Our challenge in the coming months requires nuclear arms control advocates to further support the Obama Administration’s efforts to reduce nuclear weapos and overcome the extremist efforts by a majority of Republicans to thwart the Administration.
I. Feinstein Initiative
Under the leadership of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca), 23 Senators signed a letter
urging President Obama to: (a) pursue further reductions in our nuclear asenal, (b) keep nuclear materials out of the hands of nuclear terrorists and rogue states, (c) begin a campaign to win ratifcation of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Feinstein letter lets the President know that serious support exists for taking steps to reduce nuclear weapons, establish protective security and act on the recognition that “we have more nuclear weapons than we need.
II. House and Senate Republican Extremism
Any cursory examination of House and Senate votes during the Obama years shows an extreme House and Senate Republican Party. As a young lobbyist I had the chance to work on the Limited Test ban Treaty ratified by the Senate in 1963. The Senate voted 80-19 to approve the treaty and over 2/3 of Senate Republicans and Democrats supported it. In the midst of the Cold War neither Democrats nor Republicans crippled or rejected the banning of atmospheric nuclear tests. Those days have vanished.
Now a majorty of Senate Republicans tried to prevent the Senate from debating The New .Start Treaty, supported amendments that would cripple it and voted to reject it.
House Republicans are no less extreme. They voted to make nuclear non-proliferation more difficult and prevent the President from reducing nuclear forces.. Senate and House Republicans each follow their own reckless path to extremism.
III. The Politics of National Security
Neutral analysts and hard edged Republicans recognize that Republicans lost their national security domination with their disastorous policies that started the Iraq war. No longer were they the party of “foreign affairs probity” to quote Peggy Noonan. They self inflicted life threatening wounds to conservatism, national security or respect for reality and the prudence that must accompany it. They were Yahoos and not Burkeans. Disaster meant punishing dissent within Republican ranks. Think Hagel and Lugar. This overall failure gave the Republicans a vote of no confidence for managing the economy with good sense. Elder statesmen (Scowcroft, Shultz, Baker, Dole) were exiled politically by speculators Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others.
Phillip Carter, an astute analyst, Iraq war veteran and a Senior Fellow at at the New American Security think tank, points out that the disastorous Republican policies has caused a political shift within the military. There is now a gap between military people who consider themselves conservative and the number who consider themselves Republicans. That gap widens as the number who consider themselves Republicans comes down although those who consider themselves conservative does not shrink This work done by the Military Times and not liberal survey data.
IV. What Should Our Future Actions Be?
Republicans, lost in both the wilderness and the desert, will continue to pursue extremism as their comfort zone. That will be countered by thoughtful and assertive initiatives among Senators and House members to bolster the Obama Administration.
These are some of the steps to take.
1. Playing hardball will take the Obama Administraion’s mild defense cuts and turn them into moderate or significant cuts by bolstering veterans, infrastructure and education in lieu of protecting military expenditures that bear no reasonable relation to national security.
2. Returning troops with experience can serve as teachers, law enforcement officials, nurses and health care workers.
3. Extreme Republican efforts can be exposed and challenged by showing that their recklessness makes it easier to proliferate nuclear weapons.
4. We should recognize that minority rule– the filibuster is a prime example– breeds extremism. It has to be tamed so that with regular debate issues can be resolved and votes taken on substantive amendments.
Such efforts are not flashy. What they do is engage in public work that takes us away from the mystery and mystique of nuclear weapons. It grounds us so that we can reduce those weapons, stop nuclear terrorists from obtaining them and make the world safer by ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
April 11, 2013