Today some fantastical ideas have come closer to reality. Ideas like a world without nuclear weapons; ideas like equality for all people. Leftist ideas, our ideas and hopes.
Back in the early 1980s, you could have found me handing out leaflets on the corner street of my small mid-western town calling for a nuclear freeze in the face of Ronald Reagan’s nuclear saber rattling. Or earlier, promoting the poster produced by the Mennonites that said, "It is a sin to build a nuclear weapon." Being a child of the 1950s, I can even remember instructions about fallout shelters, as if that was going to help in the face of nuclear Armageddon. The abolition of nuclear weapons has been for me a life-long dream.
But one that has always been dismissed as utopian.
So, you can imagine my delight to hear the debate this morning in the Senate on the New START treaty. Now, the treaty itself, is just an incremental step in the right direction. But Republican Senator Jeff Sessions put voice to its importance in this wonderfully perverse statement: (my transcription from C-SPAN2 beginning about 3:25 into the Senate’s deliberation).
First, in calling for defeat of the treaty, he happily called it a "leftist vision":
Some say that a defeat for the treaty would harm the United States. I think the entire world would see the Senate action as a resurgence of America’s historic policy of peace through strength and a rejection of a leftist vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
But soon he was showing what seems to him to be a fantastical, even nightmarish vision of peace:
Thirdly, I would suggest that the treaty is promoted as a step toward a world free of nuclear weapons. This is a fantastical idea that goes beyond insignificance: it is dangerous. Basing any policy, especially a nuclear policy on an idea as cockamamie as zero nuclear weapons in the world can only lead to confusion and uncertainty. Confusion and uncertainty are the polar opposites of the necessary attributes of security and stability. These are the essentials of good strategic policy – security and stability. Thus the Obama policy creates a more dangerous world.
This is, of course, the old debate: where does real security lie? But what Sessions had to say next is what was new. Because with the Obama presidency, "the leftist vision of a world without nuclear weapons" has suddenly begun to be translated into policy. This is the part that makes me want to stand up and dance.
Here is what Sessions went on to say:
Some say that the President’s zero-nukes policy is just a distant vision, some vague wish, don’t worry. The situation would be much better if that were so. But it is not!
President Obama has made zero nuclear weapons a cornerstone of our defense policy. It has, amazingly, already been made a centerpiece of our military policy, being advanced by concrete steps today. Presidents, Commanders-in-Chiefs have the power to make such monumental changes in policy and this president is certainly doing so.
The change is seen most clearly in the critically important Nuclear Posture Review produced in April 2010 by the Defense Department. This document is a formal document produced by the new Administration’s Defense Department. The determination to pursue the zero nuclear weapons vision is seen throughout this Review.. Amazingly, there are thirty references in that document to a world without nuclear weapons.
The NPR begins with an introductory letter. From Secretary of Defense Gates, the second sentence of which says this, "As the President said in Prague last year, a world without nuclear weapons will not be achieved quickly but we must begin to take concrete steps, today." The executive summary further drives the issue home. The first sentence in the executive summary recalls that President Obama in Prague highlighted the nuclear dangers, and said, quote, "The United States will seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons."
The first sentence in the second paragraph of the NPR is particularly ominous, and even chilling to me. Posture Reviews are defense reviews and by their nature are bottom-up reports driven by threat assessments and the requirements necessary to defend America. These Reviews are, historically, objective analyses, from experts and not political reports. The troubling line reads this: "The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review outlines the Administrations approach to promoting the President’s agenda for reducing nuclear dangers and pursuing the goal of a world without nuclear weapons."
This statement reveals the whole truth. The NPR is the President’s policy,
Of course the whole idea that the Posture Review was just supposed to be a technical assessment of threats without presidential policy is fantasy. I remember so well the Nuclear Policy Review of the first year of the Bush presidency. The thing was riddled with language from the New American Century people, and – for the first time – promoted use of tactical nuclear weapons.
Isn’t it great to have a President who has used the power he has within the Executive branch and as Commander-in-Chief to set our nation’s nuclear policy officially to the abolition of nuclear weapons, and is taking small but concrete steps in the right direction?
Isn’t it fine to hear a Republican like Jeff Session extolthe effectiveness of our Democratic President?
And wasn’t it wonderful to see a nuclear arms treaty ratified on the same day that Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell? American values, leftist vision, actually becoming reality. A fantastical achievement that goes beyond insignificance!