Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Republican roustabout and scattered election handicapper Sen. Jim DeMint made a bid for a new nom de guerre, that of Last of the Cold Warriors as the Senate took up consideration of the Obama administration’s “New Start” treaty with Russia. DeMint railed against the treaty claiming it limits America’s missile defense options (which is false), give Russia veto power over consideration of missile defense options (which is false), and “doesn’t render their weapons useless.” (which is true)

DeMint points to text in the preamble of the treaty, where at the behest of the Russians, it is stated the two countries “recogniz[e] the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms.” Sen. DeMint is concerned this will limit US options for missile defense later, and yet if we’re talking preambles, I haven’t heard of a Supreme Court decision being determined in the affirmative or in the negative by citing the preamble as a restrictive clause.

DeMint also makes note of a statement released by the Russians after the signing of the treaty indicating an objection to the US missile defense program and declaring it will withdraw if they feel the treaty is at odds with Russian national security. This strikes me a pretty boiler plate diplomatic maneuvering, but subtlety is not Sen. DeMint’s strong suit. He claims this gives Russia veto power over US missile defense options, which is frankly balderdash.

It’s also worth noting, both the language in the preamble and the accompanying unilateral statement were responses by the Russians to President Obama’s complete refusal to put binding language into the treaty that limited US missile defense options.

The oddest point of DeMint’s objection is his belief that our current missile defense program would not be capable of stopping, or even severely impeding a full scale Russian nuclear assault on the US. That is a true statement, but I am compelled to ask why we need to spend what could be trillions of dollars to put in an extensive system with a history of dubious results to combat a threat that essentially evaporated nearly 20 years ago?

Sen. DeMint didn’t answer that question, and why should he? He was the one doing the questioning on Tuesday, but it’s a question we should consider. It reflects dangerously outdated thinking. The entire military direction of the United States, at the behest of our military and civilian leadership is realigning to address the military concerns of a post-modern geopolitical system. I would ask that Sen. DeMint join them in a new way of thinking. Yet, that’s like asking a lot from a man who hasn’t had a new thought since the Cold War.

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