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New START

The idea of voting down the New START treaty seems like either a classic of politics over principle, or else a fundamental failure to understand the idea of agenda setting. Suppose the various conservative whines about the treaty are being offered in earnest. This adds up, at most, to an argument (surely a correct one) that had John McCain won the 2008 presidential election his administration would have negotiated a treaty with somewhat different contours in the details.

But that’s not what happened, so we got an Obamaish version of the treaty instead. But what’s the treaty? Well, it safely reduces the quantity of Russian nuclear weapons while preserving America’s ability to verify what’s happening with the remaining weapons. In exchange, the US will dismantle some weapons but still have more than enough to preserve our deterrent. Extra nukes over and beyond what’s needed to deter credibly don’t do anything for the country — they don’t add inches to our national penis or anything — it’s just an income stream for certain firms and bureaucrats who deal with the nukes. Basically in exchange for giving up nothing, we’re reducing the possibility of something terrible happening with Russia’s stockpile. And the people who want to vote the treaty down will kill that. Their stockpile will stay big, and our ability to verify what’s happening with it will go away since the old treaty has declined.

Meanwhile, foreigners will wonder wtf has happened with US foreign policy and would-be proliferators will find their efforts somewhat boosted by the collapsing credibility of the disarmament process. And all for what? A cheap political talking point on a fourth-tier issue? A bit of extra pork?

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