Foreign Policy Writers Demolish Romney's Op-Ed

Not much of a new START

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Foreign policy journalists have taken to the Internet to explain the many errors and lapses in Mitt Romney's op-ed column about President Obama's Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia. Romney thinks that Obama is committing a terrible error by trusting Russia, that Obama's foreign policy makes the U.S. less safe, and also that everyone should vote for him in the 2012 Republican presidential primary. Most everyone else thinks that Romney is making a spectacle of himself. Here's what Romney and his critics--including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry--have to say.

  • Treaty Loopholes Favor Russia  Mitt Romney fumes in the Washington Post, "the president's New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New-START) with Russia could be his worst foreign policy mistake yet. ... rail-based ICBMs and launchers are not mentioned. Similarly, multiple nuclear warheads that are mounted on bombers are effectively not counted. Unlike past treaty restrictions, ICBMs are not prohibited from bombers. This means that Russia is free to mount a nearly unlimited number of ICBMs on bombers -- including MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) or multiple warheads -- without tripping the treaty's limits. These omissions would be consistent with Russia's plans for a new heavy bomber and reports of growing interest in rail-mobile ICBMs."
  • Nuclear Treaties Aren't Political Fodder, Mitt  Sen. John Kerry shakes his head. "Even in these polarized times, anyone seeking the presidency should know that the security of the United States is too important to be treated as fodder for political posturing. ... [Romney] disregarded the views of the best foreign policy thinkers of the past half-century, but more important, he ignored the facts. ... Serious people may differ over elements of the agreement, but after 10 hearings we have produced a public record that makes the case for ratification and rejects the narrow, uninformed political objections advanced by Romney."
  • The Key Factual Errors  The New York Times' Peter Baker gently points out several factual mistakes in Romney's column. For example, "Mr. Romney predicated his opposition on the notion that the treaty would impede American missile defense plans. He argued that even before signing the treaty, Mr. Obama had already agreed to 'the abandonment of our Europe-based missile defense program,' which is not precisely true; Mr. Obama did abandon President George W. Bush’s architecture for missile defense but substituted another version using a different set of interceptors designed to knock down short- and medium-term missiles that Iran has or is developing rather than the long-range missiles it doesn’t have."
  • Confuses ICBMs With Bombers  Slate's Fred Kaplan declares, "In 35 years of following debates over nuclear arms control, I have never seen anything quite as shabby, misleading and—let's not mince words—thoroughly ignorant. ... one would think he could have found a ghostwriter who had even the vaguest acquaintance with the subject matter." Kaplan writes a long post dismantling Romney's argument point-by-point, taking special care to point out that Romney consufed ICBMs and bomber planes. He writes midway, "This is where I began to wonder if Romney had fallen prey to someone, perhaps a spy from Sarah Palin's camp, who wanted to make him look like an idiot." He concludes, "Next time he speaks out on nuclear weapons, he should read up a little bit. At the very least, he should learn the difference between an ICBM and a bomber."
  • Doesn't Know the First Thing  Foreign Policy's Dan Drezner sighs, "Now reading through all of this, it seems pretty clear that Romney's substantive critique is weak tea.  Objecting to the content of a treaty preamble is pretty silly.  Claiming that the Russians could put ICBMs on their bombers because of the treaty indicates Romney's ghost-writer doesn't know the first thing about the history of nuclear weapons some holes in the research effort."
  • Show the Death of Serious GOP Foreign Policy  The New Republic's Barron YoungSmith gets heavy. "As with the 'death panels,' Romney's op-ed is an ideological statement, which does not require fealty to facts. And it has far-reaching implications for the way we should think about Mitt Romney the man, the 2012 election, and the future of American foreign policy," he writes. "It means, first and foremost, that the responsible Republican foreign policy establishment is not coming back."
  • Why So Wrongheaded?  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains, "Romney's errors of fact are telling in that they service a narrative, a way of thinking about the world, that contrasts very sharply with President Obama's, the man whose job he wants in 2012."
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