Mitt Romney’s outrageous attack on President Obama in yesterday’s Washington Post, posing as a learned critique of the START Treaty, shows again the incapacity of nations to protect their populations. Even if the Senate ratifies the Treaty, such attacks disable the President politically from from building security through enforced law instead of violence. They also disable him from slowing the global missile defense race that compels nations to build ever more deadly offensive weapons to counter the defensive weapons (read, “double the profits for Boeing, Lockheed, et al”).
The huge variety of weapons, and the fact that every nation concentrates for various reasons more on some weapons systems than others, means that arsenals always are asymmetrical and that a negotiated treaty may reduce Nation A’s x weapons more than B’s while it reduces B’s y weapons more than A’s. A hotshot like Romney can pick and choose, disregarding the bottom line of security.
Romney states that Russia retains the right to 10,000 tactical warheads, which, he suggests, are mounted on missiles that cannot reach the U.S. but could reach other nations. In fact, tactical nuclear weapons are generally taken to mean artillery shells, mines, etc., i.e., battlefield weapons, not missiles at all. Missiles that are not intercontinental are generally called intermediate range missiles, not tactical weapons. He seems ignorant of the fact that previous START treaties also omitted tactical weapons and that the U.S. and Russia have signified a mutual intention to progress to tactical weapons, once both countries ratify START.
Romney and other Republicans concentrate their strongest criticism on the assertion that START will prevent the U.S. from developing missile defenses. The Treaty does nothing of the kind, and what they are referring to is the reservation that a country can withdraw if it feels threatened, or weakened, by the other side’s missile defense deployments. Either side can withdraw for any other reason as well, and the Obama Administration has given Russia clear advice that our missile defense program will proceed.
He goes on to bemoan the agreement not to use missile silos for missile defense sites, neglecting to note that the Pentagon has advised against such use.
He complains that ICBMs are not prohibited from bombers, a strange gaff. Bombers carry cruise missiles, but not huge ICBMs.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates published a piece in the Wall Street Journal on May 13, “The Case for the New START Treaty,” reporting that he has worked on START treaties since 1970, that all Presidents have favored them, and that bipartisan votes in the Senates have always ratified them. “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership...” START will provide “an extensive verification regime...that will help us track - for the very first time - all accountable strategic nuclear delivery systems.” He concludes, “It strengthens the security of the U.S. and our allies and promotes strategic stability between the world’s two major nuclear powers.” What more could one ask for, unless one were running, desperately, irresponsibly, for President?