Jeffrey LewisA Democratic National Security Strategy & Arms Control

Large majorities of Bush supporters also support a variety of arms control agreeements, such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court and the Ottawa Convention banning land mines, that Bush himself opposes: This is a huge missed opportunity for the Democratic Party to make a case for change.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA)—a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes” (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), School of Public Policy, University of Maryland—finds that:

Majorities of Bush supporters incorrectly assumed that Bush favors including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (84%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (69%), the International Criminal Court (66%), the treaty banning land mines (72%), and the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (51%). They were divided between those who knew that Bush favors building a new missile defense system now (44%) and those who incorrectly believe he wishes to do more research until its capabilities are proven (41%). …

Bush supporters also, themselves, favored some of the positions that they attributed to Bush. Majorities of Bush supporters favored including labor and environmental standards in trade agreements (93%), and the US being part of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (68%), the International Criminal Court (75%), the treaty banning land mines (66%), and the Kyoto treaty on climate change (54%). Only 33% of Bush supporters wanted to build a new missile defense system now, while more wanted to do more research until its capabilities are proven (56%).

I still need see the internals from this study, but I am willing to make some semi-educated guesses. There are two bits of conventional wisdom this may explain:

  • Voters don’t know what Kerry would do as president. Why not hammer home something like: “Keeping the most dangerous weapons from the most dangerous people is my number one priority. I support banning nuclear tests as one part of a global campaign against the spread of nuclear weapons. President Bush supports the resumption of nuclear testing.”
  • Security moms. I suspect this phenomenon is exaggerated, but it is possible that Bush’s lead on security issues is soft when voters look beyond the squint and swagger. One problem with the Democratic Party on security issues is single issue voters on defense tend to be hawks; getting some more sensible people interested in these issues should be good for the Democratic Party.

What does a strategy based on this look like? A notional democratic strategy using arms control as an illustration of leadership.

Bush is not a strong, decisive leader. You are not safer than four years ago.

Today, two members of the axis of evil, North Korea and Iran, are closer to having nuclear weapons.

What do we do about it? (Steal that line from John Edwards) “The truth is, that every child, every family in America will be safer and more secure if they grow up in a world where America is once again looked up to and respected. That is the world we can create together.”

How do we rebuild our respect and stop the spread of the most dangerous weapons?

1. Keeping the most dangerous weapons from the most dangerous people is my number one priority. I support banning nuclear tests worldwide as one part of a global campaign against the spread of nuclear weapons. President Bush supports the resumption of nuclear testing, even though our nuclear arsenal is useless against Al-Qaeda and the insurgency in Iraq.

2. Dictators like Saddam Hussein and terrorists like must know that the international community will hunt them down and bring them to justice. That’s why I support an international criminal court that would make it the law of the land in every civilized country to cooperate in the arrest, prosecute and convict these killers. George Bush opposes such a court because he has no faith in our allies.

(This is perfect—it might force Bush to make the point about serviceman using Abu Ghraib, which is embarrassing for the President, and because Kerry can point out that even the “bad apples” at Abu Ghraib could not be prosecuted under the Rome Statute).

3. We must address the conditions around the world that breed terrorists. One of the worst impediment to societies recovering from a war—societies like Afghanistan—is the scourage of landmines. I support an international convention banning the use of landmines. George Bush opposes such a convention, even though the United States military is phasing out the use of landmines all over the world because they are a danger to our soldiers.

4. We have to spend our money wisely. I don’t want to cut the defense budget, but I do want to spend money on our priorities. Bush favors building a new missile defense system now; I want to wait until the system’s capabilities are proven.

Here is what President Bush said about waiting to deploy a missile defense system that works: ” I think those who oppose this ballistic missile system really don’t understand the threats of the 21st century. They’re living in the past.” Who is living in the past? On September 9, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld threatened to urge a presidential veto of a Senate plan to divert $600 million from missile defense systems to counterterrorism. That was the past.

Folks, terrorism and the insurgency in Iraq are the greatest threats we face today. We need allies in these fights more than we need missile defenses that don’t work or new nuclear weapons. Let me read you a quote from David Hobson, a Republican Congressman from Ohio: “We still have our kids being killed and maimed in Iraq because we, as a country, haven’t spent enoughon armored Humvees or ballistic protection vests for our troops. If you ask me today, I believe a billion dollars spent on such conventional measures would be a much better investment than a billion dollars in the DOE Weapons complex.”

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