Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Off To A Bad START

The Obama administration is pushing hard to pass the latest version of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) before the Senate, which ratifies treaties, becomes less-heavily Democratic in January. The Obama team has been negotiating with Russian President Medvedev, but the real power in Russia is the man in the picture--that smiling crocodile Vladimir Putin. Putin is pictured carrying a Russian sporting/negotiating accessory--a rifle.

President Obama is attempting to rush the treaty through the Senate, and on its face, it's not a bad treaty. But the devil is in the details, and in his rush to gain a badly-needed political victory, Obama has once again promised more than the treaty will deliver. Obama is pictured with a Democratic sporting/negotiating accessory--a big smile.

First--what's good about the treaty. It provides for both countries to monitor and reduce the size of their respective nuclear arsenals. Each would have the right to inspect the other's nuclear facilities. Each side would be limited to 1550 operationally-deployed nuclear warheads. Each would be limited to 700 launching platforms, including variously ICBMs, submarine-launch missiles, and more traditional bombers. In addition, each would be allowed another 100 non-deployed platforms to replace platforms that have become non-operational (for example, a bomber which has crashed).

Given that no human endeavor is ever perfect, and assuming that the Russians would actually comply honestly with the mutual inspection terms of the treaty, what the agreement does is to establish in a more coherent manner the ultimate peacekeeper of the Cold War--M.A.D. (mutually-assured destruction). The numbers of weapons and delivery systems are more than enough to assure that neither side would survive an all-out nuclear exchange in any form resembling a modern civilization.

So what could be wrong with that? If you eliminate the better red than dead antiwar no nukes unilateral disarmament crowd, this seems an ideal arrangement. But it ignores one extremely significant factor. Russia is not notoriously peaceful or humanitarian and its leadership is utterly determined to reestablish the evil empire as the predominant power in the previously-communist East. Obama and the Democrats on the other hand are notorious appeasers, and Obama himself has demonstrated the stereotypical American leftist revulsion at the thought of American nuclear power. Russia seeks domination while Obama seeks comity (or comedy, I'm not sure which).

Still, so far so good. America's delivery systems are still vastly superior to those of any other nation's on earth, including the Russians. Allowing the Russians to catch up makes a certain amount of counterintuitive sense, since MAD remains the ultimate unspoken goal. But--and this is a big one--what good is a state-of-the-art delivery system if the weapons being delivered are not reliable? Russia will willingly reduce its number of nuclear warheads to less than the allowed limit in order to spend and do whatever it takes to produce the best and most modern nuclear explosives possible. Then they will bring their number of warheads back up to the allowed limit.

At the same time, the Obama administration has shown absolutely no resolve to upgrade, modernize and improve America's aging nuclear stock. Why spend money on genuinely operational nuclear warheads when you can spend it on green energy and civilian trials for international terrorists? Nuclear weapons have a shelf-life, and for much of our nuclear arsenal that life is over or very close to it. If all 700 of our launchers are the image of perfection, it means nothing to the enemy if they know that most of our firecrackers will fizzle.

We must remember that Obama's stated strategic goal is not to bring Russia and the United States to nuclear parity, but to attain "a world free of nuclear weapons." You could say he's a dreamer, but he's not the only one. Much of Obama's Democrat-Progressive base dreams that the world will live as one, and in pursuit of that goal, is more than willing to lead the way by allowing America's nuclear capability to deteriorate into near-meaninglessness. Obama may actually succeed in fooling the American people into believing otherwise, but he won't fool the Russians or the Chinese. In fact, they're counting on his false humility and unshakable belief in his own ability to sell snake oil to death adders.

Obama's Nuclear Posture Review from earlier this year disclosed the actual number of American warheads at about 5,100. This was supposed to be the olive branch that would be greeted by a corresponding admission from the Russians. We're still waiting for that response. And at the same time, President Obvious reiterated that America would never launch a first strike unless "we face an extreme national emergency." But once again, that whole show was another way of saying that he is so sure that he can make this work that he'll weaken America's nuclear capabilities before receiving a formal response and genuine numbers from his counterparts in Russia.

There is absolutely no rush to get this treaty ratified, and the Republicans currently in the Senate should do everything in their power to keep the treaty from being ratified without further assurances from Russia and a plan for modernizing of our own nuclear warheads. We've waited over 60 years to reach a coherent and enforceable nuclear reduction treaty with the Russians. We can wait a few more months while plans are made to insure that "equal" actually means "equal," and not "apparently equal." Or as Barry Goldwater joked in 1964, "I don't want our new war cry to be 'damn the torpedoes, we're unilaterally disarmed.'"


