At the NRO corner, Sarah Palin (or her ghostwriter) takes a moment to rally the Republican Senators against the evil that is New START. "It's a trap!" she screams. "Run away!"
New START recognizes a link between offensive and defensive weapons – a position the Russians have sought for years. Russia claims the treaty constrains U.S. missile defenses and that they will withdraw from the treaty if we pursue missile defenses. This linkage virtually guarantees that either we limit our missile defenses or the Russians will withdraw from the treaty. The Obama administration claims that this is not the case; but if that is true, why agree to linking offensive and defensive weapons in the treaty? At the height of the Cold War, President Reagan pursued missile defense while also pursuing verifiable arms control with the then-Soviet Union. That position was right in the 1980’s, and it is still right today. We cannot and must not give up the right to missile defense to protect our population – whether the missiles that threaten us come from Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, or anywhere else. I fought the Obama administration’s plans to cut funds for missile defense in Alaska while I was Governor, and I will continue to speak out for missile defenses that will protect our people and our allies.
It would be too easy to rebut her many incorrect assumptions and faulty logic, especially about the actions she may or may not have taken during her half-term as governor. It's not as bad as Romney's tirade against New START, but it's damned close in the level of stupidity and backwardness. Fortunately, there's a writer who has presented a counter-argument in The American Conservative magazine, of all places.
This is one thing in the treaty debate that has never made much sense. Treaty opponents are overwhelmingly drawn from the ranks of people who viscerally dislike and distrust the Russian government, but they ought to be among the first to want to put Russia under a verification regime. As it stands, they are working very hard to prevent the re-establishment of any verification regime. Whether or not they claim to want some ideally superior means of verification, they are taking the position that the regime established by this treaty should not be implemented.
Despite the best efforts of some hawkish interventionists to pretend that arms control is a relic of the past and irrelevant to today’s problems, they are the ones most likely to portray Russia as an existing or emerging threat to its neighbors. They should be the ones most eager to limit and constrain Russia through treaty obligations. Even if they don’t believe that Russia will comply with the treaty, it is hawks who should want to impose obligations and limits on Russia’s arsenal. Instead, it is the most anti-Russian and hawkish figures who are effectively enabling Russian power. What is remarkable about this is that these are the same people who could not stop haranguing the administration for betraying Poland and the Czech Republic when there was no betrayal, and they are the ones who remain convinced that it is the administration that is giving in to Russian demands when Russia has obtained virtually nothing tangible from the “reset.” Now that they are presented with an opportunity to side with European allies in support of greater U.S. and European security, they have opted instead for a rejectionist position that would keep the U.S. largely blind to Russian activities, increase uncertainty about Russia’s arsenal, and add to allied anxieties about potential Russian threats.
It's a no-brainer. Moderate Republicans should support New START because it does in fact limit Russian nuclear weapons and it sets up the opportunity to re-engage them on other issues, such as tactical nuclear missiles. The hard-right Republicans just want Russia to portray a symbol of unending threat, so it justifies spending lots of money on defense programs. The latter don't need arms control treaties to make their argument; the former recognize the need, but have to drum up the courage to stand up to their colleagues. We'll see who wins this round, sanity or madness.
Sarah Palin should stick to issues she understands, like shooting moose or wolves from planes, rather than addressing serious national security issues of which she has no comprehension. At the least, reflexively going against an arms control initiative because the Bush-initiated agreement might be completed under Obama's term, while every former Secretary of State and all of the active duty general officer is for it, is really not a great idea.