Blame it on Dick Lugar. He provided Barack Obama with living proof that a Republican could work towards a bipartisan end with a Democrat. The most senior senator of his party, he’s the last of a dying breed — a Republican who’s both willing to meet the Democrats halfway and actually work with them. Lugar, of course, is most noted for the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that he sponsored in 1992 along with former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn.
Its purpose was to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union states in accordance with disarmament treaties such as SALT II. To give you an example of how positive a force a Republican can be, this program has eliminated 6,312 nuclear warheads — and that’s just the tip of its iceberg. Of course, the recent, regressed breed of feral Republicans claim that the program only frees up Russian money for new weapons programs. Perhaps, but at least they’re conventional weapons.
Meanwhile, the program is still notching up successes. Global Security Newswire reports:
The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction program eliminated eight submarine-launched. . . and one land-based [ballistic missiles] last month, [Lugar] announced yesterday. … Each weapon was designed to carry as many as 10 independently targeted warheads. [In other words, one warhead = 10 targets. — RW]
To continue to see the fruits of yours labors — ridding the world of these vile, nasty weapons — at age 77 is sure to yield Lugar satisfaction unavailable to many of his generation. It’s got to be bitter for aged Americans who helped power their country to unprecedented heights of prosperity and influence to be exiting the stage of life on a national down note of unimaginable cacophony.
As if Cooperative Threat Reduction weren’t enough, in 2005 Sen. Lugar provided an encore — which is what may have seduced then-Senator Obama into thinking he could work with Republicans. The two men sponsored the Lugar-Obama nonproliferation initiative, which while not as groundbreaking as Nunn-Lugar, is a program that’s enjoyed a measure of success destroying conventional weapons stockpiles as well as detecting and intercepting weapons of mass destruction throughout the world.
Thus it was somewhat surprising when, on September 30, Lugar differed with Obama over an WMD issue — missile defense. He stated in a speech that the White House’s decision to scrap plans for missile defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic was, among other things, “unfortunate.” Lugar may be reasonable and cooperative, but he may also be just as susceptible as the next Republican to Saint Ronnie’s dream of angels unfurling a shield across the heavens to protect the shining city down below.
However, Lugar included comments not often voiced by Republicans. The
“Iranian missiles never constituted the primary rationale for Polish and Czech decisions to buy into the Bush administration’s plan.” He said Poland and the Czech Republic signed on to the plan. . . because of a “waning confidence” in the resolve of [NATO] to protect its members.
In fact, 22 former Central and Eastern European expressed their doubts about NATO in an open letter they wrote to the Obama administration in July. Excerpts:
Central and Eastern Europe is at a political crossroads and today there is a growing sense of nervousness in the region. [Regarding the Russo-Georgian war many] countries were deeply disturbed to see the Atlantic alliance stand by as Russia violated the core principles of [treaties] and the territorial integrity of a country that was a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. [In their opinion. — RW]
NATO today seems weaker than when we joined. In many of our countries. … people question whether NATO would be willing and able to come to our defense in some future crises.
Once again, the United States is the defender of first and last resort. What’s curious is that Poland and the Czech Republic agree with Russia that the proposed missile defense installation, despite the United States claims its for defense from Iran, was intended to ward off Russian missiles. Yet Poland and the Czech Republic, not to mention Russia, are certainly aware that the system is too rinky-dink to protect them from Russian missiles, much less Iranian. Maybe to Poland and the Czech Republic, it was symbolic of a commitment to their defense on the part of the United States, as opposed to NATO.
Missile Defense Who Art in Heaven, Deliver Us From Evil
While Lugar is one of the last thinking-man Republicans, Frank Gaffney is one of the barbarians at the gate. (Actually, like most Republicans, he’s well situated inside the gates. It’s just that, at the moment, with the Democrats in power, he’s excluded from the inner sanctum.) You may be familiar with Gaffney from his appearances on MSNBC’s Hardball, where host Chris Matthews heaps indignities on him.
Assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during the Reagan administration, he founded and serves as president of the Center for Security Policy. If it was up to me, I’d ignore the likes of him. But ever since John Kerry attempted to remain above the Swiftboat fray and got torpedoed for it, progressive orthodoxy mandates that we need to strike back post haste. (Not that it isn’t fun.)
