e., that there will be no modernization of our arsenal, no realistic testing of its weapons and a “devaluation” of the nuclear mission – for the deterrent to continue rapidly atrophying to the point where it is unsafe, unreliable and ineffective.
This is clearly not what the American people want. For example, a Rasmussen poll conducted earlier this year made clear that substantial majorities believe, sensibly, that we need a nuclear deterrent and that it should not be reduced further. Surely, those majorities would be even larger if the public had any inkling of the realities described immediately above.
The good news is that serious opposition is being expressed to the President’s plan to reduce the Senate to a rubber-stamp on his defective New START Treaty. Thirty-three leaders representing every facet of modern conservatism have issued a “Memorandum for the Movement” urging Senators not to have this accord given the only kind of consideration it could receive in the lame-duck session: hasty, superficial and wholly inadequate.
In their inimitable, heavy-handed way, the Russians are trying to add pressure for swift Senate approval by threatening not to ratify the treaty if it is not forthcoming. If anything, the Russians’ posture suggests that there are serious disagreements between their positions and representations about the treaty given the Senate by the Obama administration. These disagreements only underscore the need for Senators to review the negotiating record and be allowed to hear testimony from more than the two – yes, just two – critics who were allowed to appear before the Foreign Relations Committee.
Important new grassroots organizations – including Heritage Action Inc. and Ginny Thomas’ Liberty Foundation – have taken up this cause with vigor, joining other stalwarts like Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum and the editors of National Review in opposing this gambit for the unprecedented ratification of a major arms control treaty during a lame-duck session.
The old adage applies: “You want it bad, you’ll get it bad.” Barack Obama wanted the New START Treaty badly and his administration negotiated it badly. The Russians had their way on every issue of any significance – a reality that is causing the administration to refuse repeated requests from Senators to provide the treaty’s negotiating record.
Were yesterday’s Senate to agree to the President’s demand that it now consent to this accord on his timetable – before the newly elected Senators can learn about, let alone have a say on, an accord that will be implemented entirely on their watch – the damage would be incalculable. It must not be allowed to happen.