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FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR

Stopping START

Rarely in our nation’s history have we been in such peril both at home and abroad. The mid term elections of November 3 which culminated in a thorough repudiation of the Obama regime were rightfully focused on its thoroughly negligent financial stewardship. Left unexamined was its equally incompetent foreign policy.

The disastrous faux diplomacy practiced by the Obama regime has increased the inherent instability along the ROK-DPRK border — there have been more border incidents under Obama than there were in the last five years of George Bush’s administration — and has seemingly tried to convert a war won in Iraq into a geopolitical disaster. These actions when coupled with Obama’s irresistible urge to bow and scrape before any and every foreign leader have not improved our standing in the world or made us safer. To the contrary, we are probably a greater risk now than we have been at any point since 1979.

Weakness and idealism are a lethal combination under all circumstances. It leads individuals to place themselves in dangerous situations for all the best reasons. When indulged in by nations it leads to war and disaster again for all the best reasons.

The US Senate has before it a proposed treaty with Russia which according to the administration is nothing more than a benign extension of Ronald Reagan’s "doveryai, no proveryai" or "trust, but verify." For reasons that are more than a little unclear, the Obama regime has chosen to make ratification of this treaty its highest priority insisting that the ratification take place during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, an act unprecedented in our history. Far from being benign is exemplifies not only weakness and arguably some kind of a 1960s idealism it is nothing more than political desperation.

The US Senate should refuse to act upon this treaty during the lame duck session or at anytime in the future.

The current START treaty was negotiated by Hillary Clinton’s State Department and signed by Obama in April. Its advocates like to claim that it is nothing more than a continuation of the START treaty negotiated under George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1991. While true in some respects there are troubling points in the treaty which have not been adequately addressed by the Democrat Senate. For instance, any fair reading of the treaty clearly implies limits limits the ability of the United States to deploy our anti-ballistic missile defense network :

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

Why the Russians should want to include non-nuclear weapons in a nuclear weapons treaty is obvious. They would like to regain control of the former constituent republics of the USSR as possible and they want to intimidate their former Warsaw Pact client states. Why the Obama regime would go along with this naked power grab needs aggressive exploration of the type that Foreign Relations Committee chairman John F. Kerry will not carry out and the burned out husk representing America’s interests on that committee, Senator Richard Lugar, is temperamentally incapable of undertaking.

That said, the reasons that the treaty should not be rushed through in the twilight of the current Congress do not lie in the treaty itself but in the context surrounding the treaty.

Like any contract, a treaty should be an agreement between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Good treaties like good contracts hold up over time, the North Atlantic Treaty comes to mind, while treaties imposed on weaker signatories tend to end badly, see Treaty of Versailles. Sometimes treaties are equitable and the strategic situation simply changes so drastically that it dies a natural death, the demise of SEATO and CENTO fall in this category.

There are, therefore, two central questions under consideration. First, is this treaty equitable and in America’s interests. Second, is this treaty so vital and time sensitive that it must it be ratified by a lame duck Senate.

In my view this current iteration of START makes even less sense than its predecessor. At least I understood why the first President Bush negotiated and signed that treaty. It was considered to be something of a pacifier for the Soviet apparatchiks smarting at the impending demise of the USSR. The administration of GHW Bush made a fetish out of the survival of the USSR — one often wondered if either Bush or Howard Baker were capable of living in a world that did not include the USSR — and this was simply another part of their efforts to keep that particular zombie in motion in the name of European security. START gave the United States nothing but it arguably gave the Soviet leadership a bit of their pride back and acted as a way of encouraging their good behavior as that particular grotesquerie passed into history.

At the time, though, Russia retained possession of significant arsenal of nuclear weapons and we weren’t exactly sure how they were going to act in this new world that didn’t include the USSR.

The strategic landscape has changed significantly since then. Russia is an economic basket case. The 16% decline in her GDP last year was only mitigated by the fact that Russian fertility rates and life expectancy continue to plummet striving to bring the population in line with the GDP and making that decline of less concern to Russian citizens.

Our first look at the USSR’s strategic missile forces under the original START called into question both their serviceability and security. There is no evidence that either has improved in the intervening 20 years.

All this leads to the inevitable conclusion that the treaty is not in America’s interests. The current iteration of START is unnecessary on its face from a strategic perspective because Russia, or so we’re told, isn’t our enemy. It is also an agreement between the world’s remaining superpower, that would be us, and a kleptocratic thugocracy that is in an economic and demographic death spiral. We have no reason to attack Russia and they, quite honestly, don’t have a reason to attack us assuming their national leadership was able to sober up long enough to order one.

But, counter the advocates, this treaty acts as a guarantor for Russia’s cooperation in dealing with Iran. Russia, they note, stopped its sale of the highly vaunted S-300 air defense system to the mullahs and in an astonishing display un-Russian-like behavior returned their money . Limiting our own strategic offensive and defensive arsenals seems like a rather oblique an expensive way of getting an ostensibly non-enemy power to stop an arms sales. And there is less to this sudden act of collegiality on the part of the Russians. The S-300 is a nearly 20 year old system that Russia has sold to all comers. Apparently the Chinese are selling the Iranians Chinese knock-offs of the S-300 making this much more a falling out of thieves than Russian high mindedness.

Advocates also insist that this treaty acts as a brake on nuclear proliferation. This argument is a three-cushion shot that fails. The reasoning is that if the US and Russia don’t reduce their level of armaments then other counties, like presumably North Korea and Iran, will have an incentive to acquire their own weapons. This argument is nonsense though it is much like the ones made by the left against invading Iraq back when even the left thought Iraq had a nuclear program. One, however, cannot dismiss this mindset as clinically deranged if only because our Secretary of State and President come from a political culture where American power is inherently evil in all its forms and the only way of limiting said power is through arming America’s enemies.

This proposed treaty is a combination historical relic and publicity stunt. Substantively it does nothing to make either the US or USSR safer.

Why then must this treaty be rammed through a lame duck session of Congress?

President Obama offered this gem in his Saturday radio address of November 20 :

Finally, some make no argument against the Treaty – they just ask for more time. But remember this: it has already been 11 months since we’ve had inspectors in Russia, and every day that goes by without ratification is a day that we lose confidence in our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons. If the Senate doesn’t act this year – after six months, 18 hearings, and nearly a thousand questions answered – it would have to start over from scratch in January.

If there is anything that is emblematic of the current regime’s blundering from issue to issue it is the insistence that whatever task they are taking up today must be done today and that it has already been studied way too long. Like virtually everything else uttered by the Obama regime there is a general disregard for "truthiness" in this pronouncement.

There is no deadline other than one manufactured by the White House. The original START expired last December calling into question why it is important that it pass now? And why wasn’t in important last year or in the first 10 months of this year.

To cut to the chase this is about Obama’s political future. The treaty wasn’t important before November 3 because he was too busy gutting the economy to get around to it. Now in the cold gray dawn of a post November 3 political landscape Obama realizes he needs something in order to remain relevant. That something, unfortunately for us and for our poor nation, is foreign policy. He cares less about START than about being seen to be driving the train on its ratification and, failing that, blaming Republicans for his failure to push this treaty over the past year.

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