Friday, July 9, 2010

New START Op-Ed Roundup!

This week saw a slew of op-eds about New START. It began when The Washington Post published former MA governor Mitt Romney’s op-ed on Tuesday, June 6th. Not only did Romney toe the conservative line regarding the ratification of New START, but he also concocted some new gems most Republicans don’t even use, such as the issue of placing ICBMs on bombers. On Wednesday, John Kerry wrote his own op-ed slamming Romney; Kerry even got in a personal dig, claiming Romney blatantly ignored the facts because he was in a “footrace to the right against Sarah Palin.” The same day, Steven Pifer and Strobe Talbott, analysts from the Brookings Institution, also wrote op-eds for The Washington Post debunking Romney’s claims. Yesterday, Jon Kyl’s piece appeared in The Wall Street Journal. To nobody’s surprise, Kyl did not support New START, but his piece was considerably tamer than Romney’s.

Many bloggers have already written extensively about these op-eds, but here's a conciser version of what you need to know...links and highlights after the jump:
  • June 6, 2010: Mitt Romney, The Washington Post, “Obama’s Worst Foreign-Policy Mistake.” 
    • Impedes missile defense:  It doesn't.  In fact, President Obama is continuing to deploy a ballistic missile defense system that categorically does not work.
    • Forbids the US from converting ICBM silos into missile defense silos:  US military officials would scoff at this accusation.  Converting ICBM silos is costly and inefficient.
    • Russia could withdraw if US continues with missile defense:  The Russians issued a non-binding unilateral statement that said they would consider withdrawing if they felt it was in their national security interests--just like the US withdrew from the ABM treaty in 2002.  Withdrawal clauses are always drafted into international treaties.
    • Russia could "cheat" by deploying loads of ICBMs on heavy bombers, which under the treaty, are only counted as  one warhead:  Russia and the US didn't even do this during the Cold War.  Even if Russia does decide to deploy ICBMs outfitted with multiple independtly targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), the Bilateral Consultative Commission would deem this to be a new weapon.  By definition, it would not constitute a "heavy bomber," thus it could not be counted as one warhead.
    • Gives advantage to Russia, who could "cheat" by stocking up on rail-mobile missiles:  A confusing issue, but one that several experts have already addressed (I also wrote about this argument, as well as most of the ones above, here).

  • June 7, 2010: John Kerry, The Washington Post, “How New-START Will Improve Our Nation’s Security.”
    •   Wow.  Kerry is really fuming in this piece.  Rightly so, I might add.  In addition to countering every inaccurate assertion promulgated by Romney, Kerry blasts the former Massachusetts governor for political pandering:

      "I have nothing against Massachusetts politicians running for president. But the world's most important elected office carries responsibilities, including the duty to check your facts even if you're in a footrace to the right against Sarah Palin. More than that, you need to understand that when it comes to nuclear danger, the nation's security is more important than scoring cheap political points."

  • June 7, 2010: Steven Pifer and Strobe Talbott, The Washington Post, “New START is No Mistake.”
    •  Pifer and Talbott also raise strong objections to Romney's op-ed.  In regard to missile silo conversion, they note that "Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 16 that, if he needs more missile defense interceptors, it would be simpler and cheaper -- $20 million less -- to build new silos rather than convert ICBM silos"  They also continue to destroy Romney's false allegations line by line.

  • June 8, 2010: Jon Kyl, The Wall Street Journal, “The New START Treaty: Time for a Careful Look.” 
    •  Senator Kyl's argument is that New START is not a "stand alone treaty," rather national security is strengthened only when the treaty is coupled with other measures, such as the modernization of warheads and delivery systems, and a commitment to missile defense and global strike.  This is a much more subdued claim than Romney, who asserted that New START in and of itself is a threat to national security.
    • Senator Kyl's stance on modernization is the quintessential conservative argument:  If the U.S. reduces the size of its nuclear arsenal, then it must modernize and create new generations of warheads and delivery systems.  This, however, not only wastes gobs of money, but it goes against the very spirit of the START treaties and the NPT.   This argument is a red herring anyway, as President Obama has already increased modernization funding and slashed disarmament speanding.
    • Kyl is stalling the ratification process by demanding that Obama open up the negotiating record.  It's all about politics, folks.  The conservatives care less about securing the world's nuclear arsenals than it does about blaming the other side.  By alleging that Obama won't open the negotiating record, the GOP can claim Obama isn't being bipartisan--and that's why New START didn't pass, not that the Republicans were being purposefully stubborn

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