- The Washington Times - Monday, December 25, 2006

Sen. Hillary Clinton says let’s get tough on nuclear terrorism. In a letter to the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, the former co-president criticizes President Bush for his failure to seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, (CTBT) — a treaty turned down by the Senate in 1997. Failure to do so, she claims, pushed North Korea and Iran to seek nuclear weapons.

She also says we are not spending sufficient funds to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Her solution? Spend another $50 million a year on top of nearly $2 billion. That’s right folks. A two and one-half percent increase in the Defense Threat Reduction Act funding. Wow. That will keep the terrorists at bay.

Now it is unclear why signing the CTBT would prevent al Qaeda and other terror groups, along with their state sponsors, from seeking nuclear weapons. Whether or not the United States ever tests a nuclear weapon again doesn’t now affect the existence of the current U.S. nuclear stockpile.

As for “new” nuclear weapons, the Clinton administration did in fact deploy a newearth-penetrating bomber weapon, while the current administration is seeking only to deploy safer and more reliable replacement weapons, a requirement fully endorsed by Congress.

We will have 1,700 to 2,200 nuclear weapons by the end of this administration, a number lower than those the United States maintained in the late 1950s and 10,000 less than at the height of the Cold War. By any measurement, the United States has met its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while signatories Iran and North Korea blatantly violate it.

Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick has sadly just left us. She will be remembered as President Reagan’s choice as our U.N. ambassador, and a sterling voice in favor of freedom and against totalitarianism. In a now-famous address in 1984 she warned the nation of the “blame America first” crowd who always found fault with the United States.

Luckily, I had the good fortune to receive a call from the late Mrs. Kirkpatrick. She was busy moving in to her new home. St. Peter had decided to have her negotiate a new contract with the heavenly choir who were threatening to strike for more pay. She was delighted to talk about security issues here on earth.

“Iran, North Korea and terrorists threaten us with nuclear weapons and this is somehow our fault?” she exclaimed. Well, she explained, you may have thought the “blame America first crowd” had somehow disappeared at the end of the Cold War. “I thought they had been sufficiently chastised by being wrong about nearly every significant strategic issue the United States faced during the decades long struggle with communism.” But no, the late ambassador noted, “the blame America first crowd has returned.”

How foolish, the ambassador said, to think that if only the United States had signed the test-ban treaty, we would face less of a threat from terrorists. The connection is, well, “non-existent.” She explained: “The Iranians and North Koreans and the terror group proxies want the freedom to attack their neighbors, commit terrorist acts and otherwise act with impunity. Iran alone seeks regime change in three countries — Iraq, Israel and Lebanon — using proxy terror armies, armed with bombs and rockets, killing citizens by the thousands. They think nukes will protect them.”

And as for North Korea: “It seeks the removal of U.S. forces from the Republic of Korea. They want to intimidate Japan and deny the United States the use of its bases. To do this, the Iranians and North Koreans seek nuclear weapons to deter the use of American conventional forces to protect our allies. In short, whether or not the United States tests nuclear weapons is immaterial.”

As for U.S. efforts to secure nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere, she asked: “Hadn’t we dramatically increased funding for this effort, securing pledges of $2 billion a year, including at least $1 billion from the United States alone?” I said, “Yes we had.” What about the Proliferation Security Initiative, Nunn-Lugar and enhanced port and maritime security? Hadn’t this dramatically improved our ability to deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism? I had to say, well, “of course.”

The professor was now on a roll: “And the most dramatic achievement of the administration has been the elimination of Libya’s nuclear weapons program. A ship holding 13,000 nuclear centrifuges destined for Tripoli from the Khan “Nukes ‘R Us” network was intercepted because of extraordinary intelligence work.

“Subsequently, key administration officials traveled to Libya and literally hauled away tons of nuclear technology. Now, that’s an achievement to be heralded rather than dismissed with misleading arguments.” I thanked this great lady for her help. She said she was glad to assist. She had to go back and “negotiate.” And so she did.

I thought how the road to September 11 was paved with the mistakes of an administration too concerned with its legacy. As Americans, we needed to shoulder the burden of the new security environment by jointly working to secure America’s future, and leave attacks in the partisan ditch where they belong. Ambassador Kirkpatrick showed us the way.

Peter Huessy is president of GeoStrategic Analysis.

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