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marinelife's avatar

Why would someone oppose the START treaty?

Asked by marinelife (62244points) December 21st, 2010

For the life of me, I cannot see why lawmakers are failing to ratify the START treaty.

Or why Republican lawmakers oppose it?

Can someone enlighten me?

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55 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I have very little idea of what is in the treaty, but I wonder what we stand to gain from it. What do the Russians have to offer us that makes opening new treaty talks with them in our interest? It’s not like the Armageddon Clock of the 1980s is set at 11:59 PM and ticking, as it was always portrayed then. The Soviet Union is no more, and we and Russia are no longer ‘enemies’ as we were then.

What’s the point?

jlelandg's avatar

From Googling the usual suspects that would disagree with Obama, I think the general idea is that China, N. Korea, etc aren’t decreasing their number of arms, so why should we?

marinelife's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Russia is still enemy enough. Also, with a lessening of power of their central government, it lessens their control over their nuclear arsenal. Dismantling the latter has important safety ramifications.

Cruiser's avatar

There is a faction of Republican senators that feel there is language in the bill that will inhibit our ability to develop and deploy missile defense programs and other Senators that feel having an approved spending bill on how to fund the Government should take priority.

The reality is Russia needs this more than we do as having to continue to match our nuclear arsenal is and has been what has been wiping out their Government funds over the years. Cutting their defense spending would be a God-send to them and I’m sure Obama has some back room deal laid out in return for this treaty at least I would expect so.

I’m sure there are some hard core conservatives as well as their defense contractor constituents that would rather bleed Russia more by continuing our missile programs.

marinelife's avatar

@jlelandg I think it is that we can still decrease our arsenal a lot and have plenty for North Korea and China.

marinelife's avatar

@Cruiser I doubt their motives. i think they want to keep Russia’s arsenal large so that our has to stay large.

jlelandg's avatar

@marinelife just reporting what I read.

marinelife's avatar

@jlelandg No problem. Thank you for the info.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

If you’re asking “Why would Republican senators block or delay passage of the START treaty?” then that’s a different question. That’s just the typical business-as-usual Washington political game: figure what your opponent wants and threaten to delay or oppose that until he gives you what you want. (And on the other side, float something like this to see what the opposition puts up as their top ‘wish list’ item, to get an idea of where your strength lays.)

Nothing unusual in any of that. I doubt that either side cares a great deal one way or the other about START, as a matter of fact.

tedd's avatar

The last 3 Republican secretaries of states, secretaries of war, and last two Republican presidents support the treaty. The first START treaty was put forward by Reagan. There is no reason to oppose it, other than to try and steal a victory away from Obama, or to hold up legislation in order to get something you want in return.

And @cyanoticWasps first post…. Right now, today, it would take around 60 or 70 nuclear war heads, to COMPLETELY wipe out civilization. You could wipe out half the population win the initial blasts, and the rest would die from fallout and a blocked out sun….. the US and Russia have a combined 7000 active nuclear weapons. Almost 30,000 if you throw in the inactive….. What happens when someone steals a couple?

This treaty is a god send.

filmfann's avatar

The agreement is good, but you have to be able to trust the other side, and of course we don’t.

tedd's avatar

@filmfann Thats why we should be signing it. It includes inspections agreements, which expired with the last START treaty last year. In other words for the last 20 years we had people on the ground in Russia keeping an eye on their nukes….. and now we don’t.

Judi's avatar

To deprive Obama of the right to claim it as a success. Especially while the democrats control congress.

janbb's avatar

There is a large nuclear arsenal in Russia that is unsupervised and hard to control and it is definitely in our interest to reduce both theirs and ours. I believe McConnell and others are being deliberately obstructionist; Michael Mullen and others in the military have supported the treaty. I hope enough Republicans are willing to buck the party leaders.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Pure obstructionism is right. If a Democrat came up with a cure for cancer, the Republicans would be screaming that it’s every person’s right to have cancer if they want to.

Jaxk's avatar

I think @Cruiser gave a good summary. I can’t for the life of me understand why we would want to limit or eliminate our development of missile defense. N.Korea is blustering and Iran is developing Nukes, missile defense is the most logical means of reducing that threat. Why would we want to give that option away? If you agree with the notion of limiting our offensive nuclear arsenal (I do) what kind of idiot would tie that to defense capabilities?

