Over the years in the United States we have had an unwritten rule in politics: Partisan politics ends at the water’s edge.
In other words, in foreign affairs, the United States presents a united front, even if, back home, members of different political parties think differently about the issue.
The phrase was coined back in the late 1940s by Arthur Vandenberg, a respected Republican senator from Michigan
What he had to say is instructive given the petty stunt being pulled by Republicans over the new nuclear treaty Republicans are refusing to support. Here are Vandenberg’s words:
“To me, ‘bipartisan foreign policy’ means a mutual effort, under our indispensable, two-party system, to unite our official voice at the water’s edge so that America speaks with one voice to those who would divide and conquer us and the free world.”
Vandenberg went on to say that there should be full, open and honest debate of foreign policy within the country. But the goal of such debate, he said, was not to score political points, but to reach a position of unity that could be presented to the world.
Few would argue with that, although there are times when that view is not entirely realistic, particularly when you get involved in something like the war in Iraq, or the war in Vietnam, where there were great divergences of opinion about whether we should even be involved.
If you doubted that Republicans could be so craven as to put their own political interests above national security, the proof was delivered Tuesday: Arizona Sen Jon Kyl announced he will block the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia, which calls for the resumption of nuclear controls that until now have had bipartisan support.
Kyl is the Republican’s point man on the treaty, which requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate –67 votes.
Failure to ratify this treaty will place the United States of America at a disadvantage in dealing with Russia on nuclear weapons and verification of Russian compliance with treaty obligations. The reason we’ll be at a disadvantage: There is no existing treaty at the moment. The United States is effectively blind in terms of Russia’s moving of nuclear weapons in country.
Until this treaty is adopted, we will not have the oversight capability we need to maintain vigilance and continued pressure to reduce nuclear proliferation and to keep us away from the brink of nuclear disaster.
Previous articles this past week have addressed this issue. One reader comment really stuck out:
“Lets wait until we have an adult, and a non-communist-Marxist in the White House please.”
Blinded by his own partisanship, this reader apparently has no idea that this treaty is a consensus document. Some of the finest people in government and politics on both sides of the aisle support this treaty. Obama went to great lengths to win the support of the military, the State Department and a broad range of Republicans and Democrats.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice supports the treaty. So do other prominent Republicans including George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, James Baker and Sen Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly backs it. The chairman, Adm Mike Mullen, has said, “I believe –and the rest of the military leadership in this country believes– that this treaty is essential to our future security.”
In other words, the national security interests of the United States are going to be severely damaged if the Senate does not adopt this treaty.
The treaty would require that Russia and the United States cut back on nuclear arsenals and would allow the United States to resume inspecting Russia’s nuclear facilities, a right that lapsed last December for the first time since the Cold War. Does anyone really want Russia shuffling its nuclear weapons around without inspections? Even a year’s gap has put us in greater danger of materials falling into the wrong hands.
The intrusion of partisan politics into national security is a break with tradition. The opposition party in Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has long set politics aside so that the country could present a united front to other nations. Lacking trust, we will have fewer allies and partners. Does anyone really think we can go it alone in today’s world?
Obama went to extraordinary lengths to iron out areas of disagreement with Kyl, knowing two-thirds of senators must approve the treaty. The president had no fewer than 29 meetings, phone calls or exchanges with the Arizona senator and his staff, White House documents show. We’ve had seven months and 17 committee hearings on the treaty –a treaty that’s only 17 pages long.
The sticking point seemed to be Kyl’s sense that the United States needs to go to greater lengths to modernize its nuclear arsenal (at the expense of the deficit). So the president offered to add $80 billion to the budget for that purpose, including $4.1 billion just a week ago in an effort to close the deal.
So how did Kyl respond? He disrespectfully blindsided the president, timing his announcement to embarrass Obama just before he departs to Portugal for a NATO summit.
Kyl is taking his marching orders from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who openly proclaims that Republicans’ top priority for the next two years is to defeat Obama.
The president should do what Senator Lugar suggestions: Bring the treaty up for a vote immediately, and let the more cowardly members of the GOP put themselves on the record in any way they choose.
Unchecked nuclear weaponry in unstable Russia ultimately threatens American lives. If that’s the cost of this political game, it won’t be Obama’s fault. It will be McConnell’s.
If the Republican Party of the United States delays consideration and adoption of the New START treaty just for its own political gain and to embarrass the president, I would suggest to you that the Republican Party has forfeited its right to ever be seriously considered for a leadership position in this country.
A political party which would subjugate the national security interests of this country to the political pettiness of a political party is unworthy of leading this country. In fact, they’re traitors. They’re traitors to this county, plain and simple.
No, they’re not subject to arrest or trail, but they’re traitors in every meaningful sense of the word, particularly from these people who constantly beat their chests about what loyal, dedicated, patriotic Americans they are.