Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser during the Ford and George H.W. Bush administrations, and Jake Garn, a former Republican senator from Utah, have a stirring op-ed on the importance of New START in today’s Washington Times. There are many good nuggets, but the bit on the relationship between the treaty and maintaining our deterrent is particularly strong:
Finally, we understand there are some who are concerned that the Obama administration will not modernize those elements of our strategic forces that are becoming somewhat “long in tooth.” We think the administration has yet to be as fully transparent as it should be with Congress on its modernization plans, and we urge the administration to correct this. For example, rather than being content with the administration’s statement that it will retain “up to 420 Minuteman ICBMs,” some senators want to know exactly how many ICBMs the administration intends to keep. That is a fair question, but this issue will exist whether the treaty enters into force or not. The treaty permits modernization by both sides. Each side is equally advantaged or disadvantaged. But we will only be disadvantaged by what we choose not to do with respect to modernization. Concerns about modernization, therefore, are not an argument against the treaty. They are an argument for building a political consensus between the administration and Congress on what needs to be funded now and what can be deferred. In this respect, the treaty provides a vehicle whereby some Democrats not usually known for their support of strategic systems can bring themselves to commit to modernization, while, at the same time, some Republicans not usually known for their support for arms control can bring themselves to vote for ratification. Conversely, rejecting the treaty may well break this consensus and result in no modernization of our forces. [emphasis mine.]
In other words, decisions about what we need to do (or don’t need to do) to maintain the deterrent are largely separate from the treaty, which doesn’t prohibit modernization one way or the other. At the same time, there is a general relationship between sustaining the stockpile/strengthening the infrastructure and advancing a far-reaching nonproliferation agenda. Now that the Obama administration has put forth a credible modernization plan that commands initial bipartisan support, advocates of redoubling our efforts to keep the deterrent up to date have every incentive to support New START (and the CTBT), as doing so would depoliticize Congress’ attitude toward modernization.