In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, Secretary Gates put further pressure on Senate Republicans looking to oppose START. Gates emphasized that the treaty had the “unanimous support” of the US military and that past arms-control treaties had passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. In other words, Gates was telling Senate Republicans that opposing this treaty would put them in direct opposition to the uniformed military and historic Republican support for arms-control.
Gates couldn’t have been more clear on the military’s support for START:
The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership—to include the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all of the service chiefs, and the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, the organization responsible for our strategic nuclear deterrent.
Gates added that similar past treaties have garnered overwhelming bipartisan support:
For nearly 40 years, treaties to limit or reduce nuclear weapons have been approved by the U.S. Senate by strong bipartisan majorities. This treaty deserves a similar reception and result.
The clear implication of these statements is that Senate opposition to this treaty demonstrates extremism. Yet conservatives are still desperately searching for grounds over which to oppose the treaty. This has increasingly put them at odds with military leaders. For instance, on missile defense, Senator James Inhofe insisted at a Senate Armed Services hearing a few weeks ago that General Patrick O’Reilly was wrong in his assessment of the new missile defense plans.
The Gates oped comes as a preview for a slew of hearings on START that not only involve him, Secretary of State Clinton, and Admiral Mullen but James Baker and Henry Kissinger. The testimony of Secretaries Baker in Kissinger will likely further expose the growing struggle on the right between traditional conservative foreign policy leaders and the emerging far right tea-party approach to foreign policy.
These hearings also come on the back of recent testimony by former Nixon Secretary of Defense, James Schlesinger, a figure that the Wall Street Journal called the “yoda” for nuclear strategists and is a beacon for the far right on nuclear policy. Schlesinger came out in support of the START treaty at a Senate hearing and when asked if he had confidence in Secretary Gates, Schlesinger said, he had “great confidence in Secretary Gates.”
Gates’ oped also further clarifies the fact that conservatives in the Senate are not just facing a test of their ideological and partisan bent, but whether they are so far to the paranoid right that they don’t even trust our military leaders anymore.