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Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 1999/3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Senate must
reject nuclear treaty -- WHAT DO certain gun control measures and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) have in common? They are both supported by liberals and would unilaterally disarm the good guys and empower the bad guys.

Clinton signed the CTBT on Sept. 24, 1996, and has been urging the Senate to ratify it ever since. After refusing to hold hearings on the issue for more than two years, last week, Senate Leader Lott surprisingly announced it would be rushed to the Senate floor for a vote.

Now, the president is in a panic and seeking a delay, knowing that he doesn't have the two-thirds majority necessary for ratification.

Again at stake is Clinton's ephemeral legacy -- he has set nuclear nonproliferation as one of his top foreign policy priorities. He says that if the U.S. doesn't ratify the nuclear test ban treaty, nuclear weapons will proliferate because we will be giving other nations "a green light" to produce them.

On its face, the CTBT would permanently ban all explosive tests of nuclear weapons, establish a global monitoring system and allow on-site inspections, but opponents point to flaws in every aspect of the ban.

Baker Spring, of the Heritage Foundation, examines the CTBT in the context of America's arms control agreements of the 20th century and concludes that it would make the U.S. less, rather than more, secure. Without being able to conduct explosive tests, says Spring, our own weapons will become less reliable, and our allies, feeling less secure, may build their own nuclear arsenals.

The administration argues that computer calculations will ensure the reliability of our weapons. But directors of our nation's nuclear labs have testified that this sophisticated computer testing system will not be fully operational for five to ten years. And even then, sterile computer tests will never be an adequate substitute for field-testing.

Nuclear blasts below a certain level are undetectable and would continue to be, despite how elaborate any monitoring system built under the treaty might be. Critics point to India's sizable nuclear explosions of last year, which did not even register on the existing global network of seismometers.

Experts from the CIA and the Department of Energy say that the U.S. would have a hard time knowing if foreign states were secretly setting off small blasts. Lawrence Turnbull, a top CIA seismologist, warns that nations could use large mines or caves to conceal their tests.

Beyond crippling our ability to maintain and modernize our nuclear weapons, the treaty's opponents say that it is neither effectively verifiable nor enforceable.

I downloaded the text of the treaty and discovered some disturbing provisions. For example, decisions to approve on-site inspections of suspected violator nations would require the vote of at least 30 nations. Plus, nations will be allowed to declare certain sites up to 50 square kilometers (restricted-access sites) off limits to inspection.

Moreover, the treaty confers enforcement authority on the United Nations Security Council, with each member, including China and Russia, having full veto power. Haven't we learned by now that we can't entrust our national security to these nations and others?

Our formidable nuclear arsenal has not only contributed to our national security but to world peace because it has deterred our enemies from attacking our allies and us. What on earth could make us want to undermine that deterrent and increase world instability?

This administration insists that our national security depends on this treaty. But national security is hardly this administration's strong suit. It a) gave nuclear delivery technology to China, b) covered up its theft of our nuclear secrets in exchange for campaign contributions and c) opposes the strategic defense initiative (SDI) -- the single most important program in safeguarding the United States from nuclear attack.

Whether we like it or not, the nuclear genie is out of the bottle. We are not going to put it back in with some Pollyannaish treaty that will eventually make our nuclear stockpile obsolete, while granting rogue nations the relative freedom to catch up and exceed our capabilities.

The sobering reality is that in this dangerous world, no matter what well-meaning laws we pass, the criminals and despots will continue to have cutting-edge weaponry, and we can only protect ourselves by remaining fully armed and forever vigilant.

The Senate must reject this treaty.

JWR contributor David Limbaugh is an attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and a political analyst and commentator. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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