Sure, none of them did much good. George Kennan and David Lilienthal on the H-Bomb, George Ball, Chester Bowles, Adlai Stevenson in various crises – all failed, all were derided. I know. But, I still want to be President Obama’s resident dissident. Should be simple. I’m used to non-profit salaries and come cheap. And I once had a top secret clearance before protesting the Vietnam War as an active duty Army Captain. Call me.
Take the recent maneuver by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ). He milks all the dough he can get for nuclear weapons out of playing hard to get on the new START Treaty. Then he humiliates the President by blocking the Treaty at the last minute. Kyl, an unctuous, oily, smarmy, yet smooth right-wing nut, has been playing this game since he was a Congressman back in the 20th Century. I and other arms control lobbyists watched him play the same self-aggrandizing game over Star Wars as he wasted eons of floor debate, billions of our tax dollars, and undermined national security.
So what does President Obama do? He wraps himself in the old national security establishment at a White House event — as if any American under eighty knows who George Schultz is. Obama’s frame is that he’s defending our national security (and underlining his own lack of defense cred by surrounding himself with Generals and former Secretaries of Defense). And that he is in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and “Trust, but verify!” Man, does this guy need a dissident at his table!
Mr. President, stop pussyfooting. Jon Kyl is a subversive, unpatriotic, anti-American guy who is being allowed to threaten American lives. Call him out. Tell him to resign. Get mad. Mr. Kyl does not understand the “aloha” spirit or Gandhi.
The bigger issue here than the counting and verifying of missiles, though that is important, is the wreckage of our “reset” of relations with Russia. Tell the public that Putin and his gang have helped us with the war in Afghanistan, stopped deals with Iran. We want these guys on our side, not against us in wartime. That Kyl would seek to wreck this growing cooperation with Russia while American lives are being lost is damned near treasonous. The more you knuckle under to these guys, the more they’ll take. It’s time for “Tear Down This Wall!” not “Trust, But Verify.” Or, even better. “This will not Stand.”
What Americans admire is character, principle, toughness (under lots of geniality and jokes) and the sense that you will fight. The new Congress is already licking their chops. They will attack and investigate you. How about a preemptive strike before they launch.
Robert K. Musil is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Relations, American University, and the former CEO of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility.