How Romney Got It Wrong: The Truth About the New START Treaty

Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and failed presidential contender, now sets his sights on the 2012 election. He has decided the best way to secure the nomination is to ramp up the crazy.

Romney took to the Washington Post to decry the New START treaty currently making its way through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rather then add substantively to the debate, the former governor trotted out the same tired arguments that treaty opponents have been bleating since Senators Kerry and Lugar began hearings over two months ago. From Senator Inhofe and DeMint to the Heritage Foundation, Republicans focused on what they view as a glaring flaw in the treaty, missile defense. They claim the treaty will severely limit the development of a U.S. missile shield, and will signal to hostile powers that America lacks the will to defend itself. There's one problem with these claims: they are flat out wrong.

Romney's argument follows the rich tradition driving the Republican Party right now. The tea-partiers and other fringe groups require a certain level of cocksure militarism. Just look at McCain in 2008, with his impromptu hit song "Bomb Iran" set to the tune of the Beach Boy's "Barbara Ann." It evoked a jingoistic swagger that the Republican base ate up, akin to G.W. strutting on an aircraft carrier in his flight suit and codpiece. After all, what could be the harm in starting a third war with a far better equipped country while still hemorrhaging resources in America's two current wars?

Numerous witnesses have repeated in SFRC hearings that the New START Treaty will not constrain missile defense in any way, shape, or form. Period. Seriously, look it up. Bi-Partisan support for the treaty makes this crystal clear. An op-ed written by under secretary of Defense for Policy and in collaboration with the under secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics stated:

 "The fact is that the treaty does not constrain the U.S. from testing, developing and deploying missile defenses. Nor does it prevent us from improving or expanding them. Nor does it raise the costs of doing so."

This doesn't sound like the Neville Chamberlain capitulation that Mitt Romney rails about in his piece. But is it an isolated opinion? The answer is a resounding no, unless, like Romney and friends, you choose to ignore the opinions of authorities like Robert M. Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, Hillary Clinton, or the 30 top National Security leaders that came out in support of ratifying the treaty.  

In this post 9/11 world, it's interesting how quickly certain individuals revert to a Cold War mentality. In Romney's article, he cursorily mentions rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, and doesn't bother to discuss terrorist groups seeking to construct a dirty bomb. Instead it's right back to the arms-races. Romney claims that "New-START gives Russia a massive nuclear weapon advantage over the United States," noting the disparity of Russia's arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons that currently outnumbers the United States by 10:1. He observes that while they cannot strike America "surely they can reach our allies, nations that depend on us for a nuclear umbrella."

An interesting observation. The nuclear umbrella and the security provided by the U.S. and NATO have allowed European nations to invest in social programs rather than defense. Is this in the best interest of American citizens? Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul noted

"After World War II, with…the Soviet Union becoming increasingly aggressive, America took on the responsibility of protecting virtually every country that asked for it. Sixty-five years later, we continue to play that role…The nations of Western Europe now collectively have greater resources at their command than we do, yet they continue to depend overwhelmingly on American taxpayers to provide for their defense."

This doesn’t mesh with the foreign policy strategy of the former governor, who prefers to invoke a neo-Teddy Roosevelt policy that relies on the big stick, but ignores speaking softly. America should not turn its back on our allies, yet we must find another path to global security. Conveniently, the Reps’ indicated a common sense policy of protection: 

"When our democratic allies are menaced by larger, hostile powers, there is a strong argument to be made for supporting them. But the notion that American taxpayers get some benefit from extending our military might worldwide is deeply flawed."

Until Mitt Romney and his obstinate brethren in Congress stop trying to score cheap political points, America’s national security continues to be put at risk. It’s time to move beyond the Cold War. The Berlin Wall fell twenty-one years ago. The Soviet Union ceased to exist nineteen years ago. Ratifying New START will not drive Russia into a headlong pursuit of nuclear hegemony; instead it will provide verifiable benchmarks for the two major nuclear powers to reduce existing stock and monitor the development of new weapons and delivery systems. Passing the treaty will not harm America’s national security. Failing to pass it will. 

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