As an insightful NOH comment once put it, “Arms control ain’t exactly a happening field.” True, parsing delivery vehicle counting rules can be tiresome.
Yet there are those who put vim and verve into even the driest of subjects. These people deserve recognition because, in a town where a lot of people know a lot, sometimes it’s all about, well, the delivery.
My top three arms control quotes from the last month…
#3 Christopher Ford (Hudson Institute, October 21)
“I think the Russian and Chinese motivations are undoubtedly extremely complex and partake of lots of different factors but I do share your suspicion that there probably is at least something in their calculus that is not entirely unhappy with the kind of delicious monkey wrench that proliferation to some place like Iran would throw into our strategic policies in the Middle East.”
It takes a unique sort of rhetorical grace to get away with the incredible phrase “delicious monkey wrench.”
#2 Ambassador James Dobbins (Arms Control Association, October 22)
There’s nothing like a laundry list of super villains to put things into perspective:
“This experience, which involved a series of negotiations with senior Iranians, tends to be so unusual in the American experience that I’m often asked what negotiating with Iranians was like, as if this was a particularly exotic form of activity. In fact, I think it was remarkably banal and surprising only in how easy and how successful it was. Of course I’m comparing this to my prior experience in which I had the pleasure of negotiating with Soviet apparatchiks, Somali warlords, Caribbean dictators, Balkan war criminals, and Afghan mujahedeen.”
#1 Ambassador Linton Brooks (United States Institute of Peace, October 26)
The guy just knows how to quip. Examples:
“Arms control’s gotta be a little bit painful; otherwise, why do you do it?”
“In actual military capabilities there is no difference between 1,500 and 1,000 [nuclear weapons]; either level will ruin your day if used.”
And on the fuss over Russian nonstrategic nuclear weapons: “I’ve never completely understood why something that only blows up in Russia is a threat to me unless I plan to invade.”
#1 (Emeritus) Joe Cirincione (added by Travis)
On the Syrian nuclear reactor: “This isn’t like a Road Runner cartoon where you call up Acme Reactors and they deliver a functioning reactor to your back yard. It takes years to build.”
Funny, pithy, and accurate. It’s important to be Very Serious about Very Serious Issues, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun in the process. Expertise and accessibility are a lethal combination in public policy.