- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Here we go again. President Obama is trying to ram a legislation through Congress knowing that by so doing, he is maximizing the chances that his project’s defects will not become widely understood until it is too late. Call it the pig-in-a-poke stratagem.

This time around, however, Mr. Obama is not simply trying to socialize the economy, destroy the world’s finest health care system or assault the Constitution. At the moment, national security is in his cross hairs - and the negative implications could make those associated with his domestic policy efforts pale by comparison.

Specifically, the president is determined to with “rid the world of nuclear weapons” - and he is intent on securing the U.S. Senate’s imprimatur for this truly hare-brained idea. That is the real impetus behind his insistence that senators rubber-stamp during the lame-duck session the New START arms control treaty that Mr. Obama signed with Russia last April.

The treaty was accompanied by - and is intended to put what amounts to an international seal of approval on - an administration-generated document known as the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The NPR commits the United States to continue on a course that would, all other things being equal, assure the continued atrophying of the American deterrent. For example, it forswears the design and manufacture of any new nuclear weapons; precludes underground testing of the obsolescing U.S. arms; and pledges to “devalue” the nuclear deterrence mission.

Most senators - like most Americans - have the good sense to think the United States should maintain a viable deterrent. As a result, these sorts of proposals would be unlikely to command majority support, let alone the supermajority the Constitution requires to ratify New START.

So, Team Obama is coming up with just about any other rationale to justify its insistence that the Senate vote on the treaty before Christmas. These include claims that the accord will help dissuade would-be proliferators to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions and the assertion that U.S. international leadership is on the line.

The administration’s flacks are particularly insistent that the urgency derives from the fact that, without New START’s monitoring arrangements, we won’t know what the Russians are up to. They warn darkly that, while bilateral relations with the Kremlin have been productively “reset,” the sky will fall if ratification is not forthcoming over the next three weeks.

Like so much of the Obama administration’s handiwork, none of these propositions stands up. As a new series of videos by the Center for Security Policy (securefreedom.org) makes clear, our enemies are emboldened by what they perceive as U.S. weakness, not induced to emulate it. Our leadership is far more likely to be taken seriously if we are seen as providing a credible deterrent than if we are cutting it so deeply as to invite China to become a peer superpower. And the Kremlin’s denizens cannot be both reliable partners for peace and disposed, as ever, to cheat on treaties.

The administration’s hope for pulling off this bait-and-switch seems likely to come down to one hackneyed gambit: The say-so of an array of prominent endorsers whose past titles, celebrity and self-importance is intended to dissuade senators from doing their own due diligence. Former Presidents Bush 41 and 43 are currently being importuned to join in playing this unseemly role.

The gambit only works, however, if legislators are willing to vote on the basis of political cover rather than facts. Opting for the former would require them to ignore the recommendation of their colleague, Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Will they also disregard Senate Majority Whip Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican? He is rightly worried that the Obama administration’s fixation with denuclearizing will undermine Team Obama’s promises to fund modernization measures at odds with its own agenda, all in the hope of securing Mr. Kyl’s influential vote.

If the handful of swing senators who will decide whether the Senate rubber-stamps New START are going to take counsel from anyone, they would be well advised to heed not only these two distinguished colleagues, but also the views of past colleagues and future ones: A bipartisan group of 15 former senators recently wrote Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada stating it would be unprecedented to consider an arms-control treaty during a truncated lame-duck session. And, 11 newly elected senators added their own letter arguing against “yesterday’s Senate” taking up the issue instead of tomorrow’s, on whose watch it would be implemented.

There will be plenty of time next year to review, debate and make improvements to the treaty. And that is precisely what Mr. Obama wants to preclude. The Senate must not fall for it again.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program, Secure Freedom Radio, heard in Washington weeknights at 9 p.m. on WRC 1260 AM.

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