Tennessee Jed said...

Thanks for the analysis, Hawk. The other day, my local rag ran an editorial calling for bi-partisan support before the end of the year. I tried Yahoo and Google search engines and could find only one article with a perspective from the right on this and that was the Christian Science Monitor. I'm sure Heritage has something on this. I probably need to get a subscription.

Clearly though, AP and the other leftist media made zero effort to seek out anybody with a differing point of view. This was a good example of "subtle bias" rather than blatant.

I figured I could count on you to add to the meager number of articles giving a more balanced view of things. :-)

Joel Farnham said...

Interesting article.

I don't think that START is going to actually be implemented. To the Democrats, Russia isn't Communist enough. and Senators don't want another reason to set off the Tea Partiers.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Great article. I am reminded of the insight in to human nature as explained by Victor Davis Hanson. Yes I know his Ph.D. is from Standford but that does not diminish the accuracy of his views.
He points out that war is a human enterprise that will always be with us. His list of possible methods to change our brains is lengthy and concludes that human nature will not change.
He says; "If human nature will not change-and I submit to you human nature is a constant- then war will always be with us. Its methods or delivery systems-which can be traced through time from clubs to catapults and from flintlocks to nuclear weapons- will of course change. In this sense war is like water.You can pump water at 60 gallons per minute with a small gasoline engine or at 5000 gallons per minute with a gigantic turbine pump. But water is water- the same today as in 1880 or 500B.C. Like wise war, because the essence of war is human behavior."
Personally I want the biggest and baddest pump around.
I do not understand how the peaceniks lost their understanding of human nature? Did that occur in some epiphany or did some dreamer teacher instill that logic lobotomy?
The Russians and most of the worlds peoples understand this facet of human nature. But not here in the US of A all we want is for every thing to be all warm and fuzzy. I feel fuzzy is the correct term for bo and his approach to this important area in international understanding.
Your pictures with your article clearly show the disparity between these leaders. My how that hurts to call bo a leader.
Do you think Congress will do the right thing by us?

AndrewPrice said...

My problems with this treaty are twofold. First, it's not clear if this treaty would interfere with our ability to continue missile defense research. That's something Jim DeMint keep trying to clarify and the Democrats keep stopping him. And the other is that apparently the Russians have claimed exceptions to the treaty that aren't there, that allow them to keep more than 2,500 warheads -- which makes this a very one-sided treaty. Those things need to be fixed before anyone should sign off on this treaty.

LL said...

Obama doesn't have the votes. So the matter seems to be tabled until the next Congress sits. It's been waiting for the Senate to bring it forward since April...but it didn't have the votes.

Obama needs to commit to and find the money to upgrade our existing arsenal -- before some key Senators will consider it.

Ponderosa said...

Another objection - START doesn't address Russia's 10 to 1 tactical nuke advantage.

However the main objection is simply based on gut feeling. BO is quoting Reagan, pushing hard and he needs it to be ratified by X-date; campaign mode.
Ummm...hmmm - "No".

Money for an upgrade or not, let's just table this thing until 2013. President 45 can address it.

@tom VDH is an excellent source.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: Why thank you, sir. I'm innately suspicious of treaties with authoritarian regimes, particularly when our negotiators are weak and don't see America as a bulwark for freedom and western civilization. Like too many agreements in the past, this one looked a little too good to be true. My biggest objection to prior "surrender and declare a victory" nuclear treaties was the lack of mutual inspection. This treaty included those provisions, so I was willing to give it a chance. But when I looked into our proposed plan to implement it, I found that gaping hole.

Unknown said...

Joel: It is possible to create a treaty that would serve our purposes, satisfy their lust for power, and make the world a bit more stable. We would always have to be leery of their inspection regime, but the treaty on its face had more pluses than minuses. This is one of those rare situations where our domestic weakness rather than their innate sneakiness is the problem. I tend to agree that at least for now, the treaty won't be ratified.

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: The left abandoned the concept of human nature back around 1919 and the Russian Revolution. But the standard was set by their secular God Marx before that. Marx believed that socialist institutions would alleviate the need for the human factor since a perfect government produces perfect subjects. Lenin merely added, "and if you choose to be human, we will eliminate you without further discussion or remorse."

