Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), once a reliable vote in favor of nuclear arms reduction efforts, has now bought into the right-wing myth that our nuclear arsenal is deteriorating and that the U.S. needs to build new nuclear weapons. Lieberman on Fox News Sunday said he is “real hesitant” to vote for a New START treaty unless the US effectively builds new nuclear weapons:
LIEBERMAN: Anytime we are working on something with our old Cold War enemy, Russia, cooperatively, it’s a good sign. Anything we can do to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in the world is a positive development. But in my opinion as we reduce the number of nuclear warheads… we have to make darn sure that are nuclear warheads are capable and modern and a lot of them are decades old. So I feel very strongly that I am going to be real hesitant to vote for this treaty unless we have a commitment from the Administration that they are prepared to modernize our nuclear stockpile.
In a demonstration of just how seriously Lieberman is taking these issues, as Chris Wallace shifted the conversation — noting that the treaty would need 9 Republican votes instead of 8 since “Lieberman was gone” — Lieberman audibly chuckled. Watch it:
On the one hand, this should mean that Lieberman’s vote is a slam dunk. The Obama administration has already demonstrated a massive commitment to modernizing the nuclear weapons infrastructure. Vice President Biden in a speech in February attacked the Bush administration for neglecting the nuclear infrastructure and called for a dramatic 10 percent annual increase in its budget.
But what Lieberman is really saying is that he agrees with those on the far right that want to needlessly build new nuclear weapons, nearly two decades years after the end of the Cold War. The far right insists that the U.S. is falling behind because it is not building new nuclear weapons and that our existing nuclear arsenal is deteriorating. This is a myth and demonstrates a complete, if not willful, ignorance of our approach to maintaining our nuclear weapons.
The U.S. continuously refurbishes and renovates its existing weapons, such that it doesn’t have to build new ones. This is by definition modernization. These refurbishing programs are getting the job done, according to an independent panel of scientific experts, called the JASON advisory group. As long as we continue these programs, as the Obama administration has committed to do, there is no need to build new nuclear warheads and weapons.
Yet building new nukes, along with conducting new nuclear tests, has become a right-wing dream. Lieberman is therefore willing to vote against a treaty — something that would have dire consequences for the US-Russia relationship, our mission in Afghanistan, and the entire nuclear non-proliferation regime — in order to symbolically demonstrate his support for the far-right’s dangerous nuclear agenda.