The New START treaty has pivoted forward. The goal has been to get to 67 Senators supporting START ratification. That is no easy task in a Senate that is deeply polarized.
Sixty-seven ratification supporters requires gaining the support of at least 8 Senate Republicans. It requires the support of identified Republicans who are security hawks stepping forward. That’s the significance of James Schlesinger’s support for New START. He is a Republican who served Presidents Nixon and Ford in national security posts. He was an aggressive defense hawk as a Cabinet member and CIA head..
The current polarization adversely affects US national security. It will only be broken with people who have never been considered soft on national security coming forward to support New Start.
President Obama’s leadership has made it more possible to gain the support of a James Schlesinger. Obama has created initiating and responsive efforts from the US that focus on building a stable US-Russian nuclear relationship. Stability, while protecting security, is a pre-condition for going forward for the Schlesingers of the world.
Obama had added success in convening leaders of 47 countries in mid-April. These countries agreed to a framework to safeguard vulnerable nuclear materials. They also agreed to find ways to overcome the worldwide nuclear threat. This is all of a piece to reduce nuclear weapons, be on the alert for terrorists and eventually get to zero on nuclear weapons.
Since the US is no longer the pariah it once was under the last President Bush’s failed leadership, our effort in the Senate has to be for the Senate to advise and consent to the New START treaty. That’s where James Schlesinger, a tough minded national security thinker, pushes matters forward. Schlesinger clearly stated that he believes the START treaty must be ratified. That makes him an important validator of the Treaty.
Schlesinger took it one step further by saying that failure to ratify START “would have a detrimental effect on our ability to influence others with regard to particularly the nonproliferation issue.”
What do we do, as START advocates, with the advantage that Schlesinger’s support and warning about the dire consequences of not ratifying START brings to the table? It is important to act before a new group of Senators are sworn in.
Let us focus on Republican Senate seats from states carried by Obama: Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio.
Senator Lugar (Ind) supports ratification. If all Democrats and Lieberman support ratification supporters have 60 votes with Lugar. In the remaining category are 9 possible votes for ratification. That is worth emphasizing with careful organizing of retired armed service members, respected civic leaders who understand why harm would come to the US if the treaty is not ratified, newspapers that supported these Senators in the past and the mainstream religious communities. These are all prime advocates.
In addition Senators Bond (Mo), Corker (Tn) and Graham (SC) have at times broken away from the pack. The same kinds of advocacy should be applied to them.
We all know that Senator Kyl (Ariz) is likely to play a key role in the debate and vote. The Schlesinger argument, advocated by retired armed service members and nuclear security experts, could play an influential role on Kyl. It has to be tried.
Schlesinger has a history of skepticism on arms control treaties. He fought with Kissinger in the days of whether there should be detente with the USSR. His credibility as tough minded–he’s clearly a verify but do not trust thinker– means that every Senator has the responsibility to be prudent and therefore advise and consent to the New Start treaty.