The Bible tells us that there will always be wars and rumors of war. Treaties deal with the "rumors." Preparedness and the baddest army on the block help deal with the other part. "If you want peace, prepare for war" is good advice. And the Obama administration fails to understand that a treaty must be backed by the will and the ability to enforce it.

Belief that mere words have power of their own in international relations is a basic medieval black magic flaw of American leftist thinking. Their concept of a treaty is to say the magic incantation "abracadabra" and the rest will take care of itself.

Unknown said...

Andrew: You're absolutely right. And in furtherance of getting us not to notice the five hundred pound gorilla in the room, Obama officials have been feeding us rumors that they plan to undo the dismantling of our plans to put anti-missile systems in eastern Europe. They have failed to explain how they plan to do that within the terms of the current proposed START treaty.

The exception the Russians are asking for makes sense from their point of view, and has a certain perverse logic to it. It could be nixed by making those terms clearer, but you're not going to see me holding my breath waiting for our negotiators to accomplish that.

Unknown said...

LL: One of those interesting tergiversations of our form of government is that the executive negotiates the treaty, the Senate has to ratify it, but the bucks come from the House. And we know who's going to control the House in January. The House could make it clear that if the flaws in the treaty are cleared up by the president, and ratified by the Senate, it will fund (and oversee) the modernization of our nuclear weapons. But right now it can make it clear that the Senate Republicans can block the treaty in its current form while a domestic agreement for modernization is worked out between the House and the Senate. The president has the sole power to negotiate, but he can't do much harm if he can't get the ratification of the Senate and the cooperation of the House. Perfect example: The Kyoto Accords.

Unknown said...

Ponderosa: The purpose of the treaty was "strategic" arms reduction. The tactical nuke advantage that Russia has can be handled either in another separate treaty or, two years hence when Obama is no longer president, unilateral action on the part of the U.S. As much as I would have liked to see that issue addressed, the negotiations were limited to strategic weapons, and apparently we can't even reach agreement on that yet.

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom and Ponderosa: BTW, despite being an Old Blue and having been thoroughly trained in the art of Stanford-hatred, I will admit that occasionally even the enemy produces a decent scholar. VDH chose not to teach at Stanford so he could get his message out. And I will grudgingly admit that Cal Berkeley has no conservative think-tank comparable to the Stanford Hoover Institute.

As for one of the reasons I admire VDH so much is that I became fascinated with the history of Greece, particularly the enmity between Athens and Sparta, as a pre-teenager. It's largely the reason I majored in history at Cal. VDH, as far as I'm concerned, has written the definitive work on the Peloponnesian wars.

Ponderosa said...

Heh. Yes I did notice the 'ST' in START.

Here's a more cogent argument: Poor START

“Here’s the catch: The Russians are already beneath 700 launchers. The aging of their arsenal, coupled with economic constraints, means that they aren’t going higher regardless. Effectively, New START only mandates cuts on us, and we make concessions to the Russians for the privilege. This is classic Obama chump diplomacy.”

Unknown said...

Ponderosa: Thanks. I hadn't seen that article yet. Don't mistake my intent. I would love to see the tactical weapons included with the strategic weapons. It just didn't start out that way, and the Obama administration is the last one we could expect to demand it.

The new treaty does provide for replacement of both nukes and delivery systems, so long as the old ones are discarded (and that one worries me as well). Still, as far as the poor negotiating and unwillingness to protect American interests, you nailed it with "This is classic Obama chump diplomacy.”

Reagan's concept was "trust, but verify." Obama's is "trust, then keep your fingers crossed."

StanH said...

This is Barry’s genuflection foreign policy. Barry is definitely not the wuss to negotiate with the Russian bear. START at this juncture is a one sided liberal feel good maneuver, we’re the only ones that have ground to give, and to what ends? I’m convinced Barry is on automatic pilot, and every harebrained liberal scheme will come to fruition if he’s left to his own devise. The good news he has too get 67 votes to move a treaty through the senate, ain’t gonna happen.

Unknown said...

Stan: Well said. Barry isn't brave enough to negotiate with my grandkids' teddy bears, let alone the Russian bear.

One of the things I'd really like to see before we sign any nuclear arms reduction treaties is a joint US-Soviet effort to find and get back all the nuclear material and technology that disappeared after the fall of the Soviet Union. I'm convinced it isn't all a big mystery to KGB boy Putin, and I worry that they have nukes hidden in friendly neighbors' houses, ready to be brought back to Moscow at the drop of a hat.

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