Will Senate Republicans Produce Another International Disaster?

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December 3, 2010 by esarsea

By Lawrence S. Wittner, Huntington News 
 
As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote this December on ratification of the New START Treaty, Republican legislators appear on the verge of producing an international disaster.
 
From the standpoint of logic, there are excellent reasons to ratify the treaty. This agreement between the U.S. and Russian governments provides that each of the two nations would reduce the number of its deployed strategic nuclear warheads from 2,200 to 1,550. This reduction—although a modest one, given their current nuclear arsenals totaling over 20,000 nuclear weapons—would honor the commitment of the two governments, under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968, to nuclear disarmament. At least as important, it would resume the nuclear arms control and disarmament process, which has been stalled for years. At a time when Washington is pressing the North Korean government to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and to convince the Iranian government not to develop one, New START also would lend moral authority to such non-proliferation efforts.
 
Certainly, thoughtful observers, both foreign and domestic, wonder why the United States and Russia need 95 percent of the world’s 23,000 nuclear weapons. After all, what possible purpose is served today by these vast, Cold War-style, doomsday arsenals? As the New York Times recently editorialized: “Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and Russia still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons. That is absurd.”
 
Moreover, the New START treaty would strengthen U.S. national security. Minimally, it would ensure that 650 fewer Russian nuclear weapons—each with the capability of massacring hundreds of thousands of people—are pointed at the United States. In addition, it would provide for substantial U.S. examination of Russian nuclear weapons facilities, including eighteen short-notice inspections of Russian nuclear forces every year.
 
With the expiration of the old START treaty last December, U.S. inspection came to an end and, at present, the United States can no longer keep tabs on what the only other truly major nuclear power is doing with its nuclear weapons.
 
Not surprisingly, New START ratification is backed by the U.S. secretary of state, the U.S. secretary of defense, the entire current U.S. military leadership, and U.S. allies. Furthermore, it has been endorsed by six former U.S. secretaries of state, five former secretaries of defense, three former national security advisors, and by seven former commanders of the U.S. Strategic Command.
 
But treaty ratification requires a positive vote by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. And this is far from assured. Although Senate Democrats have indicated their solid support for the treaty, Senate Republicans have not. Indeed, the GOP solons seem ready to torpedo it. Why?
 
In part, Republican opposition to the treaty is based on the fact that GOP Senators are simply more hawkish than their Democratic counterparts. Beating the drum for the U.S. military, even when it involves a weapons system or a war U.S. military officials don’t want, has become standard Republican behavior.
 
But Republican resistance to New START goes deeper, for President Barack Obama—in a clear effort to win Republican support for treaty ratification—has already promised the GOP a huge increase in U.S. nuclear weapons expenditures. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton reported only a few weeks ago, the administration has proposed spending 10 percent more on the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the current fiscal year and “more than $80 billion to modernize our nuclear weapons complex over the next decade.” Overall, “the administration proposes spending more than $180 billion [in the next ten years] on the infrastructure that sustains our nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.” And yet, despite this nuclear weapons bonanza, Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), the chief negotiator for Senate Republicans on the treaty, continues to raise objections to it.
 
A more important explanation for GOP opposition is that the implementation of New START would be popular and, therefore, redound to Obama’s political benefit. Given the fact that, for some time now, the Republican political strategy has been to denigrate Obama and to block congressional measures that might be considered administration successes, Republican senators are very reluctant to reverse gears and hand the president a victory. The political dimension of GOP resistance is further illustrated by the fact that the old START Treaty, negotiated by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, was ratified by a Senate vote of 93 to 6 in 1992 and the Moscow Treaty, negotiated by President George W. Bush, won approval by a vote of 95 to 0 in 2003.
 
Thus, the situation is eerily reminiscent of some ninety years ago, when Republican Senators—eager to hand President Woodrow Wilson a foreign policy defeat—blocked U.S. ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations, thus paving the way for World War II. Will we have a modern version of that disaster—through the destruction of the nuclear disarmament process, a return to the nuclear arms race, and, eventually, nuclear war? The answer to that question might well lie in whether Senate Republicans put the good of their country and the world above narrow, partisan political advantage.
 
* * *
 
Dr. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford University Press). This commentary was distributed by PeaceVoice, a program of the Oregon Peace Institute, http://www.peacevoice.info/

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13 thoughts on “Will Senate Republicans Produce Another International Disaster?

  1. Bill says:

    “From the standpoint of logic, there are excellent reasons to ratify the treaty.”

    And the conversation ends there because Obama could walk into Congress tomorrow with a cure for cancer and the “loyal” opposition party would choke on it because it’s Barack Obama presenting it. Fox would question his patriotism because Europeans helped find a cure. Tea partiers would question his manhood in getting involved in the elite business of finding a cancer cure. Sarah Palin would get non-stop coverage of her silly Tweets about how Obama is destroying “that cancer industry here in this great country of ours full of real Mericunnz,” on and on.