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk There is nothing whatsoever in the treaty regarding missile defense. Its a red herring the Republicans pulled out to not look like total idiots. Various diplomats, generals, Russians even… have all stated this treaty will have no effect on our missile defense plans.

In fact, there has been talk of including Russia in the missile defense network of late.

Jaxk's avatar

So if that’s the case either remove the paragraph or declare it doesn’t restrict our ability to develop defense capabilities. The paragraph in question does seem to tie missile defense to the offensive nuclear weapons. Ambiguous at best.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk President Obama declared it doesn’t effect our ability in a personal letter to Senator McConnell. The Russian President has also publicly stated it does not effect our missile defense plans.

And have you read the paragraph? They’re complaining because it doesn’t explicitly say that our missile defense program is separate from our nuclear weapons. Last time I checked, there were no nuclear weapons being used in the missile defense program. Thats like saying this treaty limits our ability to make tanks. Its a STUPID argument, and the only reason its being brought up (despite having been proven wrong by multiple sources, including former secretaries of war under Republicans and the Pentagon, and Russia, and everyone not in the Senate with an R next to their name) is because the Republicans are playing politics.

Jaxk's avatar


Yes, I have read the paragraph and I can’t understand why it’s there. It definitely ties the Offensive and defensive strategic arms together. To what point? And just for the record, Obama saying “nah Uh” is not proof it’s wrong.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk When I’ve got every living secretary of war and state and president… along with the VAST majority of former senators, dignitaries, generals, the pentagon, etc, etc all telling me this is a good treaty and it doesn’t in any way hamper our missile defense program…... You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that it does based on the statements of 30 some odd Republican senators, who have proven time and time again they will vote against ANYTHING Obama tries to do.

This is sour grapes and politics…. nothing more.

Jaxk's avatar

Sounds like your point is to paint any opposition as political gamesmanship. That may have some validity on several fronts. I also wonder why we had to wait til the lame duck session to push this. It was signed in April. Is there a piece of political gamesmanship going on here?

And I think Obama has proven that whatever he tries to do is suspect. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk You think that because you are very clearly of polar opposite views compared to Obama. I could easily find a bunch of people who would say the same about Bush or any current Republicans. The treaty was put on the back of the senate agenda like everything else, it just took that long to finally get to it. They started debating it this last fall, they had multiple committee’s discuss it. It was put on the back burner for the election and the run up campaigning, and brought back out to finish during the lame duck. The effort to finish during the lame duck seems to be because enough Republicans are so blinded by their own idiocy and political games, that it may not pass if it waits til the next session.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Whenever I see evidence of VAST agreement on the part of any group of current or past politicians I check my ammunition, lock the doors and hide my wallet and my dog.

VAST agreement among politicians generally indicates some sort of shell game and does not bode well for me.

Jaxk's avatar


I know we are of opposing opinions on most of the Obama agenda. I also know that Obama has used this trick of urgency a bit too often. I also know that if someone tells me to sign quickly, I need to take my time. All of this makes me suspicious.

The Democrats have had control of all the committees and controlled what comes to a vote and what doesn’t. If there was urgency it would have been pushed to a vote long ago. This all takes me back to that paragraph that ties the missile defense to offensive strategic arms. Why in hell are we tying those together? It gets curiouser and curiouser.

Qingu's avatar

Hi @Jaxk,

please quote the relevant portion of the treaty that limits our ability to construct missile defense.

It appears you are bearing false witness.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk The paragraph is just being falsely interpreted by a handful of Republicans. Obama may not be your biggest icon right now, but he doesn’t hate America or want us to be less safe. In fact if I’m not mistaken he pushed Russia to get the missile defense grid in east europe going again in the first place. They aren’t tying them together, you’ve been suckered by politics my friend.

Jaxk's avatar


My first impulse was to merely drag up the paragraph and give you a link. And without that last sentence I would have. But since you choose to call me a liar without even reading it, do your own homework.

