Monday, December 20, 2010

Put Security Ahead of Politics


By Chris Miller

As a former U.S. Army nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons specialist I was always skeptical of the assertion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  After I hit ground in Iraq in April, 2003, it soon became clear he didn’t have any. The U.S. searched the entire country for months trying to find them, but to this day nothing more than a few dusty chlorine gas mortars have ever turned up in Iraq.  What would have happened if Hussein had complied with the IAEA inspection regime voluntarily?  The 2003 Iraq war would likely never have happened.  Because he did not comply, it was open to conjecture whether Iraq possessed nuclear weapons or were trying to acquire them.  The rest is history.

In view of that, why would we dither, delay, or play politics with a treaty that would allow us to continue a responsible, voluntary inspection regime with a partner state that we know for a fact, with certainty, has nuclear arms, lots of them, and is simply waiting for the U.S. Senate to sign on the dotted line?  Why would we risk significantly setting back relations with Russia and at the same time make it much harder to verify that their nukes are secure?  Ask the Senate GOP leadership. 

The old START (STrategic Arms Reduction Treaty) was negotiated and signed in the early nineties under President George H.W. Bush, based on a concept by President Ronald Reagan.  The treaty served the U.S. well through the era of instability at the end of the Cold War and the New START would simply continue what was already a good idea.  It has served us well for the last two decades and, if passed, would continue to today.  It would reduce nuclear stockpiles by one third on both sides, still leaving America with more than enough firepower to defend itself.  It would responsibly allow mutual transparency and allow us to monitor Russia’s nuclear weapons and material.

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