The looming fight over President Obama's so-called New START disarmament treaty with Russia seems to be coming down to one fundamental question: Would Ronald Reagan approve? On the answer may ride nothing less than the reelection prospects of a handful of Senators who will decide the fate of this accord if Team Obama succeeds in forcing it to a vote in the last days of the current lame-duck session.
Consequently, Mr. Obama's administration has been moving heaven and earth to demonstrate that his treaty is right out of his predecessor's play book. Toward that end he has enlisted a number of individuals who held prominent positions during the Reagan presidency. These include darlings of the Establishment like George Shultz, James Baker, Colin Powell and George H.W. Bush. They oblige by selectively harkening back to negotiations Mr. Reagan held with the Soviet Union, some of which resulted late in his presidency in arms reduction treaties.
In recent days, however, the real Reaganauts on national security - the ones that supported the President in developing and executing his strategy for destroying the Soviet Union and that still practice his philosophy of "peace through strength" - have entered the fray. For example, in an important op.ed. article in the Wall Street Journal on December 2, two of Ronald Reagan's most influential advisors, former Counselor to the President and Attorney General Edwin Meese and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, explained why their boss would not have endorsed New START.
"There are many reasons why this treaty falls short of those negotiated by President Reagan. For one thing, its verification regime is inadequate. For another, it gives the Kremlin an unwarranted influence over the structure of our nuclear deterrent. Most important, it will almost certainly reduce our freedom to deploy vital defenses against ballistic missiles."
Then, on Monday, a Capitol Hill press conference was the vehicle for the release of a powerful joint letter opposing the New START Treaty. It was sent to the Senate leadership by Mr. Reagan's former National Security Advisor William Clark, General Meese and some thirty officials from Reagan and subsequent presidencies.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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