There are a whole host of reasons why Republican and Democratic presidents, past secretaries of state and defense, including Condi Rice and Colin Powell and Bill Cohen to name a few, have wholeheartedly endorsed the START Treaty.
These include: reducing the number of nuclear weapons sitting in warehouses (the United States and Russia have 90 percent of them), moving forward to set an example to other nations to put the brakes on nuclear proliferation and, maybe most urgent, to seriously reduce the chances of a rogue group putting a weapon into the hands of terrorists.
If some Republicans, after nine months of considering this treaty, believe that this is about politics and handing a victory to President Obama, they should have their heads examined. If this is about killing a treaty that embodies President Reagan’s much quoted statement, “trust but verify,” then it is hard to imagine Republicans are not putting politics over principle. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should the United States ratify the New START treaty?]
But let me provide a much more terrifying scenario for the Republicans. The very same Republicans who have tried so hard to be the “tough on terror” party these past 10 years. Remember Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani at the Republican Convention in 2004? All the rhetoric about stopping terrorists from striking America and how the Republicans prevented another catastrophe?
I don’t think for one moment that the scenarios of novels or movies that have terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon, or the makings of one, paying a rogue scientist or engineer handsomely for it, putting it in a suitcase or on a small boat, and setting it off in New York harbor or Long Beach or in Washington D.C. are far fetched.
The likelihood that such a terrorist act could occur is increased markedly if we aren’t working with the Russians and other countries to inspect these weapons, account for them, and, of course, reduce their number. This is especially true for tactical nuclear weapons, weapons-grade plutonium, and other technology. [Check out our roundup of this month's political cartoons.]
If Republicans are responsible for killing this treaty now and--make no mistake--shelving it for years to come, there will be no serious, required inspection, no “verification” in Ronald Reagan’s words.
If Republicans shelve this treaty, the chances will increase that terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon. America will be surely less safe, more vulnerable to attack. Such a catastrophic event would make 9/11 appear small in comparison.
Republicans who think this is all about “sticking it to Obama” should rethink what is at stake here--any political considerations that may be a part of this treaty ratification process could come back to devastate not just the country but Republicans as well. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
Surely, discussions of a missile defense, concerns about our relationship with Russia, keeping ever vigilant against nations such as Iran and North Korea, are part of a national security discussion. But the bottom line is that this treaty is important for protecting America from a terrorist attack and furthering the effort to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
- See a slide show of 6 vulnerable terrorist targets.
- See which members of Congress get the most money from the defense industry.
- Read more coverage of the political stories of the year.