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Arms Agreement Gets 2011 Off to a Bad START

Today, the Senate ratified the START treaty between the U.S. and Russia. Christmas has come early to nuclear aspirants North Korea and Iran, as well as our authoritarian adversaries in places like Beijing and Moscow. All benefit from the flawed treaty, which weakens the U.S. even as multiple foreign threats draw ever nearer.

With START and so many other matters, the Washington foreign policy establishment has failed America as we enter a perilous new year.

With a strong assist from an Obama administration determined to validate its embrace of Russia’s government, the Washington foreign policy establishment has successfully advanced a U.S-Russia treaty that at best could be irrelevant to today’s world, but in fact will make the threats we face more dangerous. This stems from the treaty’s flaws, which include:

• Moscow’s belief that the U.S. has agreed to limit our deployment of missile defenses, despite denials from the Obama administration. Our foreign policy establishment will now be further emboldened to block enhancements to our still-poor ability to stop incoming nuclear missiles from places like Iran and North Korea because they may cause Moscow to walk away from the treaty;

• Weak verification mechanisms that give cheating-inclined Moscow a further advantage;

• The treaty’s failure to address tactical nuclear weapons, where Russia holds a large advantage over the U.S. (Incidentally, thanks to a separate decision by President Obama, the U.S. now has no effective seaborne tactical nuclear systems with which to counter North Korea and Iran.)

• The prioritization of signing and ratifying a feel-good treaty over more urgent steps to modernize America’s nuclear arsenal, which is losing its deterrent quality as its reliability and safety decline after decades without testing and modernization.

Despite the mass-firing voters rendered on this Congress just last month, the treaty was rammed through the outgoing Senate’s “lame duck” session when little is usually done. Support from senators dismissed by voters made the difference between ratification and failure. The illegitimacy of this does not seem to have donned on the Beltway class, which supported the treaty with near-uniformity and labeled opponents as “partisan” and “unpatriotic.”

Treaty advocates pointed to the support of former secretaries of state, including both Democrats and Republicans. But this says more about our androgynous foreign policy establishment in Washington than it does about the treaty.

Santa has been good this year to that naughty establishment, where a liberal worldview reigns supreme regardless of the outcomes of U.S. elections. Because of it and a president who telegraphs profound weakness, America begins 2011 facing several foreign problems with the potential to become outright crises. Among them:

• The Iranian government, the central advocate of Islamism and terrorism, charging ahead with its world-changing nuclear weapons program.

• The North Korean government, which already has a nuclear capability, coming closer to starting a war it promises “will not be confined to the Korean Peninsula.”

• China declaring more and more of the Pacific as its own domain as it continues a rapid military modernization financed unwittingly by consumers in the free world; and

• An Islamist movement and its terrorist vanguard undaunted by President Obama’s simplistic “Muslim world” outreach, apologetic diplomacy and lawyerly treatment of unlawful combatants.

Through both Democratic and Republican administrations, critical threats to America have drawn ever nearer in recent decades, with effective responses coming only when problems are assigned at last resort to the U.S. military. 

Solutions from the foreign policy establishment for problems like Iran and North Korea have been failures. In the case of Islamism, the political ideology that drives most terrorists, the foreign policy establishment has not even fielded a solution than can fail, having not taken the requisite intermediate step of identifying the problem out of deference to political correctness.

On China, most of both political parties’ foreign policy denizens still spin a soothing tale of Beijing’s peaceful rise and inevitable shift toward freedom. Yet the Chinese government, which has never bothered to obtain the consent to govern from the Chinese people, grows more bellicose and militarily strong each year. It now puts more submarines in the Western Pacific than the U.S. and Japan combined. China is perhaps less free today than it was a decade ago and its market reforms are reversing. This is yet another gospel from the high priests of our foreign policy that looks increasingly like fiction.

But it matters not in Washington. Massive bureaucracies like those found in foreign-policy-related government agencies and establishment think tanks thrive on ineffective policy prescriptions as long as they pass for clever and complex, and fit the liberals’ world view. No scorecard on past performance is kept or consulted.

With START set to become the law of the land, our opponents will be pleased that America has itself tightened another strap on the straightjacket in which our defense has been placed. Our friends facing rising nuclear and Islamist dangers in their backyards will be alarmed. And our foreign policy establishment, free from accountability—and seemingly immune from the chill the Tea Party may place on the rest of Washington—will continue to make the world safe chiefly for our adversaries.

Glasses will clink this new year in the salons of Washington, Tehran, Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow. Too bad nobody invited the American people to the party.

Christian Whiton is a former State Department senior advisor. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.

Christian Whiton was a State Department senior advisor in the George W. Bush administration from 2003-09.  He is author of the new book, “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War” (Potomac Books).