Touting “Youth” and “Vitality,” McCain Suggests Nuclear Position of Treaties, Existing Policies, and Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain yesterday outlined his views on nuclear weapons, proliferation, and America’s role in pursuing a world altogether free of nuclear weapons. His speech in Denver invoked a number of pre-existing programs, but also offered some bold departures from the Bush Administration.
HLSwatch.com takes a look at the speech to break it down to its basics in the hope that we might find some residual homeland security benefits in this position. I’ll leave it to ArmsControlWonk.com and others to dissect the proposals about the weapons postures and treaty nuances, such as the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and the special arrangements with India.
Senator McCain’s speech began with a description of America in carefully chosen words. “…We remain a young nation,” proclaimed the candidate. “We still possess the attributes of youth — spirit, energy, vitality, and creativity,” McCain explained. In sum, he asserted that “America will always be young.” Wonder what he’s getting at.
The rest of McCain’s speech unfolds with lofty goals representing a departure from what GOP politicians have embraced over the last couple decades, along with some commitments to keep the status-quo. In the Maverick mold, McCain:
• Recommends that “America must be a good citizen of the world – leading the way to address the danger of global warming and preserve our environment, strengthening existing international institutions and helping to build new ones, and engaging the world in a broad dialogue on the threat of violent extremists….”
• Adopts Reagan’s goal that “our dream is to see the day when nuclear weapons will be banished from the face of the Earth.”
• Proclaims that “It is my hope to move as rapidly as possible to a significantly smaller [nuclear] force.”
Of course, he couldn’t resist repeating a reference to a part of Senator Obama’s foreign policy. McCain claimed that “some people seem to think they’ve discovered a brand new cause, something no one before them ever thought of. Many believe all we need to do to end the nuclear programs of hostile governments is have our president talk with leaders in Pyongyang and Tehran, as if we haven’t tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades.”
While half-truths can be avoided in this presidential campaign, some things will never change: No policy speech is complete without the requisite strawman statement.
“Others think military action alone can achieve our goals, as if military actions were not fraught with their own terrible risks. While the use of force may be necessary, it can only be as a last resort not a first step.” Not exactly the stuff of a Maverick.
On to “the how” of it: Following is a breakdown of what McCain proposes in this nuclear weapons position. The very first move isn’t all that exciting: He would ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff to “engage in a comprehensive review of all aspects of our nuclear strategy and policy.” (Homework that any new President would assign.) Regardless of the outcomes of that study, McCain stakes out some preordained positions. They can be organized as selectively embracing current efforts underway, pursuing new dialogues with other countries (emphasis on Russia and China), and familiar counter-proliferation measures (that noticeably leave out the detection mission).
Stay on the current track:
• Continue to deploy a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent, robust missile defenses and superior conventional forces that are capable of defending the United States and our allies.
• Seek to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number possible consistent with our security requirements and global commitments.
• Continue America’s current moratorium on nuclear testing.
• No new nukes, except the ones we want:
“I would only support the development of any new type of nuclear weapon that is absolutely essential for the viability of our deterrent, that results in making possible further decreases in the size of our nuclear arsenal, and furthers our global nuclear security goals.”
New dialogues with other countries:
• Seriously consider Russia’s recent proposal to work together to globalize the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
• Russia and the United States should reduce – and hopefully eliminate – deployments of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.
• Share with Russia early warning data and prior notification of missile launches.
• Begin a dialogue with China on strategic and nuclear issues to achieve “the greatest possible transparency and cooperation on nuclear force structure and doctrine.”
• Work with China to encourage conformity with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, including working toward nuclear arsenal reductions and toward a moratorium on the production of additional fissile material.
McCain wants to strengthen authorities and capabilities of the Proliferation Security Initiative, increase funding for U.S. non-proliferation efforts, including the Cooperative Threat Reduction programs established by the Nunn-Lugar legislation, and ensure the highest possible standards of security for existing nuclear materials.
Nothing here on improving the science and strategy behind detecting the illicit movement of special nuclear material. It is hard to discern why McCain would have left out the effort to detect smuggled nuclear weapons, an initiative this country has supported since the Manhattan Project.
The candidate agrees with the need to build an international consensus that “exposes the pretense of civilian nuclear programs as cover for nuclear weapons programs.” McCain also asserts that the most effective way to prevent this practice is to limit the further spread of enrichment and reprocessing. To persuade countries to forego enrichment and reprocessing, he would support international guarantees of nuclear fuel supply to countries that renounce enrichment and reprocessing, as well as the establishment of multinational nuclear enrichment centers in which they can participate.
McCain concedes that the Iranian government has so far rejected this idea. His solution: “Perhaps with enough outside pressure and encouragement, they can be persuaded to change their minds before it is too late.” As if we haven’t tried talking to these governments repeatedly over the past two decades….