Republicans Against The Military

Conservative Republicans who are typically deferential to the military are ignoring the advice of the military leadership on the new START Treaty.

The decision by many top conservative Republicans in the Senate to oppose the START Treaty has put them in the odd position of opposing something that the military leadership has said is necessary:

An unusual split has opened between conservative Republicans and the American military leadership over the U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty, with current and former generals urging swift passage but politicians expressing far more skepticism.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) “essential to our future security.” Retired generals have been so concerned about getting it ratified that some have traveled around the country promoting it.

Seven of eight former commanders of U.S. nuclear forces have urged the Senate to approve the treaty.

But five Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a recent report that New START was “a bad deal.” They added that U.S. military leaders had made assumptions about the pact – including that Russia will honor it – that are “optimistic in the extreme.”

Meanwhile, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s grass-roots lobbying arm is targeting Republican senators with mailings warning that the treaty “benefits Russia’s interests, not ours.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson, the former deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, said Friday that it was “quite puzzling to me why all of this support [for New START] . . . is ignored. I don’t know what that says about the trust that people have and the confidence they have in our military.”

The New START treaty would reduce the two nuclear giants’ stockpiles of long-range, deployed weapons by as much as 30 percent, leaving each country with about 1,550 warheads. President Obama said Thursday that he had “no higher national security priority” during the lame-duck session than having it ratified.

(…)

For current and former senior U.S. military officials, the treaty is valuable because it allows the continuation of a dialogue with a country that still has enough weapons to wipe America off the map.

“If you’ve had experience with this stuff, and a sense of where we’ve been, how far we’ve come . . . this is an absolute no-brainer,” said retired Adm. William J. “Fox” Fallon, who was head of Central Command and Pacific Command.

Military leaders say the treaty will allow the two countries to resume inspections of each other’s stockpiles, which make up 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons. Such visits lapsed when the first START treaty expired last year.

Without such inspections, U.S. military leaders would have less insight into Russia’s arsenal and might have to work off worst-case scenarios, and could consider increasing their own stockpile, officials say.

Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, commander of the Air Force’s nuclear forces, said meetings with his Russian counterparts over the years had been useful in dispelling their concerns about the U.S. program and sharing ideas on improving nuclear security.

“Arms control treaties are the centerpiece, the nexus around which all this takes place,” he said at a recent breakfast of defense writers. The pacts “are critically important for understanding, transparency and openness between the two largest nuclear powers.”

It’s an odd juxtaposition partly because conservatives are typically deferential to the military leadership. When it comes to issues like tactics and strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for additional weapons systems, and the question of whether or not Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be repealed, what you typically hear from the right is that we should “trust the military” and give deference to the opinions of the leadership on military matters. Except, it seems, when the military leadership takes a position that conservatives disagree with. When the Joint Chiefs come out and say that it’s time to repeat DADT, the “pro-military” right tells us that we have to survey the troops. Now, when they are saying that the START Treaty should be ratified because it’s in America’s interest, they instead listen to the words of men like John Bolton:

John Bolton, a conservative at the American Enterprise Institute, said that rather than drawing down on its stockpile, the United States should expand it, especially because China is modernizing its own nuclear forces, and Iran and North Korea are developing nuclear programs. He said it was wrong to see the treaty simply through a military prism.

Of course, even after going through with the reductions contemplated by START, the U.S. nuclear arsenal would still be larger than China’s, and far larger than that of any other nation. Which leads one to ask the same questions that people asked during the Cold War — exactly how many times do we need to be able to nuke the Chinese into the Stone Age in order to feel safe ? According to men like John Bolton, it seems, we can never really feel safe so we need to continue adding to a nuclear stockpile that is already large enough to serve as an effective deterrent to any nation ruled by rational men.

The question for conservatives, though, is this — when it comes to reducing America’s nuclear arsenal and entering into a treaty that will allow us to verify that Russia is doing the same, why don’t you trust the military?

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    The GOP has a vested interest in Russia/China as an enemy. Enemies equal fear, and fear is a very useful tool for keeping the sheep oops, I mean citizenry in line. Certainly reason does not seem to be a tool that Republicans still have an interest in using.