Jaxk's avatar


Maybe I have but maybe you have. It’s all in the interpretation. Russia obviously doesn’t want any changes, they’ve said so. The interpretations of this sentence leave a lot of wiggleroom:

“Recognizing the existence of the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms, that this interrelationship will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced”

And frankly Obama is the one that killed the missile defense systems in Eastern Europe to begin with. With no concessions from Russia, I might add.

meiosis's avatar

I think the answer is that the United States of America is a nauseating hypocrite when it comes to nuclear weapons. Do as we tell you, not as we do seems to be the watchword. Which is rich, especially coming from the only country to actually use them, and given that the USA’s short-sighted foreign-policy adventurism has actively encouraged nuclear proliferation

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk He didn’t kill it, he tabled it in order to improve relations with Russia. Now our relations are improving so much they want to sign a treaty reducing nuclear arms for the first time since the late 80’s, and they’re about to let us start sending supplies to Afghanistan through their territory. Oh and that missile defense grid…. hey turns out Russia wants in on it now.

Sounds like its going pretty well to me.

Also, the word interrelationship, does not imply that offensive and defensive arms are the same…..... it implies that they are related to one another, intertwined, correlated. My car is not the same thing as the road it drives on, but they have an interrelationship.

Qingu's avatar

@Jaxk, Obama is still building a missile defense shield for Europe.

He tabled the one Bush was working on not only to improve relationships with the Russians but because it would not have worked.

Do you know anything about missile defense? In particular that most missile defense systems are basically crackpot designs that do not generally work in the real world?

Cruiser's avatar

Follow the money people. Defense spending is big business for US companies like Boeing Co., Raytheon Co., Northrop Grumman Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp. who spend lots of money backing the current administration (as in any current administration). Campaign donations for both the Dems and Repubs in the last election was near split down the middle with these companies but some things to stand out within this current administration.

First is the amount of lobbying these companies do involves some serious coin…

“Northrop Grumman spent over $20 million in 2008, hiring lobbyists to influence Congress, and Raytheon spent $6 million on lobbyists in the same period.”

But what really stood out was this…
“Obama nominated Raytheon’s senior vice president for government operations and strategy, William Lynn, for the number two position in the Pentagon.” Obama’s #2 guy in the Defense Department was VP of a massive defense contractor who will benefit greatly from a missile defense system we really don’t need. Here is why.

Russia is broke and can’t even afford to make 2 warheads a year. We throw up a missile defense that can (in theory) negate half of their warhead inventory in a tacticle exchange of missiles and we now have Russia and it’s allies by the short hairs and force them to make more warheads with money they don’t have. But why spend this money at all in the first place?? We have a relatively strong relationship with Russia as it stands and the MDS will only put Russia further into a subordinate position and they will have to make some strategic deals with less than savory countries that will only further this game of brinkmanship that really doesn’t have to happen given the current threat levels. Plus the MSD puts Pakistan on the map which pisses of India and a bigger bullseye on Israel in the process. The only clear winner in all of this is the US military defense contractors and the politicians who bank lots of donation cash.

Also meet I’d like you to meet Mr. Riki Elison he is CEO of his MDAA which is a “non-profit organization which seeks to generate public support for the continued testing, development and deployment of missile defense systems to protect our country and our allies.”

Bloomberg did a nice expose on him which further illustrates why there is so much corporate backing this START treaty (and I know how much my Jellies love corporate political campaigns. donations)

Here is a snip from the article…

“Following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, Ellison, a registered lobbyist, formed his organization to work for the deployment of a missile defense system.

It is funded by about 9,000 private donors, defense contractors and others interested in missile defense. He wouldn’t identify them.

Follow the money people….it’s all about the money. I smell pork and lots of it.

Qingu's avatar

Wouldn’t these firms make more money if they were allowed to make more launchers?

Cruiser's avatar

@Qingu Only if we violate our treaties with Russia. START is all about reducing stockpiles. Hence the need for a new excuse to spend tax dollars with these companies.

Qingu's avatar

@Cruiser, I’m confused what your’e suggesting. You’re saying that these companies support START on the expectation that we’ll violate the treaty and create an even worse arms race that they’d profit from?

Cruiser's avatar

@Qingu No not at all remember START has no clause that would hinder the MDS and that I am sure was no accident. This IMO is why there is so much Bruhaha from the Repubs who may feel threatened that a robust MDS program would provide strong corporate to Dems who help make this program happen! So the Repubs want to delay this bill until next year when they have stronger control in Congress to steer the money their way is what I think all this fuss is about.

