A Mushroom Cloud of Obstruction: Why Republicans Are Blocking START

Republicans claim they are the stewards of national defense and the side most concerned with stopping terrorists from attacking America, but they are jeopardizing national security by opposing the START treaty now in the Senate. Their opposition has no legitimacy because they proffer arguments that are without foundation in regards to the efficacy of the treaty; instead they are throwing childish tantrums based on politics and obstruction.

The treaty is critical to America’s national defense as well as our allies because it allows for regular inspections of Russia’s nuclear arsenal at a time when even one unaccounted for device could end up being detonated in an American city. The biggest fear of terrorism experts is that a stolen Russian device could end up on the black market and sold to a rogue nation or terrorist organization.

The Republican opposition to the treaty is purely political, and many of its detractors are angry over the repeal of DADT and having to work over the Christmas holiday. A hollow complaint that the preamble of the treaty restricts defensive missile systems is meant to engender sympathy for Republican opposition to the treaty, but has nothing to do with America’s missile defense capability.

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was thought to support the treaty, and he said that if the Bush tax cuts were extended he would allow a vote on the treaty. However, Graham is displeased that DADT was repealed and has withdrawn support for START because he is unhappy the lame duck session has produced results in spite of Republican efforts to obstruct Democrat’s legislation. Apparently, Graham is just another Republican liar who promised cooperation if the Bush tax cuts were extended only to balk after the compromise was signed by President Obama.

Graham commented on the START treaty by claiming that, “If you want to have a chance of passing START, you better start over and do it in the next Congress, because this lame duck has been poisoned.” It is unclear how passing the tax cuts poisoned the lame duck session. Graham is a typical Republican who lies to get concessions only to find fallacious reasons to justify continuing obstructionist tactics. In Graham’s case, it is the DADT repeal that is his reason to obstruct and he says so unapologetically. “The last two weeks have been an absolutely excruciating exercise. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a controversial topic was passed in the lame-duck session without one amendment being offered,” Graham said, although he didn’t elaborate on the kind of amendment the homophobic Republicans had in mind.

The Republicans in the Senate who oppose the START treaty care less about national security than obstructing the Obama Administration, and their vindictiveness over repeal of DADT is nothing short of spoiled brats not getting their way. However, they did get their way in the form of the tax cut deal that they claimed was necessary for their support on START, DADT, and the Dream Act. Besides jeopardizing America’s security, Republicans risk losing important funding for modernization of our defense system that is tied to ratification of START. Without the treaty, the administration will be hard pressed to fund modernization at the levels requested by Republicans, so if they obstruct the treaty’s ratification they are shooting themselves in the foot as respects funding to modernize our arsenal.

John McCain opposes the treaty and his opposition is based on his recollection of cold war Russia, and by blocking ratification, he feels he is rebuking the Kremlin and the inner workings of Russian politics. For McCain though, opposition to the START treaty is more about retribution for the standalone DADT repeal than national security or rebuking the Russians.

For the past two years Republicans have obstructed or attempted to obstruct every Democratic bit of legislation and they’ve made no secret of that goal. Every bit of their obstruction up to now has been harmful to American citizens and blocking ratification of the START treaty is no different. The petty machinations of holding American national security hostage for a favorable tax cut deal typifies what is wrong with the Republican Party, and they take their blackmail to the next level by reneging on the deal once they achieved the tax cuts they wanted.

The Republican’s complaint that Democrats are jamming legislation down their throats at the last minute is also a lie in regard to the START treaty because it has been available since May 2010, and one could reasonably assume that once the tax deal was passed, Republicans would have kept their word and supported the treaty’s ratification. It is obvious now that Republicans intended to get the tax deal they wanted and go home for the rest of the year. Democrats foolishly took Republicans at their word and are rightly indignant that the Republicans lied about compromise and bipartisanship. They should know by now that Republicans are only interested in obstruction; they certainly are not interested in national security.

Regardless of political ambition, America’s security should be first and foremost in the minds of lawmakers, but that is not the modus operandi of Republicans, and their complaint that repealing DADT weakens the military pales in comparison to the weakened state of nuclear weapons accountability. If the past two years are any indication, Republicans will not address the START treaty because it is a top foreign policy priority of the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, without a means of accounting for every last nuclear device in the Russian arsenal, it is a very real possibility that a rogue nation or terror group can acquire and detonate a nuclear device in an American city.  For humanity, that would be a disaster of epic proportion, but for Republicans, it will be a reason to blame the Obama Administration for allowing an attack on America. Perhaps that is their real goal; a mushroom cloud over a major American city.

Copyright PoliticusUSA LLC 2008-2023