    Fear also has great value when it comes to keeping our “defense” budget properly pumped up. We certainly don’t want anyone taking a hard look at the contradictions between the GOP message of an alleged mission to cut the budget and its hands off approach to military spending.

    There are still bears in the woods! China is scary! Be afraid! Don’t ask questions!

  2. ponce says:

    Countries should be judged by the conditions in the weaker nations they border.

  3. grampagravy says:

    This resistance to the new START Treaty is about putting politics above national security and common sense. It’s nothing more than the same old “if Obama’s for it” or stands to gain credit for an accomplishment, they are against it. The rabid right is saying “if we can’t run the show, we’ll do our best to wreck the whole thing.”

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Tribalism trumps everything else.

    GOP tribalism demands that they oppose Obama. Expecting rational behavior from these people is a waste of energy. They don’t think, they react. If Obama had the cure for cancer they’d oppose it.

    The facts are irrelevant, the good of the nation is irrelevant, all that matters is that they have an opportunity to attack Obama. Tribalism and client service, that’s all the GOP has. Your party, Doug.

  5. wr says:

    Are you kidding, Michael? Or course modern Republicans would oppose Obama’s cure for cancer. After all, what is cancer but the libertarian ideal — every cell free to follow its own destiny with no organizing organism to tell it what to do. To a TPer, cancer is freedom!

  6. mannning says:

    I have a question that someone might have a good answer to. Given parity in numbers of nuclear warheads, is it true that the Russian warheads are quite a bit higher in power than ours, thus keeping us at a disadvantage in how many weapons are needed to take out each major target. But, then, does it really matter? I think not.

    Second question. Is it so that Russia has developed an EMP weapon, and is it so that we have also? If true, the need for large numbers of high power nuclear weapons is really obsolete, since just one or two, or a few if these EMP weapons would effectively destroy either or both of us, or even China for that matter. Think of our Boomer fleet at sea, each sub carrying a few, perhaps as few as six, EMP weapons. That would be enough highly survivable destructive power available to us to send the entire globe into the 14th century or worse. Clearly, the numbers reductions would be highly beneficial to everyone by removing some, but not all, of the possibility that stolen nuclear weapons could be used against us, say, by AQ.

    The only reason for holding this treaty up, I agree, seems to be for political gain somehow, but then, I am not privy at the moment to the full story or to the Treaty text.

  7. anjin-san says:

    > The only reason for holding this treaty up, I agree, seems to be for political gain somehow

    The intellectual honesty is appreciated. Don’t see all that much of it on blogs these days.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    I think the feeling has always been that they have the megatonnage and we have the accuracy. In a counterforce (destruction of opposing military) strike the two sort of equal each other out. In a countervalue (population, infrastructure) attack the edge might go to the megatonnage, but even that’s a bit absurd since the Russian would no more like a half megaton bomb going off in Moscow than we would enjoy a two megaton bomb going off in Washington.

    There’s also the geography to consider. For example we have far more ports than they do, have far less concentration of resources into a single target city, have roads with far greater redundancy, and have the advantage of bordering Canada and Mexico rather than China and half the crazies on planet earth.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Whoa, hold on there. Before blaming the GOP for anything. Let us put this stuff in perspective. We have a Democratic congress who has not passed a budget nor have they acted on tax legislation which will seriously effect the country. This treaty with Russia is no emergency. Only Obama wants it passed in a hurry. Slow down and let us read the damn thing before we find out we are giving away the farm. The next Senate will have the time to look at this treaty in depth. Every time this bozo we have for President has been in a hurry, we get burned. Doug, quit shilling for Obama. It makes him look bad.

  10. matt says:

    Mannning : I was under the impression that just detonating a nuclear bomb in the air would create a massive EMP effect that could be amplified some by minor modifications..

  11. steve says:

    “Slow down and let us read the damn thing before we find out we are giving away the farm. ”

    Treaty has been done for months. Plenty of time to read it through many times. This is just opposing it because it is Obama’s treaty. It was modeled on earlier treaties. There is not much really controversial in it.