Jaxk's avatar


Given our different perspectives on this, agreement will be difficult. But if you want to understand what Interrelationship means in this context you have to look back at the past arguments from Russian officials. Your car and road analogy not withstanding.

During the Clinton and the Bush years, Russia has repeatedly argued that limiting Missile Defense and Nuclear Offensive weapons are tied together. Their argument seems to be that if we both limit our offensive weapons but the US develops a substantial defensive capability, it would alter the balance of power. Therefore the Missile Defense must also be limited. Limited to such an extent that we should only be able to take 10–20 of their nuclear missiles should a attack take place. There is a report to congress from 2002 that outlines a great deal of their arguments and puts it in a good historical reference.

As for the rest of this, Russia has been wanting a joint missile defense system all along. Hell why wouldn’t they. They get to see our technology and know what we’re doing. Also they don’t have to invest nearly as much so it’s a free ride for them. The question is ‘Why would we want to do this’. Both Clinton and Bush wouldn’t do it.

So as far as I can see, through an incredible negotiating feat, Obama has given Russia everything they have been wanting for the past 20 years. How the hell did he get them to agree to that?

I hope you read the report, it is quite interesting.

tedd's avatar

@Cruiser Ok lets assume for the moment that our missile defense shield could stop half of the entire Russian arsenal of nukes, some 3500+ active, 9000 more in reserve…....... They would need about 60 of those to wipe out civilization and plunge the planet into a post apocalyptic state….... How many is half of just 3500?

This of course ignoring that all our research with the missile defense shield (its still in research stages) show it to be incredibly ineffective.

The whole thing is a sham. And considering how much it costs us to just maintain our current stockpile…. its a crying shame this is even up for debate.

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk The original START treaties, made with help by Ronald Reagan himself… the man who CAME UP with the missile defense shield (Star Wars shield or whatever as it was called back then) wrote similar wording into the original treaties.

Clinton and Bush never pursued getting them written separately cuz NEITHER OF THEM MADE A START TREATY WITH THE RUSSIANS.

Furthermore, Clinton tabled the entire missile defense system, because it was explained to him for what it was… A great idea, without nearly the technology available yet to implement it. Bush knew the same thing. He only reenacted the program after 9–11…. and for all the talk about it, isn’t it funny that for the most part its sat idle while congress debates how to do it without angering Russia? Seven years seems like ample time to set it up…..

You have swallowed Republican propaganda on this one hook line and sinker.

Cruiser's avatar

@tedd You just made my point that this is just a way to keep the cash cow alive for the Defense contractors. With a scaled back conflict in the Middle East a lot of people will be soon out of work unless a MDS can get on the books in Washington. Plus the last thing BO needs is more jobs lost.

Jaxk's avatar


Can I assume by you posts that you now see how this can limit our missile defense? You seem to say as much, hell even the Huffington Post calls it a Missile Defense Treaty.

You seem to believe that our missile defense system is crap. OK maybe it’s not all we would like it to be. But why would we want to eliminate any opportunity to improve it. We’ve got Iran on the brink of developing nukes, and publicly stating their desire to share that technology with countries like Nigeria. We’ve got N.Korea not only with nukes but threatening to use them. In the face of that You don’t think we should try to improve our defense capabilities. Hell, why don’t we just paint a target on our back.

Then of course you complain that congress argued over how to enact a treaty that might be in our best interest, without angering Russia. And you applaud Obama’s ability to do it by giving Russia everything they wanted.

I’m sorry, I don’t have a problem reducing the nuclear arsenal but I’d kind of like to have the ability to defend ourselves. If they believe they can’t hurt us, they’re less likely to try. And according to the Russians, they seem to think more of our defense capability than you do. And personally, I’d like to see it improve.

Cruiser's avatar

I’m sorry this took so long but IMO this article snip sums up what Russia thinks of this in Russia’s own thoughts and words…

Why Russia Fears Ballistic Missile Defense

“Mikhail Barabanov, editor of Arms Export magazine, appeared to argue that Russia should rely much more on its strategic clout as the world’s greatest energy exporter of oil and gas combined than on its traditional strategic nuclear arsenal to retain a leading role in the world.”

