Don’t Fear the New START Treaty

Writing in the New Republic, Barron YoungSmith debunks the argument coming from conservative opponents of the US signing a replacement for the scuppered START treaty with Russia out of the idea that it is aimed at constraining America’s ability to project conventional, not just nuclear, force.

Yet, based on the broad outlines that Moscow and Washington have laid out for New START, it looks like that concern is, like so many others, baseless. First of all, because of the way our nuclear forces have developed since the 1990s, it’s essentially inconceivable that any new reductions will require cuts from our bomber fleet or our land-based ICBMs. Instead, they will almost certainly be accomplished by deactivating a few of the 24 large missile tubes on each of our ballistic missile submarines–and those tubes don’t carry conventional weapons anyway.

And second, if the United States ever did reach a point wherelimits on nuclear delivery vehicles threatened to weaken ourconventional systems, we could just strip a few bombers of theirnuclear mission–rendering them less expensive, because training costswould be lower, and freeing up more conventional power for usto apply against our enemies in a conflict. (Bombers are only limitedunder the START rules if they are maintained as nuclear deliveryvehicles.)

The bottom line is that there’s nothing to be worried aboutin the New START treaty, and it would be more reasonable forconservatives to spend their time freaking out about important thingslike, say, Iran.