Rifting over New START

The rift between Republicans over the New START arms-control agreement with Moscow is all over the op-ed pages. On the one side, foreign-policy blue bloods and former–Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell (who also helped President Obama stump for the treaty Wednesday at the White House) combine forces in the Washington Post to make the case for GOP support of the treaty. Republicans, led by Nixon, Reagan and George H. W. Bush, have "long" been at the forefront when it comes to arms control, they write. Calling it a "modest and appropriate continuation" of START I, they encourage bipartisan ratification, as "administration officials have provided reasonable answers" to Republican concerns. The most important reasons for ratification, they say, are that the pact will provide "a valuable window into Russia's nuclear arsenal"; it does not hinder America's ability to deploy missile-defense systems; and funding for modernization of the U.S. nuclear stockpile is part of the package. The all-star team finishes it up with a plea to put aside domestic concerns and "focus on national security."

On the other side of the ledger, influential neoconservatives Ed Meese and Richard Pearle ask in the Wall Street Journal, "What Would Reagan Do?" (Not, apparently, what the four former–Reagan administration officials above counsel.) They say the former president "would never have supported" New START, which they claim has an "inadequate" verification regime, gives Moscow "unwarranted influence" over the structure of U.S. nuclear forces and "will almost certainly reduce" America's missile-defense capabilities. And, on top of all that, they write that the White House is trying to push the treaty through during a lame-duck session of Congress, "dominated by a party that was rebuked at the polls," which is "a tactic Reagan surely would have deplored." These two ex-Reagan officials call President Obama's invocation of the Gipper's memory to garner support for the treaty "a brazen act of misappropriation."