Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I've been reading The Dead Hand, which tells the story of the end of the US/Soviet nuclear arms race in the 1980's, yet makes clear that the dangers of these weapons have not disappeared. It turns out that the Soviet Union was actually building, in the 1980's, a version of the Doomsday device that was featured in the movie Dr. Strangelove from the 1960's. Technology marches on, but we adjust too slowly. As a result, the systems we designed decades ago still have the power to destroy us, even after we think the danger has passed.
Failure to ratify the new START treaty would allow the Dead Hand to continue to rule us. If we don't move forward on arms control, favored by an overwhelming majority of the public, we would allow tired old debates that no longer have any real meaning, to dictate reality in a much different world. We would allow partisan politics to prevent action favored by a strong consensus of defense and foreign policy experts. We would allow one stubborn Senator, aided by a willing bloc of obstructionist colleagues, to hold up progress on a range of issues considered important to international relations, and to our own defense. Are we smart enough to move beyond partisan politics and outdated debates to achieve progress on reducing unnecessary and dangerous nuclear arms?