    Manning- Yes, any nuclear weapon can cause an EMP effect at high altitude.

    Steve

  12. tom p says:

    “The question for conservatives, though, is this — when it comes to reducing America’s nuclear arsenal and entering into a treaty that will allow us to verify that Russia is doing the same, why don’t you trust the military?”

    Because Obama is pushing it?

    “I have a question that someone might have a good answer to. Given parity in numbers of nuclear warheads, is it true that the Russian warheads are quite a bit higher in power than ours, thus keeping us at a disadvantage in how many weapons are needed to take out each major target. ”

    As MR already pointed out Manning, if we can do with one, what it takes them 3 to do… Is there a point to youir stupidity?

    “Slow down and let us read the damn thing before we find out we are giving away the farm. ”

    ZR: You have had MONTHS to read the damn treaty. What are you? Dyslexic? Just plain STUPID??? If you can not figure it out by now, I don’t think an additional year or two will help.

  13. steve says:

    Here is Kaplan’s point by point takedown of Romney’s complaints about START. On almost every point, we come out ahead.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2259779

    Steve

  14. anjin-san says:

    There is something snake-fascinating about watching the Romneys and McCains of the world grovel before the far right for support, especially when it is support they are not going to get. You would think that wealthy, powerful men such as these would laugh at the suggestion that they would so humiliate themselves – but no, they are willing to go to great lengths for the privilege.

  15. DC Loser says:

    Hey, the GOP want so borrow more money from China so we can start a nuclear arms race with the Russians. What deficit and debt were they talking about?

  16. largebill says:

    Doug,

    What the heck are you babbling about? One need not agree with everything the current military leadership recommends or advises to be pro-military. I did 25 years in the Navy. Are you going to call me anti-military if I assert there is wasteful spending in the military budget? The START treaty may be perfect or it may be flawed depending on the viewpoint of the person evaluating it. Someone could be strongly anti-military and support things certain Admirals or Generals want. Likewise someone could be very patriotic and pro-military and oppose some proposals of some senior officers. The silliest thing is your quoting Mike Mullen. Mullen will do and say what he’s told. He’s a politician working for other politicians. Last time I saw him was over a decade ago and he was more politician than sailor then and he has hung out in DC ever since then which can’t help.

  17. Peterh says:

    Taking into account NATO rules, alliances, mutual agreements and so forth…..I think an argument can be made that once a launch is detected, no one with capabilities will be sitting idle on the sidelines, thus it begs the question…..what’s the over/under for total destruction? If we’re even two-fold over (I’m speculating it’s much much higher than that), it’s really kinda pointless to worry who might have a numbers advantage…….having the most toys in this contest means squat…..

  18. steve says:

    “Are you going to call me anti-military if I assert there is wasteful spending in the military budget? ”

    The issue is that the Republican leadership has signed onto just about everything that the military has endorsed. Now they oppose this one bill also approved by the military. As Drezner noted today, our allies support the treaty. In this context, this looks more like political gamesmanship than true policy disagreement for a treaty settled upon early this summer.

    Steve

  19. largebill says:

    Steve,

    You’ve probably unwittingly stumbled on a bit of wisdom. Political gamesmanship is not necessarily pro or anti military. This treaty has little to do with the military.

  20. mannning says:

    http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/522421-timothy-d-naegele/44369-emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive

    This article paints a highly pessimistic picture of the EMP threat, and has many references to the subject.

  21. mannning says:

    @ tom p

    No, I had no point at all to make, since it is probably a Mexican standoff, but one objection to the Treaty covers just this fact that we would be out-megatonned, which frightens many people.What else are we giving away?

    Your snark is not appreciated.

  22. wr says:

    Manning — The fact that there are a lot of stupid — no, that’s unkind: ignorant — people in this country who are constantly ready to be frightened is hardly a reason to postpone this necessary treatment. The proper solution would be to explain the facts to these people. But there is an entire party devoted to terrifying low-information citizens with horror stories that are flat-out lies, and thus ending any hope at actually helping them. So instead of truth we’re going to get the vilest of the vile trying to whip up hysteria over this in the hopes that fear will bring electoral success.

