Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New START

I mentioned Mitt Romney's comical attack on the new START treaty previously, along with several rebuttals. Well, today John Bolton and John Yoo took their turn at bashing START. It didn't go much better. First, let's just realize who we're talking about here. John Yoo is famous as the legal mind that tried to justify torture for the Bush administration. And John Bolton's mustache clearly makes him a shady character. He's also been a long-time opponent of arms-control treaties.

I just want to pick out one paragraph to point out some of the rank idiocy:

New Start’s faults are legion. The low limits it would place on nuclear warheads ignore the enormous disparities between American and Russian global responsibilities and the importance of America’s “nuclear umbrella” in maintaining international security. The treaty’s constraints on launching platforms would impede Washington’s ability to use conventional warheads even in conflicts far from any Russian interest or responsibility. There are plenty of other deficiencies, from inadequate verification provisions to leaving Moscow’s extensive tactical nuclear weapons capabilities unlimited.

Even once we get down to the ~1500 warheads specified in the treaty, we'll still be able to lay waste to every major metropolitan area in the world and kill billions. I'm not sure where the threat to the "nuclear umbrella" is. I'm also not sure who, exactly, this umbrella is intended to protect against. If Iran launches a missile that they don't currently have, we could turn the entire country into glass without breaking a sweat. But that's not enough for Messrs. Bolton and Yoo, apparently.

The constraints on conventional ballistic missiles are there because the danger of misinterpreting their use is far greater than the benefits of using them. Put frankly, an ICBM silo looks like an ICBM silo and an ICBM launch looks like an ICBM launch. It's not like you can just glance at them and know which ones have nukes and which are filled with TNT. Plus warheads can be easily switched out. While rocketeers in Russia and the US aren't on the hair triggers of the cold war, all it takes is one mistake. Not worth it.

The last part is the most ludicrous. They say there's no hurry in ratifying START, then complain about inadequate verification provisions? Since old START expired, we haven't had the ability to verify Russian compliance at all. And we won't until new START is verified. Last I checked, even inadequate verification is far better than none. And I don't even buy the inadequacy. And no, it doesn't deal with tactical nukes. That's probably what it's called the STRATEGIC Arms Reduction Treaty. If they want to advocate for a TART treaty, I'm all for it.

But really, just read Fred Kaplan (again) and ArmsControlWonk.

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