Conservatives oppose the new START treaty, as they opposed even the earlier version negotiated by Ronald Reagan

Summary:  About conservatives opposition to arms control treaties, including those that ended radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere and won the Cold War.

Mitt Romeny (“Obama’s worst foreign-policy mistake“, op-ed in the Washington Post) and the Heritage Foundation (“Stop START Now“)  have joined the conservative chorus denouncing the new START treaty.  It’s all lies and misrepresentations, as befits a political movement making the big lie its primary tactic — and implacable opposition to Obama (irrespective of the national interest) its only objective.

So experts must do the yeoman’s work of line-by-line refutations, as Fred Kagan does to Romeny’s rant in “Mitt Romney’s dumb critique of Obama’s New START nuke treaty“, Slate.  (Disclosure:  I voted for Romney in the 2008 Presidential primary)  And Gary Schaub Jr and James Forsyth Jr do more generally in “An Arsenal We Can All Live With“, op-ed in the New York Times.  But a quick look at history puts the conservatives’ complaints in a clearer context.

They opposed the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, stopping open-air nuclear testing — which was rapidly polluting the biosphere.  Even after a full-court press by Kennedy, 19 Senators voted against it.   To get an idea of the results if the conservatives had won, read the National Institute of Health’s pages about exposure to radioactive Iodine-131 from fallout.  However that’s long ago.  Let’s look at the arms control efforts of the Right’s hero, Ronald Reagan.

On 8 December 1987, at Reagan’s third summit with Mikhail Gorbachev, they signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (Wikipedia).  This marked the beginning of the end to the cold war, a major step to lifting the threat of global annihilation that had existed for 3 decades.   How did conservatives react to this bold step by their leader?  To cite two of the tsunami of criticism:

Excerpt from “The Treaty: Another Sellout”, Howard Phillips (Chairman of The Conservative Caucus; see his bio at Wikipedia), op-ed in the New York Times, 11 December 1987:

America has never been in more danger than now, during the final 13 months of the Reagan administration.  Although neither Ronald Reagan nor George Bush could have come to power without strong conservative support, conservative influence is absent from the top decision-making councils of the executive branch, and conservative policies have been comprehensively abandoned.  President Reagan is little more than the speech reader-in-chief for the pro-appeasement triumverate of Howard Baker, George Shultz and Frank Carlucci.

… The center of the administration’s policy is the president’s unfounded assertion that Mikhail S. Gorbachev is “a new kind of Soviet leader” who no longer seeks world conquests. The summit meetings and so-called arms-control treaties are a cover for the treasonous greed of those who manipulate the administration.

Excerpt from George Will’s 1988 book The New Season:

“Historians may conclude that it was during this adminstration that the United States conclusively lost the Cold War.”

As Reagan biographer Richard Reeves noted, “In fact it was the day we won the Cold War.”   Fortunately there were more responsible Republicans then, and the Senate approved the treaty — only 5 conservatives voted against it. 

Why do so many American’s continue to listen to these people?

For more information about the new START treaty

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