When Is the Far Right Going to Start Listening to the Military?

The New START treaty has the unanimous support of America's military leaders. But you wouldn't know it from the wails of far-right pundits. For a group that traditionally poses as defenders of America against appeasing, anti-military liberals, they are amazingly dismissive of the strong, urgent calls from the military for the Senate to approve this new security pact.

The leader of this new ignore-the-military pack is Sarah Palin. In an open letter to incoming freshmen Senators and Representatives, she wrote, "...don't listen to desperate politically-motivated arguments about the need for hasty consideration of the 'New START' treaty."

Who is she referring to? She seem to be calling out Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen has come out in full support of New START, arguing that it helps him carry out his mission to protect and defend the United Sates.

I believe, and the rest of the military leadership in this country believes, that this treaty is essential to our future security. I hope the Senate will ratify it quickly.

Or maybe she meant the Department of Defense Deputy Assistant Secretary Geoff Morrell who said this month:

This treaty is absolutely critical to the effectiveness of our nuclear arsenal, our knowledge of Russian nuclear capabilities and U.S. national security overall. We're advancing it at this time and pushing for ratification because we need this. And we need it sooner, rather than later.

Maybe she is referring to the current and and the eight former commanders of the Strategic Command (including the current Vice Chairman of the Joint Staff General James Cartwright) who have urged the swift approval of the treaty. Does Sarah Palin know something that we don't about the "secret political motivations" of America's most respected and trusted military advisors? If so, she should say so publicly.

Similarly, In a recent op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, James Woolsey wrote:

It is crucial for the Senate to require that, in the ratification instruments that would be exchanged with Russia, it be made clear that New Start in no way constrains our development and deployment of the most effective missile-defense capabilities.

So, does Woolsey not believe the commander of the US Missile Defense Agency? Lt. General Patrick O'Reilly, responding to these unfounded claims, told Congress this summer:

Throughout the treaty negotiations, I frequently consulted the New START team on all potential impacts to missile defense. The New START Treaty does not constrain our plans to execute the U.S. Missile Defense program.

So, what military authority is Woolsey listening to?

In fact, there is only a small core of disgruntled former Bush officials such as former Undersecretary of State John Bolton and former Assistant Secretary of State Paula DeSutter who have questioned the importance of rapid approval of the treaty. The rest of the opposition is largely confined to pundits at the Heritage Foundation, the Weekly Standard and National Review.

All of their arguments essentially use the treaty as a spear to attack the current administration Here is DeSutter in an op-ed in August:

If the administration is successful, there is a significant risk of creating a very false sense of confidence. More dangerous yet, however, is what the weak approach to verification demonstrated by New START says about what we can expect from this administration in future agreements...

Rather than speculating about the future of the Obama administration, our military leaders have been worrying about what is going on inside of Russia of the last 345 days. Gen. Kevin Chilton, the commander of U. S. Strategic Forces, has warned that "without New START, we would rapidly lose insight into Russian strategic nuclear force developments and activities."

Admiral Mullen has similarly stated:

I am also convinced that the verification regime is as stringent as it is transparent, and borne of more than 15 years of lessons learned under the original START treaty... And as I have said many times, in many different contexts, in this fast-paced, flatter world of ours, information, and the trust it engenders, is every bit as much a deterrent as any weapon we deploy.

Our military leaders are asking for this treaty to help them do their jobs. There are no senior military officials who have opposed the New START treaty. So who is validating the extreme claims of these far-right pundits and why are they standing in the way of keeping Americans safe?

Today, as the Senate considers whether to bring this national security pact to a vote before they adjourn for the year, three things are crystal clear.

First, the treaty is verifiable. By implementing an extremely rigorous and intrusive verification regime, this treaty will provide us with much needed intelligence about Russian nuclear forces and prevent any cheating.

Second, New START has no impact whatsoever on America's ability to build and maintain the strongest possible missile defenses. Who better to listen to in this regard than the leaders whose job it is to actually deploy these missile defenses?

Third, America's nuclear forces are strong. If the military was asking for more nukes we would be in a different situation entirely, but that is not the case. The Joint Chiefs Chairman said this weekend that the 1550 hydrogen bombs the United States will have on long-range missiles, submarines and bombers under this treaty, "leaves us with more than enough nuclear deterrent capability for the world we live in."

So when is the far-right going to start listening to our military leaders?

This article was written with the help of Ploughshares Fund Research Assistant Reid Pauly