Convinced that Iran will soon have nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them, Gaffney believes that missile defense is needed to protect our allies. When extreme-right website Newsmax interviewed him recently, he said of Iran: “Theocratic mullahs are in charge and they are pursuing their same responsibilities to wage jihad against the infidel [West].”
Shia (most of Iran’s Muslims) are seldom portrayed as waging jihad — that’s the Sunni’s death trip. Gaffney doesn’t know that? He continues:
“The missiles they are developing, which will soon be able to have nuclear warheads, are designed for the purpose of waging destruction, apocalyptically in fact, on a scale that is unprecedented.
Here we go with the waging again. But “wage destruction”? While, it’s true that Shia are at least as capable of thinking in apocalyptic terms as Sunnis, one wages war or a campaign — or jihad — not destruction.
Furthermore, what makes the scale on which Iran would “wage destruction” “unprecedented”? Their future atomic arsenal would be puny compared to ours and others. Does Gaffney mean the scale would be unprecedented simply because its yield would be greater than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs? Because he’s got no other hostile nuclear explosions to which to compare it.
Sure, Gaffney is speaking off the cuff. The interviewer could have followed up and clarified his points, though. But it might not have played as well at Newsmax then. As for the Obama administration shooting down missile defense for Poland and the Czech Republic, Gaffney said:
“[They] were designed to protect us in the United States as well against longer-range missiles that are also now coming into the Iranian arsenal. … It is the height of folly to be. . . leaving us, as well as those allies, naked to these sorts of threats.”
It’s the height of folly to imagine Iranian missiles reaching U.S. soil. Again, I’m teasing. I think he means U.S. bases in Europe, but he was only too happy to infer, presumably for the Newsmax crowd again, that Iran’s missiles could reach the United States.
Meanwhile, Max Boot, who’s been able to express his militaristic conservatism with enough dexterity to be invited to join the Council of Foreign Relations, understands that “it will be a while before Iran has longer-range missiles capable of hitting Europe.” In a blog for Commentary he writes of Russia’s concerns about missile defense:
How a purely defensive system could threaten another country remains to be understood. The Russians apparently think they have a divine right to threaten Europe with nuclear annihilation and anything that interferes with this is “destabilizing.”
Boot is yet another conservative who’s willfully ignorant about how missile defense threatens the balance of nuclear power. To review: It’s commonly accepted that if (in some distant day) the United States deployed a missile defense system in Europe or at home that was effective against Russia with its massive nuclear program, Russia couldn’t help but conclude that our ulterior motive was to launch a nuclear first strike with no fear of a counterattack because we’re protected by missile defense.
Worse, Boot maintains that Obama bowed to Putin’s demands and that he’s sending. . .
“a dangerous signal of irresoluteness and weakness — similar to the signal another young president sent when he met with a Russian leader in Vienna in 1961. Nikita Khrushchev emerged from his summit with John F. Kennedy convinced that the president was “very inexperienced, even immature” and that he could be rolled. We all know the result: the Cuban Missile Crisis.
But why stop at Boot? What about thriller author and New York Post columnist Ralph Peters? You remember him: Back in June he set off a firestorm when he not only intimated that Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by the Taliban, had actually deserted but that the Taliban should execute him for his offense.
But in a recent New York Post piece, he experienced a rare moment of lucidity when he wrote of missile defense:
It’s not just the left that damages our defense. … I, for one, never believed this was the right system at the right place and time. … But conservatives who believe that any hyperexpensive weapon system deserves automatic support shoved it down our throats and those of our allies. [But now, we can’t] hang the East Europeans out to dry after strong-arming them for commitments.
In fact, he thinks Obama’s decision to abandon missile defense went beyond hanging the East Europeans out to dry to “cutting the throats of Poland and the Czech Republic, [thus handing] Moscow’s hard-liners their biggest win since the collapse of the Soviet Union. … Now add Poland and the Czech Republic to the list of allies, such as Israel and Honduras, that we’ve thrown to the wolves.
From “hanging out to dry” to “cutting their throats” to “throwing them to the wolves.” Never let it be said that Ralph Peters is incapable of colorful writing. In the end, he echoes Boot: “But the worst thing is how. … Putin. . . sees this as a triumph of his will over Obama’s weak, retreating US.”
With conservative members of congress digging in their heels on health-care reform, Lugar’s defection, and, between Frank Gaffney, Max Boot, and Ralph Peters, what passes for expert foreign-policy analysis, maybe Obama will finally admit how chimerical bipartisanship is.
First posted at the Faster Times.