Pulling Out All the Stops for New START

November 19, 2010

Pulling Out All the Stops for New START

New START is stirring up a lot of news again, but not on the newspaper op-ed pages. First, there's former–Army colonel and chief Guantánamo prosecutor Morris Davis, who writes in the New York Times about U.S. embassy bomber Ahmed Ghailani's recent conviction on only one of 285 counts of conspiracy and murder. Morris refutes the idea that a military commission would have produced a better result and calls on President Obama to "stand up to the fear-mongers who want to take us back to the wrong side of history." (There's a reason he's a former–Army chief prosecutor.)

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson unsurprisingly takes the opposite side, but he's blaming Attorney General Eric Holder, saying the left and the right agree that Holder's been a mess and "such bipartisanship should not go to waste." (Get it?)

Also in the Post, former diplomat Morton Abramowitz warns that Darfur is getting "the short end of the stick" as the world focuses on Sudan's possible bifurcation after the referendum in January because Khartoum, after losing the South, will seek "to solidify its hold on Darfur through violence." (For more on the Sudanese split, read J. Peter Pham's online article for TNI.)

And John Bolton has two of his favorite targets in his sights in the Wall Street Journal: President Obama and the United Nations (where he used to be U.S. ambassador). He thinks the president's endorsement of India for a seat on the Security Council "could harm bilateral relations" by getting New Delhi's hopes up because there's no concrete plan in place—Washington has supported seats for Japan and Germany for decades now, with no result.

Now back to arms control. Blogs are buzzing about Obama's decision—announced Thursday in a "treaty blitz"—to confront GOP lawmakers in a "make or break" confrontation over the New START agreement with Moscow. He gathered a bipartisan platoon of big names at the White House (who could resist the pictures of Henry Kissinger sitting next to the president?) to push for the treaty's ratification, warning that failing to do so could impair Russian cooperation on stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions. But, alas, so far only one Republican currently serving in the upper chamber—Senator Richard Lugar—supports the atomic pact.

Mark Kleiman predicts the Republicans will choose to help Iran over the White House. Les Gelb writes that the reasons for GOP opposition are "silly," and are designed to deny the president a political victory "even if it means jeopardizing U.S. national security." Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall fault the administration for "massive messaging fail" for not emphasizing that "we'll lose our ability to verify Russian nukes completely" if the agreement is not approved. Susie Madrak thinks the president must be a slow learner by trying to get the Republicans on board because they "don't care about the country. They care about winning."

No More Mister Nice Blog is miffed that of all the big issues out there "this is the one that gets an all-stops-out public campaign." Here at The National Interest online, Paul Saunders argues that the military-arsenal-focused New START isn't as important as making progress on U.S.-Russia civilian nuclear cooperation. And don't forget to check out TNI's interview with arms-control negotiator Ambassador Richard Burt, who says blocking New START is a terrible idea.