The New START treaty has passed its tipping point. The majority of living former secretaries of state, secretaries of defense, and national security advisors are now on record that New START strengthens U.S. national security. That is 13 out of 24. None has opposed the treaty. It is time for the Senate to approve this new security agreement.
Last week, thirty national security luminaries - including Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, Chuck Hagel, Bill Cohen, Lee Hamilton, Thomas Kean - enthusiastically gave their bipartisan support for the New START Treaty as a "necessary and appropriate step toward safeguarding our national security."
These leaders emphasized the benefits of the treaty's prudent reductions in nuclear arms and its tough inspection regime. They made clear that the treaty does not inhibit America's ability to maintain an effective nuclear arsenal or deploy missile defense systems.
This statement, announced with an ad in Politico by the bipartisan Partnership for a Secure America, added to the growing consensus of former U.S. officials that support the treaty. Ploughshares Fund was pleased to support this effort.
Mass of Support
Over the last eight weeks, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on New START with six senior officials from past administrations. While each statesman gave the Committee a unique perspective on New START, all of them supported the treaty.
- Former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger said, "I think it is obligatory for the United States to ratify."
- Former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said, "I think the treaty should be ratified and it'll make a modest but useful contribution in this overall process."
- Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry said, "I believe that this treaty does advance American security objectives."
- Former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft said, "I support ratification of the treaty."
- Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said, "In my view, the agreement is a modest step forward."
- Former Secretary of State James Baker said the treaty "appears to take our country in a direction that can enhance our national security while at the same time reducing the number of nuclear warheads on the planet."
This is in addition to the support from Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the treaty has the full support of our uniformed military:
"This treaty enhances our ability to do that which we have been charged to do: protect and defend the citizens of the United States. I am as confident in its success as I am in its safeguards."
Getting Lonely on the Far Right
With such overwhelming bipartisan support from America's top civilian and military officials and former national security leaders, it has been hard for the determined critics to scrape together experts beyond the fringe.
Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) - the only U.S. Senator to publicly oppose the treaty - lamented this very situation, saying, "Seventeen witnesses so far, no witnesses in opposition to it." He added, "I don't know who thinks that can be reasonable."
The opposition's problem is not that the Senate is being lead astray. In committee hearings, supporters of the treaty did not pull their punches. They noted areas where they wished the treaty had gone further. The far right is simply having trouble objecting to what is an extremely reasonable and widely supported treaty with clear benefits for American national security.
It's down to politics. The only reason to oppose this treaty is political gamesmanship on the eve of elections--to deny the administration a victory. This would sacrifice our national security for narrow, partisan gain.
It is time for a vote.
The Senate should bring the New START treaty to the floor before it breaks for August recess. As it does, Senators would be wise to heed the words of Secretary James Baker.
"It is important that nuclear weapons treaties have the broadest bipartisan support possible so that leaders in Moscow and other international capitals understand that our country wholeheartedly supports the treaty."
The Senate supported START I by a vote of 93 to 6 and START II, 87 to 4. New START has proved it is a worthy successor to these Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush agreements. The Senate should approve it with equally high support.
This article was co-authored by Ploughshares Fund Communications Associate Benjamin Loehrke.