    This isn’t about keeping the world safe from nuclear weapons as Messiah Reagan wanted to do; it’s about sticking any object within arms’ reach into the spokes of a black, democrat President whom they just blindly hate. . . for his “policies.”

    In the media recently, Obama was meeting with the Mythbuster dudes asking them to test the purported ancient Greek “sun ray'” weapon that focused the sun’s energy and light into a powerful burning ray capable of setting enemy ships on fire, like so many ants under a magnifying glass.

    At the same time, Palin was videoed beating halibut to death with a billy club on her “reality” show.

    Now, who do I want leading us through these times again?

  2. Stu says:

    It will be interesting to see how the vote actually comes down. At this point Wittner is only speculating on the outcome, and the potential motivations of any opposition.

  3. Bill says:

    Actually, it is a brainer. And a balls-er, too, which Barack seems to be having a little problem finding. I think he got a pretty clear message this last election. “Hell, we’ll elect total idiots to challenge you if you don’t get off your intellectual ass and pick up a shovel and hit us with it!” And they did.

  4. torqdog says:

    “Hell, we’ll elect total idiots” …….

    Again, you nailed it! I think it’s high time we start requiring some sort of aptitude exam before being allowed to vote. That way, only “intelligent, right minded” people will be allowed that priviledge which will certainly result in a better crop of politicians that have our best interests in mind. Not some sort of sloganeering moronic bunch that only caters to the rich corporate greed mongers.

    In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that I think we just need to start eliminating conservatives from our midst by any means neccessary. They are just a royal pain in the ass and get in the way of real progress that is inevitable anyway. Their occasional ascendencies are usually short lived and just delay what is surely guaranteed to happen anyway. Just think of a world without the likes of Sarah, Newt and all the others that make me wanna throw-up every time they show up on TV. Ugh!!!

  5. torqdog says:

    Stu, as to whether or not this new treaty is good or bad is not the point. I think we are all missing the big picture. We need to go beyond this treaty and completely eliminate our nuclear arsenal. We need to completely disarm and eliminate the military as well. Only when the world sees that we are no longer a threat, real peace can then be achieved. Barack Obama is the man who can get the job done as he is a man of the world as witnessed time and again during the POTUS campaign. Folks across the planet were all so hopeful that his election would signal real change in our approach to foreign policy and we need to signal back that, yes we can and yes, they are right in that assumption.

    With all the additional revenue no longer going towards defense, we could then focus on taking care of the less fortunate in this country. They too deserve a chance at the bounties this country can offer. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. How can one pursue happiness if they are always hungry with no place to live? That ‘ain’t “life”, that sucks! We also need to tax the rich into oblivion. After all, didn’t they achieve their wealth on the backs of the poor and middle class? We need to let them see what it’s like living in the projects. That will serve ’em right. Greedy assholes! That goes for Corporations as well. Take away all the corporate welfare tax breaks they’ve enjoyed for too long and tax the crap out of them as well.

    We also need to stop penalizing those who strive to make a better life for themselves and completely do away with any kind of immigration penalties. In other words, if you wish to live and work here, who the hell are we to say no? Just think of how much better life will be working side by side with brothers and sisters from foreign lands. You might learn a thing or two yourself. I’ve always wanted to learn a second language and they say that the immersion method is the best.

    As far as whether or not this country will be safe without Nukes and a military, who cares. I mean after all, didn’t we steal this land from a peace loving native population that knew what it meant to be good stewards of the earth? And look what we did to the Blacks with slavery! This country is still awash in racist, neanderthal white hicks that have somehow gotten into the mainstream. The only reason Obama is slipping in the polls is because of the great white underbelly of racism in this country. Those who only wish to tear down the first Black President because he is Black should be put to death! Look what we did to the Japanese during WWII. Ripped ’em from their land and put them in concentration camps. In fact, time and time again all across the globe we’ve gone in and completely messed with the people and stirred up shit in the process if it served our own interests. Would that even be possible if we weren’t an overly strong and powerful militaristic presence? This country has done so much disservice to and crimes against humanity, it’s high time for it to stop. Eliminating Nukes is a good place to S T A R T!

    Signed,
    The Bearded Reborn Liberal

  6. Stu says:

    Thanks for the link (and welcome back). It sure seems to me that there is more to the Republican’s hesitancy to support the new START than simply wanting to poke a stick in Obama’s spokes. I don’t care for the idea of limiting our ability to intercept missles headed our way from North Korea and/or other threats.

    • torqdog says:

      After reading that article describing all our assorted “defense” systems and to some degree, how they work it made me kind of re-think that interesting “contrail” off the SoCal coast a few weeks ago. Do you think it’s possible that instead of it being a Chinese missle as some had speculated that maybe instead it was actually our military conducting some sort of test? We all know how the Military weapons designers like to keep that kind of stuff totally secret.

      • Stu says:

        I’m not sure what it was, but I’m confident it WASN’T a contrail from a jetliner like they tried to feed us. Funny how the public in general knows that’s a line of crap – but collectively we shrug our shoulders, accept that we’ll probably never learn what it really was, and we move on.

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