As anyone who follows foreign policy and national security issues knows, officials from past presidential administrations have a way of somehow remaining relevant, regardless of their area of expertise — or, in some cases, their total lack of expertise. No matter how wrong they’ve been on national security issues, they never seem to go away.
There is not that much difference between me and the people who want a world where no government has nuclear weapons. I only want one government to have nuclear weapons.
He was, of course, referring to the United States. Keep in mind that this is the man who helped orchestrate US withdrawal from the ABM, personally impeded strengthening the BWC, and was instrumental in cooking the Bush administration’s intelligence about Iraq’s non-existent WMDs. The only interest Bolton has in arms control is to dismantle it.
Now that the US Senate’s lame duck session has begun, and the push for approval of the Senate’s resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the New START treaty is foremost on the administration’s agenda, John Bolton has decided, yet again, to insert himself into the discussion. He and infamous torture memo author John Yoo co-authored an op-ed that was published in the New York Times/International Herald Tribune today. To put it politely, the op-ed is so bizarre that it’s difficult to imagine the authors are living on the same planet as the rest of us.
To call this piece “reality-challenged” would be an understatement. It goes through all the tired, predictable (and repeatedly debunked) Heritage Foundation-style talking points about missile defense, verification, “modernization”, and the preposterous claim that the modest cuts defined by the treaty will somehow leave us defenseless. Been there, done that; we’ve seen this movie before.
But where Bolton and Yoo really go off the rails is when they try to convince the reader that the New START resolution is basically a meaningless document:
The Obama administration hopes to sell this dangerous bargain with a package of paper promises. The Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution contains various “conditions,” “understandings” and “declarations” holding that New Start doesn’t “impose any limitations on the deployment of missile defenses” or dilute Congress’s aspiration to defend the nation from missile attack. A second understanding exempts conventional weapons systems with a global reach. A third affirms Congress’s commitment to the safety and reliability of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
…They are mere policy statements that attempt to influence future treaty interpretation. They do not have the force of law; they do not bind the president or future Congresses. The Constitution’s supremacy clause makes the treaty’s text the “law of the land.”
As Jeffrey quipped this morning, “Yoo seems to like torturing logic as well as people”. The convoluted dismissal of the New START resolution of advice and consent to ratification seems to be Yoo and Bolton’s way of setting up their next big idea, which is — you guessed it — reject the treaty altogether:
To prevent New Start from gravely impairing America’s nuclear capacity, the Senate must ignore the resolution of ratification and demand changes to the treaty itself. These should include deleting the preamble’s language linking nuclear arsenals to defense systems, and inserting new language distinguishing conventional strike capacities from nuclear launching systems or deleting limits on launchers entirely. Congress should pass a new law financing the testing and development of new warhead designs before approving New Start.
In other words, kill the treaty by delaying it indefinitely, so we can come up with something completely new that includes developing and testing new nuclear warheads.
I shouldn’t have to point out the sheer insanity of that suggestion, and the global repercussions it would have. It should be obvious.
It’s also obvious that opposition to New START has become entirely political, as Kelsey Hartigan has described here. Conservative opposition essentially has nothing to do with the treaty itself as much as “if the President wants it, we’re going to block it, delay it, and try to kill it,” an altogether dangerous and toxic situation.
Finally, it’s important to note that those arguing in favor of treaty ratification far outweigh those arguing against it, and have considerably greater experience in national security issues. The worrying part is that though the opposition voices are loud, inexpert, and coming from a far-off fantasy land, there’s a chance they may be influencing the opinion of Senators whose votes are needed to pass the resolution.
Update: Fred Kaplan has thoroughly dissected the op-ed. It’s well worth your time to read the whole thing. Click here.