Nuclear Non Sequitur, Part Deux

Posted: November 29, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

This is the second critique of a cartoonish nuclear non sequitur, a New York Times editorial called What the G.O.P. Missed which is a part of the New START full-court press. This particular non sequitur tries to link the European missile defense, aka the U.S.-provided phased adaptive approach, to New START.

If you did not spend last weekend tuned in to news from the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon, you probably missed the breakthrough on European missile defense.

NATO leaders agreed to jointly develop a shield intended to intercept short- and medium-range missiles. And Russia agreed to cooperate, sharing intelligence and radar. Iran was not mentioned as the most immediate threat, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind. Iran’s Shahab-3 can already reach European targets, mercifully not yet with nuclear warheads.

Actually, NATO’s going to participate in the phased adaptive approach and NATO’s contribution is to be about $270 million across approximately ten-years: it’s basically a gift–another gift–from the U.S. taxpayers to other NATO members. It’s such a good deal/no-brainer that NATO can ill-afford to not participate. The U.S. has been underwriting European security for some time, but scheech…

Republican senators who are now resisting ratifying the New Start arms treaty should certainly have been paying more attention to the Lisbon meeting. They have been so busy claiming, inaccurately, that the treaty would constrain future missile defense systems that they apparently failed to notice real progress toward the only effective system that current technology permits.

Actually, few to none–save some Russians at one point in the posturing–have claimed New START would be imperiled in any way by a theater or regional missile defense. Instead, those in the U.S. opposed to New START tend to have a panoply of problems with the treaty which (again, some Russians excluded) has nothing to do with European missile defense. Finally, current U.S.-based missile defense technologies are capable of providing defense against incoming ICBMs, albeit only in the single digits.

But the Times editorial is mute on New START clearly enhancing U.S. national security (although they would have likely said that if they’d thought of it), choosing instead to offer that it’s a modest treaty and providing an anecdotal offering from a single European leader who says that it will enhance the security of his nation and of Europe and…perhaps by extension, of NATO, of which the U.S. is the 800-pound bill-payer. While we know all arms control treaties are above average, a little less disingenuousness and more open debate here would be appreciated.

Some dislike the limitations New START places on the reuse of ICBM sites (unless they’re counted against treaty limits). Personally, I don’t see that as a big deal because retrofitting somehow always seems to cost more and work more poorly than a “from scratch” scheme. Some are opposed to New START due to its weakened on-site inspection regime and reduced transparency vis-a-vis its predecessor; others are concerned that it’s a bilateral treaty which is an anachronism in today’s multi-polar world. Many are concerned because the treaty ignores the 10 to 1 advantage in tactical nuclear weapons New START preserves for the Russians; lastly (I think) still others are concerned that more nuclear modernization is required to coincide with cuts in existent systems. Ah, but back to the non sequitur de jour:

Unlike the troubled missile defense program here, the European shield can be built at a modest cost with already-tested systems. Claims that President Obama is shortchanging America’s nuclear arsenal are also off-base. The administration backs spending more than $85 billion on maintaining and modernizing nuclear weapons over the next decade, far more than we think is needed.

Troubled and missile defense don’t really go together anymore and the word might better be used to describe the Times itself which is one of the biggest non-success stories since Shrek, The Musical.

And then there’s the coup de grace: the proposed nuclear investment of $85 billion (which comes over roughly a decade and appropriations are metered out…wait for it…a year at a time) is more than the Times thinks is needed. How can you argue that? Game over, man…game over.

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