The Elections, The Crazies, and Our National Security

Congress has gone home to politics and Washington is holding its breath awaiting the results. The question many experts are asking is whether the new Congress will reflect the perspectives of what I call the “crazies” or whether rational heads might prevail either in the ‘Lame Duck” session or in 2011 with the new Congress.

The issue here is whether we are more or less likely to address our global and other challenges and risks in a constructive and cooperative way or simply revert to the extreme partisanship and obstructionism we have seen by the Republican leadership and their right wing ideologues? Or will it be even worse? A policy to destroy Obama and his reelection is not a good basis for assuring our national security is safeguarded.

The issues before us are many and complex. Among the problems are:

New START Treaty

We will likely have on the agenda a move to vote in the Senate on the ratification of the New START treaty which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a bipartisan vote, but was held from a floor vote because there may not have been the super majority needed to pass it.  Delay is dangerous to our national security since we lack any verification mechanisms from past or future nuclear agreements.  The implications of delay or even worse, not ratifying the treaty, are frightening. This serves as a prime example of those who would put our national interest in jeopardy to politically attack on Obama.

The failure of ratification has other implications for our relationship with Russia. Some pertinent issues include dealing with “Loose Nukes,” tactical nuclear weapons, and moving on issues that are confidence building and lessening the danger of mistakes.  Russia has been helpful by canceling the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran and recently they’ve supported us in the UN Security Council on issues dealing with sanctioning Iran’s nuclear program.

When will Republican leaders in Congress act as “patriots?” Have they forgotten that Democrats supported Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I and II arms control and non-proliferation agreements? Military chiefs active and retired, former Democratic and Republican secretaries of Defense and State as well as National Security Advisors have all strongly endorsed the treaty.

The question is whether the addition of the “Tea Party” crazies to the Senate will make any of the more responsible Republican Senators even less likely to do the “right thing” for our nation.

Afghanistan

In December there will be a review of the U.S. Afghanistan strategy.  There will be an assessment if it is working and if not what to do.  Obama should ask tough questions and not accept what the war advocates say at face value, especially the endless war option. Obama needs to find a better strategy that includes a region-wide political solution.  Yet what will be the perspective of the new Republican members? Will they become increasingly hawkish or will they advocate a kind of mindless isolationism or perhaps a bit of both? What may be frightening from my perspective is almost all of the pro “Tea Party” candidates are lacking any deep understanding of the world, strategic issues, or even a rational approach to problem solving.

Defense Budget and Strategic Review

By not passing the Defense authorization or appropriations bills we will see another tug-of-war regarding the future of our defense and foreign policy strategy. Will we foster careful examination and fair debate or promote political posturing and deadlock? As with the British Defense review and budget will decisions be made based on real world conditions and prioritized threats or will they be reduced to ideological food fights to receive pork and money for their constituents?

These are especially difficult times for our nation and we need better and deeper decision making process on serious issues but it seems that we are likely to get more mindless and irrational posturing which puts us and our allies at risk.

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