  23. DC Loser says:

    I guess if we were worried about EMP attacks, we already missed the boat when Bush let the North Koreans build their nuke. The only possible use for the 1 or 2 NK nukes is as an EMP weapon to take out most of our space assets or over North America. But hey, I guess the EMP threat isn’t so great after all if they were allowed to have them. The issue of EMP as related to START would only make sense if we were to ban all nuclear weapons. But that’s not what is proposed. The Soviets always had the capability to conduct EMP attacks, on top of a massive nuclear strike, from their two SSBNs that were stationed off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. They haven’t sent their subs this way for years. Worrying about EMP from strategic nuclear weapons is kinda like worrying about the broken glass of your windows after the blast leveled your house.

  24. ponce says:

    Whatever happens to the treaty in the Senate, it must warm Putin’s heart to be treated as the bad ‘ol bear again.

    And it gives some American pundits who haven’t been relevant in 20 years something to pontificate on.

  25. Cuffy Meigs says:

    “But there is an entire party devoted to terrifying low-information citizens with horror stories that are flat-out lies, and thus ending any hope at actually helping them. So instead of truth we’re going to get the vilest of the vile trying to whip up hysteria over this in the hopes that fear will bring electoral success.”

    Are you referring to this pro-START “Daisy” ad where the little girl gets nuked unless we ratify this treay rightnowthisverysecond?

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/11/religious-group-pass-nuke-treaty-or-we-all-burn/

  26. mannning says:

    @ DC Loser
    There is a vast and frightening difference between a ground, low altitude and and a very high altitude nuclear burst. EMP at low altitude regimes is confind by LOS to a small ground footprint, whereas the high altitude burst can do continental damage and affect millions of people, either from the radiation or from the aftereffects of a devastated continent.  The many attempts by rational nations to stop nuclear proliferation have come unglued, leaving a majority of civilization vulnerable to such an EMP attack by any old pipsqueek clan of misfits. The one saving grace is the need to place the weapon at very high altitudes for maximum effect; that is, using exoatmospheric vehicles, which are not easy to come by, although the newest members of the nuclear club are all working hard on long range, high altitude missiles. 
    I believe the Bush administration kicked this can way down the road, because the options for effective action mainly come down to wars, while our war plate was quite full during his time in office.  Obama, on the other hand, seems to want it both ways and no ways. So the problem is still highly relevant. Meanwhile, it does seem proper to me  to allow the new Congress to debate the Treaty thoroughly before signing off on it. We should know its full imperfactions very clearly before making such a complex commitment. Again, we have a President that is desperate for some kind of significant win so he pressures Congress to ratify this treaty in a Lame Duck session. The treaty should be ratified no later than, say, March, 2011, and the congressional agenda should reflect that. It appears to me that the subject merits a full review with the new Congress, and little impact is lost in the meanwhile, except for failing to burnish Obama’s political image. Iran, NK, and Pakistan will do what they will do; and, Russia is going to pull a fast one on us anyway, so the treaty is a paper tiger (EMP is not addressed). But, it may have impact around the globe.

  27. tom p says:

    Your snark is not appreciated.

    so sorry if I hurt your  feelings, but…

    No, I had no point at all to make, since it is probably a Mexican standoff, but one objection to the Treaty covers just this fact that we would be out-megatonned, which frightens many people.What else are we giving away?

    Seeing as you admit we aren’t giving anything away in the first circumstance… Maybe we aren’t giving anything else away???? And seeing as the military AGREES?????????????
    Really, your grasping at straws smacks of desperation.
     

  28. tom p says:

    No, I had no point at all to make

    And Manning, if I may make a suggestion, if you have no point to make, STFU. People may think you are stupid, but better that than opening your mouth and proving it. 
     

  29. Matthew Bilinsky says:

    We know the answer. If it offers a potential positive outcome for Barack Obama, the so-called “conservatives” will be against it.