Why does Russia oppose so fiercely the deployment of U.S. ballistic missile defenses in Central Europe to protect NATO allies from any Iranian threat? A lengthy article published Tuesday in the Moscow newspaper Kommersant by Mikhail Barabanov, editor of Arms Export magazine, gives an important insight into Russian thinking.

First, Barabanov expressed skepticism that the Iranian threat is the real reason the new BMD system is going to be deployed with frontline radar bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Like the late Henry Ford, Barabanov argued that people have two reasons for doing what they do: a good reason and the real reason. In the case of BMD, a determination to fence Russia in is, he argued, the real reason.

“It is highly likely that the missile threat from ‘problem’ states is not the genuine reason for the creation of the missile defense system by the Americans,” Barabanov wrote. “The real motivation of the multibillion-dollar undertaking is the desire to expand U.S. military and strategic capacities and constrict those of other states that have nuclear missiles, Russia and China most of all.”

As we have repeatedly noted in these columns, the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense system currently being developed at enormous cost is not designed to defend the Untied States against a full-scale launch of ICBMs by Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces with their multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle, or MIRV, warheads. And it could not do so.

Nevertheless, Barabanov argued that “even a limited missile defense system injects a high degree of indeterminacy into the strategic plans of other countries and undermines the principle of mutual nuclear deterrence. With Russia continuing to reduce its nuclear arsenal significantly and China maintaining a low missile potential, the Americans’ ability to down even a few dozen warheads could deprive the other side of guaranteed ability to cause the U.S. unacceptable damage in a nuclear war.”

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is pouring unprecedented funds from a treasury bursting with energy-export profits into modernizing Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, Barabanov struck an uncharacteristically pessimistic, or frank, note about Russia’s long-term strategic prospects.

“If current tendencies continue, Russia will be unlikely to have the capacity to maintain more than 400–500 nuclear warheads by 2020. Russian experts have estimated that the U.S. could down half of that quantity with its missile defense system. That would be an especially heavy blow if the Americans delivered a disarming nuclear missile first-strike and the remaining Russian missiles could be eliminated almost completely.

“The first 10 U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland will not make a serious dent in Russian nuclear potential for the first few years,” Barabanov acknowledged. But, he continued, “The Russian Army is buying six or seven Topol-M ballistic missiles per year. The destruction of just one of two of them by the American missile defense system would have a high price for Russia. And the placement of a strategic weapons system in Poland, even a defensive one, is a challenge to Moscow by Washington.

“Practically the only way to prevent a slow growth of the American strategic advantage is a significant increase in the purchase of new ballistic missiles by Russia. But the current Russian leadership is not prepared for that, mainly for political reasons,” Barabanov said. And that is why, he continued, “Russia’s reaction to the news of the possible placement of American interceptor missiles by the Russian border was loud and disorderly, both in political circles and in the press.”

In line with his other frank comments, Barabanov was also remarkably outspoken in his criticisms of the Russian diplomatic reaction to the proposed BMD deployments. Russian officials, “as usual, made a number of contradictory statements that amounted to the usual vague threats to ‘take adequate measures,’ boasting an unconvincing justification for their helplessness,” he wrote.

“The Russian leadership had the same initial reaction to the expansion of NATO and the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Everything possible has been done to convince the West that there is no need to pay attention to Russia and Moscow’s loud objections.”

Finally, Barabanov appeared to argue that Russia should rely much more on its strategic clout as the world’s greatest energy exporter of oil and gas combined than on its traditional strategic nuclear arsenal to retain a leading role in the world.

“For an ‘energy superpower,’ it is more important to be able to pump its energy resources westward than to maintain any strategic balances,” he concluded.

Most western analysts would disagree with most of Barabanov’s analysis. But it is of great value in explaining the background to the Russian alarm over the BMD program’s extension to Europe and President Putin’s broadsides against U.S. policies this past week in Munich and Amman. The United States remains on a collision course with Russia on this issue.

Jaxk's avatar


Good snip. It does indeed coincide with what I’ve seen regarding Russia’s stand on the topic. With the addition of their energy clout. I wonder how it would be affected if we began developing our own natural resources and depended less on oil from outside our borders. They may not like that either. But I would.

