Mitt Romney: Dazed And Confused on New START

Mitt Romney visits Ames, Iowa, May 2007.

Mitt Romney campaigning in Ames, Iowa, May 2007.

I realize that the 2007-2008 presidential debates were an eternity ago in terms of “political time”, but I’m resurrecting the following quote from Mitt Romney for a reason. He was asked about his views on Vladimir Putin. As part of his response, he outlined his rather scrambled view of international politics:

What we have today in the world is four major, if you will, strategies at play.

One, there are the nations with the energy, like Russia. They’re trying to use energy as a way to take over the world.

Then there’s China, which is saying, “We’re going to use communism plus sort of a Wild West form of — of free enterprise. We’re going to give nuclear weapons to — or nuclear technology to the Iranians. We’re going to buy oil from the Sudanese.” You’ve got China.

Then you’ve got al Qaeda, which says, “We want to bring everybody down.”

And then finally, there’s us, the only major power in the world that says, “We believe in free enterprise and freedom for the individual.”

And this great battle is going — going on right now, and it’s essential for us to strengthen other friends like ourselves and to confront one by one these other strategies and help turn them towards modernity, so that the world our kids inherit does not have to know war.

Romney has had several years to educate himself on what’s really going on in the world, especially on nuclear weapons issues.

If Romney’s the best that New START opponents have to offer, then they’re doing it wrong.

I’m talking, of course, about Romney’s Washington Post editorial today, in which he blunders through a stale, much-debunked series of arguments against the New START treaty.

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On Pundits, Politicians, and Listening to the Experts

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testifies at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on June 17, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

An interesting guest column appeared in today’s Des Moines Register, written by the current Physicians for Social Responsibility Board President. Here’s his main point:

In a world where uninformed opinions are too often passed off as information, sometimes the best prescription is to listen to the experts. Here’s hoping that senators heed the advice of the national security experts in our military leadership and follow the long tradition of putting national security before partisan politics on arms control. Ratifying the New START treaty really should be a “no brainer.”

So what’s he talking about?

I thought it might be useful to round up what some of the experts and military leaders have said during the most recent New START hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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New START ratification: “not a bipartisan but a non-partisan challenge…”

Sen. John Kerry, chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee listens to New START testimony on May 18, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley/Released). Click for more information.

Last month, the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SFRC) began a series of hearings on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which Presidents Obama and Medevedev signed at the beginning of April. I’ve written extensively about the treaty, which is an agreement between the United States and Russia that was first signed in 1991. It has to be evaluated periodically, setting new goals for post-Cold War reductions of our respective strategic nuclear arsenals. Each country’s legislative bodies have to ratify the treaty, which is what has been one of the big topics of discussion in arms control circles this spring.

Of course, there are difficulties to overcome in the US Senate regarding ratification of the treaty; I’ve discussed this on several occasions, as have a number of other people. We’re all tentatively predicting ratification of the treaty, though probably with less votes than it has been ratified in the past.

What’s been going on at the SFRC hearings is what I’d like to focus on today, however. The testimony has come from an impressive line-up of people with extensive history in the arms control arena. They’ve presented solid, convincing testimony regarding why the treaty must be ratified, and why not ratifying the treaty, or delaying ratification, is not in the interest of national or even global security.

Although those who have voiced concerns about the treaty have all been Republicans, the running theme in all of the testimony has not been “bipartisanship”. As Henry Kissinger said (pdf) in the May 25, 2010 hearing, the issue of New START ratification is, quite simply:

This Committee’s decision will affect the prospects for peace for a decade or more. It is, by definition, not a bipartisan but a non-partisan challenge.

In other words, national security issues like arms control treaties should transcend partisan concerns and should not be politicized. The discussion should be about whether or not the details of the New START treaty are in the best interest of our national security, and are truly representative of a move away from Cold War thinking and into the twenty-first century.

This is what brings us to last week’s hearing. The media reports are few, but what they’ve mostly emphasized is that the SFRC will vote on New START before August, and therefore send the treaty to the Senate floor before the Senate goes on its August break (see The Hill blog and the Agence-France Press.)

That’s definitely a story worth reporting, but what I think is more noteworthy is something very specific that was said in the hearing.

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