DeMint And The Right Want A New Cold War

DemintYears after the end of World War II there were cases of Japanese troops scattered around the Pacific that were unaware or refused to believe that the great war had ended. Well it seems that in the United States there are an isolated group at the Heritage Foundation and in the Senate GOP that seem to have no idea that the Cold War ended 20 years ago.

It was revealed in this week’s hearing on the New START treaty that GOP Senators, as articulated by Senator Jim DeMint, are opposing START because they want to build a missile defense system that even George W. Bush opposed. DeMint at the hearing said that “obviously, we’re agreeing to keep our missile defense to the point where it does not render their weapons useless.” Peter Baker noted that:

If that is his concern with the treaty, then his argument is as much with former President George W. Bush as with Mr. Obama. After all, the missile defense program developed by Mr. Bush was not meant to render Russian weapons useless; it was to be a limited system to defend against nuclear missile attack by states like Iran. Although Mr. Obama reformulated the system last year, he kept Mr. Bush’s goal. The line of attack on the so-called New Start agreement with Russia is instructive, suggesting that some Senate Republicans may go after the pact on the grounds that it does not allow a missile defense against Russia, something neither Republican nor Democratic presidents have actually wanted… Mr. DeMint’s complaint about the treaty conflates the missile defense program begun by Mr. Bush and continued in different form by Mr. Obama with the original idea expressed during the cold war by President Ronald Reagan, who envisioned a much more robust program that actually was intended to neutralize the Russian nuclear arsenal.

See, the original idea as proposed by Reagan was when we were, you know, actually at war with the Soviet Union. Conservatives have myopically embraced this legacy of Reagan, while completely ignoring and dismissing his lasting arms-control legacy, as Reagan negotiated the first START treaty. After watching the Senate hearing, Fred Kaplan writes the “Cold War is over” but “you wouldn’t know it from some of the questions in today’s Senate hearing.” Kaplan adds, referring to the exchange between Jim DeMint and John Kerry:

Though they [Republican Senators] tried a few times this morning, the committee’s Republicans could find no substantive faults with this treaty… So the objections come down to missile defense—and one bit of today’s hearings raises the question of whether some of the most diehard Republicans understand this issue in the slightest… How many Republicans out there are like [Sen. Jim] DeMint, who seems to think the Cold War is still on? And how many Russian hawks watched that exchange and came away confirmed in their beliefs that the Americans are still after their hides?

In fact, it isn’t really that the Heritage Foundation doesn’t know that the Cold War is over. It is that they want a new Cold War. At a panel discussion in December, the central message was that the a new Cold War was on the way. In the Heritage Foundation’s missile defense propaganda film 33 minutes, the three evil leaders shown in the film as a reason for missile defense are Kim Jung Ill, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and Vladimir Putin. The Soviets – er Russia – over at Heritage and amongst much of the Senate GOP, remains very much the enemy.

It is important to understand the implications of the approach that Heritage, Senator DeMint, and the GOP caucus is advocating. Pursuit of a comprehensive missile defense system that targets the Russians will lead unequivocally to a massive nuclear arms race and nuclear instability. The Russians (and the Chinese) would simply build more and more missiles to overwhelm any defense, would develop expanded and more innovative ways to deliver these nuclear weapons, would put them all on instant hair trigger alert, and would have a very very itchy trigger finger. As a result, as Senator Kerry points out this would put us back where we were during the Cold War when we had 50,000 nuclear weapons. We would spend hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons and a fantasy-based missile shield, that would only leave us and the world much less safe and much much poorer. This approach is so extreme that it is even to the far right of where the Bush administration was.