Jaxk's avatar


Just another point. Given the Russian position on this, they want to insure that we continue the mutual destruct fears. Kind of a ‘Mexican Stand-off’ scenario. Where we each have a gun pointed at the other. They want to make sure we don’t get an advantage by wearing a bullet proof vest. Especially since they really can’t afford one. Of course from my perspective, sitting with a gun pointed at me, a bullet proof vest is sounding quite appealing.

From thier perspective, they want to insure mutual vulnerability. After all they don’t trust us any more than we trust them. Of course that leaves us both vulnerable to any other threat from foriegn entities other than each other. Quite the pickle.

Qingu's avatar

SpaceWar, your world at war?

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens to people’s brains when they are fed a moronic media diet.

You’re scared that 1,550 nuclear warheads is not enough to “defend ourselves.” Unfuckingbelievable.

Jaxk's avatar


Yes, apparently it is. From a guy that doesn’t seem to know the difference between offense and defense.

Qingu's avatar

MAD is defense.

Missile shields (1) have never actually tested successfully, (2) escalate arms races, and (3) do absolutely nothing, even if they do work, against the actual threats we face: terrorists rather than ICBMs.

Now you seem to fancy yourself quite the nuclear strategist, believing that you know more than every single secretary of state that has served in living memory, along with the current U.S. military commanders who support START… so maybe you can explain what I’m missing here.

Qingu's avatar

I’m also still waiting to see you cite what this treaty even has to do with our missile defense capability.

Note, again, that Obama has actually managed to make a successful (at least compared to past attempts) missile shield—with Russia’s cooperation — that would work against Iran and possibly Pakistan. You know, two of the three states that are actually hostile against us, unlike Russia.

tedd's avatar

Its a moot point now, because the START treaty passed. Thank god.

Jaxk's avatar


“so maybe you can explain what I’m missing here.” – Logic.

You say missile defense doesn’t work. But Russia has been arguing for decades that missile defense tips the balance of power. And they don’t want us to have better defensive capability than they do. Frankly I DO want us to have a better defense than they do.

Russia has been arguing for decades that we should have an international defense jointly controlled by them and us. I don’t want to hand our technology over to the Russians. Or even share it. Best they don’t know what our capabilities are.

Then you say the actual threat is from terrorists and then go on to cite countries like Iran and Pakistan (you forgot N. Korea), that pose a nuclear threat. So which is it or maybe it’s both.

And finally, YES, I do consider myself a good contracts person. A treaty afterall is nothing more than a contract. I’ve never signed a contract without covering all the bases no matter how much people tell me it’s good for me. Especially when the strongest advocate for signing is sitting across the table from me.

Qingu's avatar

Missile defense is complicated, and works differently in a MAD scenario against a fellow superpower vs. an emerging regional power like Iran. We have never succeeded in building anything close to a missile defense shield that could practically protect us from a Russian attack. This has always been a pipe dream. Maybe it will be feasible in ten years. Obama’s plan, on the other hand, essentially rings in Iran, a country that will only have a small stockpile of nukes in the near future. This is why it’s feasible.

Missile defense—hypothetically, since, again, this has never been feasible against a superpower—also works differently in a MAD scenario than against a regional power like Iran. In MAD, if we build a proper defense shield, then it eliminates the stability that MAD brings. If we have a shield, then we could launch a first strike against Russia without fear of counterattack. So, Russia will then proceed to build a shield, and/or build weapons that can penetrate the shield. Since any feasible missile shield against a superpower would be ridiculously expensive, this would be a ridiculously expensive arms race. What on earth would be the point of this? We already had stability with MAD.

This is also beside the fact that Russia is not a danger to us. I don’t have patience for your Cold War paranoia. The danger is not from Russia launching missiles at us, the danger is that a regional nuclear power will either commit suicide (possible with Pakistan or North Korea) start a regional nuclear war (possible with Pakistan or Iran) or hand their weapon to a non-state actor/terrorist, thus eliminating the threat of MAD (possible with all three). The Cold War ended. This is the reality we live in today.

I’m sick and tired of conservatives not being able to adapt to a changing world, in this case a world that is every bit as threatening as the old world they’re still afraid of, but that requires different strategy to deal with.

