Weak on Defense: Bush Dumps Arms Control Offices

Hiroshima after the bombingHarvard specialist Graham Allison has noted that the “consensus in the national security community” is that “if policy makers in Washington keep doing what they are currently doing about the threat, a nuclear terrorist attack on America is likely to occur in the next decade.” Moreover, “if one lengthens the time frame, a nuclear strike is inevitable.”

But such warnings don’t seem to bother the White House. In a bit of grim irony, the Bush administration chose the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attack on Hiroshima to begin dismantling some of our bedrock nonproliferation efforts. This from the Global Security Newswire last week:

While Congress is on vacation, the Bush administration is planning to quietly eliminate most State Department arms control offices, phasing out senior positions and merging personnel and functions with nonproliferation and other units, according to a notification document sent to Congress.

What’s more, this phase-out isn’t an issue of funding. It’s actually the Bush administration’s strategy:

The changes, many of which could begin in less than two weeks, appear to reflect a determined shift by the administration away from decades of U.S. focus on promoting international arms control agreements toward ad hoc, less universal efforts to prevent the spread of restricted weapons to terrorists and certain regimes.

The ghost of John Bolton — champion of the ad hoc, “coalition of the willing” approach to nonproliferation — lives on.