  30. DC Loser says:

    Manning – you use a lot of big words and your logic is all over the place.  First, this EMP issue has nothing to do with START, and in terms of the Russian nuclear threat addressed by START, this is a non-issue.  If you’re worried about rogue EMP threats from their nukes on missiles, you should be looking at the NPT and MTCR.  As for the NK and Iranian capability to put a nuke in space, the horse is already way out of the barn.  The NK Taepo Dong – 1 launched in Aug 98 reached orbit, therefore they have had the technical capability to put a crude nuke in orbit for 12 years.  The Iranians successfully put a satellite in orbit on their Safir missile two years ago, again demonstrating their capability to put a nuke into space (when they get their nuke).  As for the Paks, they’ve had that capability since the 90s, with both the missile and the nuke.  Again, START addresses none of these threats as those are not parties to the treaty.

  31. mannning says:

    @ Loser loser
    Of course I have absolutely no intention of following your nasty words, so bug off and do it yourself.
    The thread can be used to bring up further aspects of the nuclear problem that could affect the treaty if it were to be modified in Congress for further negotiation. You have no ear for sarcasm, either, which was my intention.The NPT has not prevented Iran from joining the club, and I believe they signed the useless piece of paper. NK is an open challenge also. Those who put their faith in pieces of paper to effect control of nuclear developments are delusional–as you seem to be.There is no compelling reason to push this treaty during thios session, and many compelling reasons to look at a broader scope and direction, and favorable points for us.
     

  32. DC Loser says:

    @Manning – I must have missed the sarcasm tag.  Frankly, I don’t think the Russians are in the mood to renegotiate, and if we don’t ratify, they may force another round of negotiations where they will concede less.  Yes, the previous pieces of paper allowed us access to their nuclear weapons facilities, which we have not had access to since last December.  That’s an intelligence black hole that we’ll be hard pressed to make up in the short term.  As the Pentagon brass said, it’s imperative we get access to their facilities as soon as possible.  But hey, the GOP knows best.

  33. mannning says:

    So we are letting the Russian mood and the political gain of Obama dictate the contents of this treaty? Whoa! Let’s go into it a lot further than before, publicize it further, and take our time to get the very best treaty possible, and to hell with Obama’s desires and a military mouthpiece or two that are beholden to him. Maybe we should have gone for a more comprehensive treaty so as to close down the nuclear option further, AND include EMP. Both sides of the aisle have politicized this treaty, and kicked it down the road as too difficult. Suddenly, we should ratify it in a lame duck Congress?
    Without an EMP solution of some sort, the main threat of virtually total annihilation is still there, and we are still saddled with a great disparity in throw-weight as well, which at it stands would make a big difference, especially for EMP.  Someone above commented that the Russian missile accuracy is poor; but with a few years of improvements that could easily go away, while the treaty remains fixed. I would never underestimate the capability of Russian engineering to solve the problem of accuracy. It is conceivable, for instance, that in a first strike scenario, they could utilize our GPS system if available and their own version to effect mid-course corrections, and it gets even better if they crack the code of our level 3 solutions—say down to a CEP of less than a meter or two, along with other possible mechanisms to increase accuracy in the terminal phase. Do I trust that this Congress and the President fully understands these aspects and have taken them all into consideration?
    In one word—NO!
     
     

  34. mannning says:

    I would love to see the full path we are trying to effect, from mere numbers reduction to all of the other aspects as well, such as EMP, and full access, and perhaps a mutual agreement to use all means possible, including force, to curtail the rogue states from developing nuclear weapons, perhaps as a clarification to the NPT to put dragon’s teeth in to that treaty.

  35. DC Loser says:

    Ah I see!  The military are beholden to Obama, so they’re closet democrate libs.  So much for trusting our military men and women.  I don’t understand your fetish about EMP in our treaty with the Russians when so much more is on the line.  You want to see something scary about EMP, look up RF weapons that can fit in a small van that can take out most electronics in parts of a city.  You don’t need missiles to conduct an EMP attack.  Terrorists can do it with off the shelf components.

