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The Problematic Campaign against START

Writing on Slate.com, Fred Kaplan picks apart a recent op/ed signed by John Yoo and John Bolton recommending that the U.S. Senate put off ratification of the new START treaty with Russia.  While there are parts that are more convincing than others in Kaplan’s response (i.e., linkages), the fact of the matter is that 1,550 nuclear warheads is still quite an overwhelmingly unimaginable quantity of world-ending destructive power, any way you slice it.

The argument here, in plain English, is that we need more nuclear warheads than the Russians–and more than the treaty allows–because, unlike them, we have promised several allies that, if they are invaded, we would come to their defense, with nuclear retaliation if necessary.


Thereare two big flaws here. First, the allies covered by our “umbrella”face threats, theoretically anyway, from the same countries that ournuclear weapons are aimed at already (Russia, China, and North Korea).We don’t need more warheads just because there are more scenarios underwhich they might be fired. And if new threats materialize, our missilescan be “re-targeted” within minutes.

Second, it’s telling that–forall their fearful references to “low limits” that will have the effectof “gravely impairing America’s nuclear capacity”–Bolton and Yoo nevermention how many nuclear warheads the treaty allows each side to have.The number is 1,550. Actually, it’s more than that, because, to makeverification easier, the treaty counts each bomber as one warhead whenin fact our B-52 and B-1 bombers can carry a dozen or more.

I challenge anyone to claim that 1,550 warheads are insufficientunder any criteria. Bolton and Yoo don’t argue otherwise; the fact thatthey evade even mentioning the number suggests that they’re unable todo so.