The debate over the new START treaty is essentially over. Today all but one former commander of the US Strategic Command – the Generals and Admirals in charge of our nuclear weapons – came out in support of the New START treaty. In a letter these Generals write:
As former commanders of Strategic Air Command and U.S. Strategic Command, we collectively spent many years providing oversight, direction and maintenance of U.S. strategic nuclear forces and advising presidents from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush on strategic nuclear policy. We are writing to express our support for ratification of the New START Treaty… We will understand Russian strategic forces much better with the treaty than would be the case without it.
The letter was signed by Generals Larry Welch, John Chain, Eugene Habiger, Bennie Davies, Lee Butler and Admirals Henry Chiles and James Ellis. We can now add them to the endless and constantly growing list of military leaders and former senior Republican officials and defense experts that support that treaty.
The debate over START has essentially reached its end. No matter what evidence is shown, the far-right consisting of Senators Jim DeMint and James Inhofe, as well as the Heritage Foundation, will oppose the treaty. After months of back and forth it is clear they do so not because of the specifics of the treaty, but because it is both a treaty and it is arms-control. They are extreme ideologues that oppose arms-control, want to build new nuclear weapons, and want to restart a new Cold War with Russia by developing and then targeting a mythical missile defense system specifically at Russia. While this is entirely nuts, their opposition is at least because they are ideologically and substantively opposed to the treaty.
But fortunately for America, they are also really in the minority. Besides DeMint and Inhofe, and perhaps a sign of declining influence, few Republicans in the Senate are publicly taking Heritage’s stance on the treaty.
In fact, having made little headway on the merits of the treaty, many Republicans, such as Senators Bob Bennett, Lamar Alexander, and Bob Corker, are now signaling that they may support the treaty. But of course there is a but – and that brings us to the leadership of the Senate GOP, specifically Senator Kyl. While Heritage at least openly oppose the treaty on ideological grounds, Senator Kyl has chosen to make this not about START but about shaking down the Administration to put even more funds into the nuclear weapons complex.
In other words, Kyl and the Senate GOP aren’t talking about the START treaty anymore – they know they have lost the factual debate – and they aren’t even really talking about how the Senate is “rushing” the treaty, since the debate is now going in repetitious circles – they are now talking about what they can extract from the Administration in exchange for passing the treaty. After all their complaints about backroom health care deals, they are now threatening to kill a treaty they now concede is vital to our nuclear security just for some more wasteful nuclear pork.