  36. mannning says:

    @Loser
    I am well aware of the easily made EMP generators that have been posted on the web, and that alone is a fright, but it would take a lot of them to wreck the US as one E-Bomb would take.
    And, no, you jumped to the conclusion that I consider our military leaders to be mad liberals. I do consider them to be susceptable to various kinds of coersion that would hurt their respective services. They have already lost the F-22, and quite a lot more of the modern equipment under development or on the wish list could well be scrapped or saved, and troop enhancements desired, depending upon their support to START now, thus seriously depleating our capabilities in their eyes(but not Obama’s). Then too, Obama may be a one-termer, so there could be corrections made after 2012 to either the treaty or the systems in jeopardy or both. 
    I am extremely cynical about the deadly games played between the politicians and the military over resources and political objectives, particularly when there are progressives at the helm, and grand, radical and expensive schemes are in the works. One man’s peace dividend (and last hurrah!) is another man’s defeat or serious difficulties in combat. I am even more cynical about any negotiations between the US and Russia. They haven’t yet earned my trust from the Cold War, where practically every agreement or treaty was either far in their favor or was violated when they thought necessary. That is why I support not only trust, but also serious verification means for any such treaty. I am also very skeptical that the State Department always works in favor of the US as it is, as opposed to how they think it should be. Progressivism again rears its head.  Their sins are as legendary as their leaks are damaging.

  37. mannning says:

    As for my focus on the EMP threat, it is the one existential threat that literally any old rogue nation or group could cobble together, and it would be to the world’s benefit if two (or many major powers, such as support NPT) took very strong steps together to curtail the threat right now.
    There is nothing to say that other huge issues couldn’t proceed to be debated and solutions found in parallel with the EMP issue, given the will to proceed.

  38. tom p says:

    Your snark is not appreciated.

    so sorry if I hurt your  feelings, but…

    No, I had no point at all to make, since it is probably a Mexican standoff, but one objection to the Treaty covers just this fact that we would be out-megatonned, which frightens many people.What else are we giving away?

    Seeing as you admit we aren’t giving anything away in the first circumstance… Maybe we aren’t giving anything else away???? And seeing as the military AGREES?????????????Really, your grasping at straws smacks of desperation.
    I repeat… and your answer is???? I take it back Manning, I don’t give a rat’s ass about your feelings. F U.Grow up… man up… what ever…

  39. DC Loser says:

    EMP weapons as existential threats?  You got to be kidding?  Nuclear weapons are existential threats if they can kill a majority of your population and your country ceases to function or exist.  But EMP does not have that affect?  It can wreak havoc with your infrastructure, but the effects will not result in the death of a majority of the population and the country will not cease to exist.  You seem to care a lot about EMPs.  There’s a simple solution, ban all nuclear weapons if you think they’re that much of a threat.
    The rest of your post about arms control treaties, the State Dept., etc. is just typical right wing pap.

  40. mannning says:

    @ loser
    An EMP attack would not necessarily kill directly,but consider the effect on our way of life.  No cars would work, no trucks would work, power distribution would cease, so no electrical appliances, heat or A/C would work, we could not get food distribution, gasoline distribution, elevators would not work, the FAA net would  be down and aircraft would be grounded for lack of avionics, trains could not run, factories would have to close, and distribution of clean water would cease from lack of power to pump.  
    Within a few weeks diseases would strike and there would  be no medical help, no medicine distribution, and people would start to die. Within a month or two the death toll would rise to millions. In a year the population would  be mainly in the countryside where stand-alone capabilities prevail, but by year’s end our population would  be devastated.Then, just as a few things are getting fixed, along comes the second EMP burst.  Then the third burst, ensuring the devastation remains for a long, long time.
    No food, no water, no heat, no A/c, no transport, no distribution of food–not even enough horses to fill the gap. You figure it out. 
    I can provide several references to this scenario, but all you have to do is Google EMP
    Some fetish!  You need to bone up on EMP effects.

  41. mannning says:

    @ tom p
    What a great demonstration of leftism gone to the dogs, groveling in filth and unable to carry on a sensible and clean conversation. Henceforth I will simply ignore you, say what you will. You do not deserve to receive the courtesy of a reply. TA TA!