Jaxk's avatar


I can understand your frustration because your arguments don’t make sense. The whole concept of MAD is past. Neither Russia nor the US want more nuclear weapons. the idea of restricting the numbers makes sense. Hell, even if there was a first strike, who would pull the trigger and destroy the world in retaliation. It’s an empty threat. A good defense is the only real answer. We stumbled through the cold war with the threat that if either side started, it would mean world annihilation. Hardly a scenario I would want to see moving forward. If you believe your own rhetoric, that our missile defense is woefully lacking, I would think you would want to see it improved. The best answer is to assure that if anything is fired at us, it won’t hit us. That way we don’t need to respond with nuclear war.

We don’t have a clue how many Nukes are in Pakistan, nor do we know how many are in N.Korea. Hell we don’t know how long it will take for Iran to have both nukes and the delivery mechanism. Nor do we know where the next threat may crop up. We have the middle east that if fired would come over the east coast. N.Korea would come over the west coast. It is in our best interest to assure that we could withstand either scenario.

You’re right in that Russia is not the threat. Hell, thier nukes are growing old and useless by the minute and they sure as hell don’t want to or can’t replace them. But even if they did, I would rather see us have sufficient defensive capability than more offense.

It sounds like you’re the one mired in the cold war and can’t get out. Trying to play a mutually assured destruction game doesn’t work anymore. Wake up, let go of your ideology and think it through.

Qingu's avatar


• MAD is not past. It is past in the sense of our relation to Russia, since we are no longer hostile to one another. It is not past in the sense of our relationship to Iran, North Korea, or Pakistan. MAD applies to any two hostile nuclear armed states.

• We did not “stumble” through the Cold War. MAD was essential to the Cold War remaining a cold war; it was the single most important reason why we did not shoot at each other. MAD was not/is not a “game.”

• Missile defense against a superpower undermines MAD. I don’t know how to make this any clearer than what I already wrote. If we build a non-farcical missile defense, then the USSR would have built one, and/or they would have built better ICBMs, causing us to do the same. This is not stability, it is not keeping us safe; it is a ludicrously expensive arms race.

• You have no idea how missile defense even works, do you? There are several reasons why missile defense against a state like Russia is impossible currently, unlikely in the near future. It is not a magical bubble that surrounds the continental United States. The systems in development typically are designed to shoot down incoming missiles with our own missiles. There are several reasons why such a system is stupid against a superpower: (1) no current technology works 100% of the time (and the scant success they have may well have been exaggerated, (2) it certainly would not work against hundreds of missiles launched from a superpower, and (3) any technology developed for the shield would be short-lived as better missiles aren’t developed. It would require constant redevelopment and probably trillions of dollars.

• Missile defense does absolutely nothing against the actual threat against us: from non-state actors. We are not in danger from a nation launching missiles against us. MAD holds against Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea. We are in danger from a terrorist sneaking in a dirty bomb.

• That said, since these three countries have extremely limited nuke supplies and outdated missile tech, a missile defense shield is actually feasible to ring them in (as opposed to working as a defensive perimeter around the US). This is what Obama is doing with Iran. With Russia’s cooperation.

• This missile defense system against Iran, in terms of strategy, is more complicated than your Star Wars idea against the USSR; we aren’t simply trying to defend against Iran, we are trying to make a stand against proliferation. Proliferation is an entirely different problem than what we faced during the Cold War. The missile defense shield is intended to cut off an arms race before it even starts (and if/when it does start, the complete technological unbalance will still actually make it feasible.)

Now, you say “Russia is not the threat. Hell, thier nukes are growing old and useless by the minute and they sure as hell don’t want to or can’t replace them.” This is one of the stupidest things you’ve said. This is not why Russia is not a threat. Russia’s nukes are still incredibly fucking dangerous, the country’s military is still incredibly powerful (see Georgia), they still have ICBMs that could destroy many of our cities if we decide to start a nuclear war with them, and more importantly Russia’s nuclear material is not as secure as it should be (which is what this treaty is intended to remedy). Russia is not a threat to us because they are not a hostile country. Russia is not our enemy in the same way that Vietnam is not our enemy.

I’m not going to sink further into this internet dickwaving contest by being more condescending than I already have. I just hope you actually have the courage to explore this issue instead of repeating what you’ve heard on talk radio. You should ask yourself why almost every secretary of state and every military commander we have agrees with me, and not with you.

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