- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2000

One of the moments that most clearly defined the benefits of having Republican leadership in the Congress came last October when an actual majority of the U.S. Senate defied President Clinton, special interests and pollsters who claimed that a substantial majority of the American people wanted a permanent ban on all underground nuclear tests. To hear some of those GOP legislators talk, however, you would think they had sinned and needed urgently to atone for doing so by approving an "improved" version of Mr. Clinton's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Such hand-wringing is, of course, precisely the result sought by the Clinton-Gore administration and other devotees of arms control in mounting a thoroughly disingenuous post-vote campaign claiming that rank partisanship and isolationist impulses rather than sound national security thinking drove the Senate to reject the CTBT.
Television advertisements are now being aired in some seven states in the hope of creating electoral pressure on senators to reconsider the treaty and change their votes. And Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently announced that she has asked a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, to spearhead "the administration's effort to achieve bipartisan support for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty."
The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the 51 senators who voted against the CTBT did so precisely because of their commitment to an America that remains engaged in and a shaper of world affairs. They simply disagreed with the CTBT's proponents that President Clinton's treaty whose permanent, zero-yield ban on testing would prevent the United States (and others) from having confidence in the safety, reliability and effectiveness of its nuclear deterrent was compatible with the nation playing such roles.
The validity of that judgment was clearly reaffirmed in an important day-long symposium convened on Capitol Hill last Wednesday by the Center for Security Policy. Among the participants were more than 70 experienced national security practitioners including: three legislators who played leading roles in the CTBT debate, Republican Sens. John Warner of Virginia, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, and Jon Kyl of Arizona; former Defense Secretaries Caspar Weinberger and James Schlesinger; President Clinton's former CIA Director James Woolsey; and senior officials from the nation's three nuclear laboratories, including Sandia's director, Paul Robinson.
As Mr. Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, observed, the proceedings of this session provide an indispensable record for any future effort to revisit the present Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the impossibility of "fixing" it. Particularly noteworthy was a statement prepared for the symposium by one of the most highly regarded living Joint Chiefs chairmen, Gen. John Vessey. It said, in part:
"It is unlikely that God will permit us to 'uninvent' nuclear weapons. Some nation, or power, will be the preeminent nuclear power in the world. I, for one, believe that at least under present and foreseeable conditions, the world will be safer if that power is the United States of America. We jeopardize maintaining that condition by eschewing the development of new nuclear weapons and by ruling out testing if and when it is needed. Consequently, I believe that ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty an accord that would have imposed a permanent, zero-yield ban on all underground nuclear tests is not in the security interests of the United States."
Messrs. Weinberger and Schlesinger specifically addressed the question "Can the CTBT be Fixed?" Both of these distinguished civil servants who, together with former Secretaries of Defense Melvin Laird, Donald Rumsfeld, Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney, played a decisive role in the Senate's deliberations on the CTBT when they wrote an unprecedented joint letter urging its rejection agreed with Mr. Warner's judgment that the present treaty is unfixable. Like Gen. Vessey, they regard a zero-yield, permanent nuclear test ban as incompatible with the United States' national interest.
The two former Pentagon chiefs also took note of an immutable fact of life concerning any effort to "fix" the treaty: Unless the idea is to make purely cosmetic adjustments calculated to provide political cover to senators who wished to change their vote but doing nothing to address the CTBT's underlying problems other nations who have signed this accord precisely because the treaty will undermine America's nuclear deterrent are exceedingly unlikely to accept adjustments that might help preserve it.
The Center's symposium examined two other subjects with which senators tempted to reconsider the CTBT must reckon: First, the so-called Stockpile Stewardship Program (SSP) a massive, technically challenging, time-consuming and hugely expensive effort to develop diagnostic tools that might someday mitigate the need for, if not supplant, underground nuclear testing will not realize its objective anytime soon. In fact, engineering and construction problems; difficulties associated with retaining and attracting professionals with the necessary skills; the Clinton-Gore administration's failure to provide the necessary funding; and its unwillingness to plan nuclear tests to calibrate and validate the SSP's facilities and capabilities may preclude the program from ever coming to fruition.
Second, it is predictable that U.S. national security requirements and the deteriorating condition of the nation's aging stockpile will dictate modernization of the nuclear arsenal.
There is no getting around the fact that, for new weapons designs to be introduced, they will have to be subjected at least to limited nuclear testing to ensure that they work. This prospect is completely anathema to CTBT proponents and, were the U.S. to seek the latitude to do so in a revised treaty, it would be summarily rejected by most of the other parties.
In short, the CTBT is certain to remain unverifiable, unenforceable and incompatible with the U.S. requirement to maintain a safe and effective nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future. The 51 Republican senators should take pride in having acted precisely as the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when they gave the Senate shared responsibility with the executive branch over treaty-making. They owe no one any apologies and should reject efforts to try to blow through the Senate a "revised" CTBT that will surely remain unacceptable.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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