Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why we shouldn't be cramming through the START Treaty

The WSJ explains clearly why it would be wrong to rush through the ratification of the START Treaty without a proper understanding of what it means.
The rush for New Start is a special affront to Senate prerogatives under the Constitution, which requires a two-thirds vote for ratification precisely to guarantee a considered debate. The Administration claims that failure to ratify the treaty in two weeks will offend the Russians, though the Russians have said they feel no such urgency. GOP leaders have given Mr. Reid dates in either January or February to bring the treaty to the floor, and upwards of a dozen Republicans seem to be leaning in favor of the pact.

At a minimum the GOP ought to insist on a debate that is long enough to clarify the U.S. understanding of the treaty. That's especially important on missile defenses because the pact's preamble includes the major blunder of re-linking offensive and defensive weapons. At the time the pact was negotiated, the Russians claimed this language meant they could leave the treaty if the U.S. developed new missile defenses. In remarks at the time, U.S. officials did not forcefully counter that claim.

The Obama Administration has since said the Russians are wrong, but the Senate must make this absolutely clear during the ratification debate. GOP Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl are preparing a formal "understanding" to accompany the treaty that would stipulate that specific future U.S. missile defense plans aren't part of the deal.

The next decade is likely to see a proliferation of nuclear weapons states with the missiles to hit U.S. or allied soil. The Senate should not tolerate a ratification debate in which Jon Kyl offers one interpretation, Democrat and missile defense opponent Carl Levin offers another, and the Russians are able to exploit the ambiguity.
Exactly. How are future American diplomats to understand the treaty if people don't agree what it means before they ratify it?

There is a reason why the Senate is the body given the power to ratify treaties. They were supposed to be the more deliberative body, further removed from passions of the moment. The Democrats apparently didn't want to have this treaty be an issue before the elections. If this was so crucial, the Democrats could have brought it up any time in the past months, but they put it off and now Reid wants to rush through ratification in the lame-duck session amidst a host of other priorities that they put off to the last minute. Republicans should not go along with Reid's rush. Obama claims that this treaty is a major priority for his foreign policy efforts. Well, if that is so, why wasn't he pushing for it to be brought up earlier? Clearly, this rush is more about passing what the Democrats can before the Republicans get a few more senators in place. In other words, they are rushing an important foreign policy effort for political reasons after they delayed it for political reasons.