Five months into the Obama administration, its chief export seems to be confidence, generously doled out to hostile nuclear regimes. Pleas for dialogue and understanding have yielded North Korean belligerence and Iranian defiance. President Obama’s nomination of Rep. Ellen Tauscher as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security will exacerbate rogue states’ worst behavior and assure the president receives the worst counsel about how to respond. Tauscher believes the United States should disarm, as our arsenal provokes aggressive dictators into developing nuclear weapons. She deems long-range missile defense unnecessary, because Iran and al-Qaeda do not yet have nuclear weapons. She calls for negotiating with our enemies while punishing close allies who have abided by the highest standards of non-proliferation. She seems to have been the first Democrat of national prominence to accuse President Bush of lying about Iraqi WMDs, and her troubling record on Homeland Security includes advocating habeas corpus rights for terrorist detainees.
In early May, Obama selected the seven-term congresswoman who chairs the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee as his new undersecretary. Ironically, in his nomination Obama asserted Tauscher “has improved our nation’s missile defenses by conducting greater oversight of the Missile Defense Agency and making sure that our military has fully tested and reliable systems.” In point of fact, Tauscher has cut hundreds of millions of dollars from missile defense under the pretense that long-range missile defense has not been thoroughly tested, a standard ploy of leftists for two decades. Since her election in the mid-1990s, Tauscher has taken every opportunity to undermine the program. In 2004, she proposed enlarging the army by diverting funds from missile defense. Her opposition to the defensive system led her to trek to Europe last December to reassure Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra that President Obama would not deploy missile defense until after fulfilling conditions that would take years to implement – long after Iran is projected to have obtained a nuclear weapon.
Not only are these systems “untested” in her view, but they are unnecessary – because Mahmoud Ahmadinejiad and Osama bin Laden do not currently have nuclear weapons. In March, she excoriated advocates of missile defense for “running around with their hair on fire warning about a long range threat from Iran that does not exist.” There is no need to fret, because “Iran has not developed a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States. Yet.” Similarly, Tauscher told the Progressive Policy Institute, “[W]e miscalculate if we confuse intent with capability. Al-Qaeda may want nuclear weapons but likely does not have them – at least not yet.”
While she claims to support the Aegis and THAAD short-range defenses, she opposes plans for long-range missile defense, making the good the enemy of the perfect.
The Back Door to Unilateral Disarmament
Rather than support a military option that will keep the United States safe, she supports leaving our security at the mercy of the equally mythical concepts of rogue state benevolence and UN competence. For Tauscher, a secure world begins with a disarmed United States. In February, she told the Munich Security Conference: “The U.S. would, without question, be more secure in a world free of nuclear weapons. The real question is whether pursuit of such a goal is in our security interests. I believe it is.” As a Congresswoman, she has opposed efforts to create any new nuclear weapons and withheld funding from the Reliable Replacement Warhead, although it would make the nation’s aging nuclear stockpile more secure, guard it against unauthorized launch, and employ fewer hazardous materials. (The Obama administration killed RRW funding this year.)
Instead, the U.S. should “immediately” ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). According to Tauscher, “[T]he Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty…would do wonders for our security – if America would act.”
That it would. The CTBT is the slow road to permanent, unilateral disarmament. Old weapons that cannot be tested will be destroyed. Coupled with an aversion to procuring any new weapons, the CTBT will result in a defenseless America susceptible to nuclear blackmail.
Nor has the CTBT discouraged proliferation. China, a signatory that has not ratified the treaty, has a detailed history of proliferation to rogue states – including Pakistan, North Korea, and Iran. Russia, which both signed and ratified the CTBT, has also proven disappointing. As Tauscher has written,“Despite assurances from Russia – contained in the Nuclear Proliferation Assessment that accompanied submission of the 123 document – that ‘its government would not tolerate cooperation with Iran in violation of its UN Security Council Resolutions,’ Russia continues to build a nuclear power plant at Bushehr, and thwarts harsher international sanctions against Iran. Arms control experts warn that Russia remains actively engaged in missile, nuclear and advanced conventional defense cooperation with Iran.”
Likewise, she advises “a multilateral push to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency…will pay substantial dividends for global nuclear security.” But the IAEA has been a proven failure, watching cluelessly as first Pakistan and India, then North Korea and possibly Iran developed the very weapons the international body is intended to deny them.
Blame America First
Tauscher attributes these failures, not to the IAEA, but to the United States of America. Standard leftist cant insists the existence of a U.S. nuclear arsenal proves this nation is an imperialistic hypocrite, provoking nuke-happy dictators to seek doomsday weapons out of imitation or self-defense. Left-wingers tell us these regimes are alternately intimidated by our “aggression,” defiant of our decision to exclude them from “the nuclear club,” or inspired by our poor example. Tauscher rehearsed the wizened theme: “At a time when we are facing threats from nations such as North Korea and Iran, and attempting to convince others such as India and Pakistan to become responsible nuclear powers, it is vital that America reclaims the leadership we once had on arms control.”
Her words echoed those of IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, who said last month the most pressing threat to disarmament is the lack of “a sense of fairness and equity.” “We still live in a world where if you have nuclear weapons, you are buying power, you are buying insurance against attack. That is not lost on those who do not have nuclear weapons,” he said. After candidly acknowledging that under his leadership of the IAEA the world will soon “have nine weapons states and probably another 10 or 20 virtual weapons states” (regimes with nuclear capability but no formal nuclear weapons), he lectured destroying the U.S. nuclear stockpile will create “a completely different environment. All these so-called virtual weapons states, or virtual wannabe weapons states, will think twice…because then the major powers will have the moral authority to go after them and say: ‘We are doing our part of the bargain. Now it is up to you.’”
Aiding Our Enemies, Hurting our Allies
Until the United States regains this lost moral authority, Tauscher has advised the Obama administration to express goodwill to Tehran and Pyongyang. “[T]he U.S. needs to engage in immediate and unconditional direct negotiations with North Korea and Iran,” she stated. “After eight long years it should be abundantly clear that bellicose chest thumping doesn’t get results.” However, it was precisely the Bush administration’s least productive policies that Tauscher supported. Last June, she called North Korea’s incomplete declaration of its nuclear program “a good faith step toward peace and cooperation,” which “paves the way for taking North Korea off the state sponsor of terror list, giving some of the world’s most isolated and impoverished people the humanitarian aid they desperately need.” The North Korean army received the food aid, the impoverished people remain destitute of basic freedoms, and North Korea goosesteps ever closer to the nuclear brink.
The Congresswoman from California would give no such latitude to India. After a decade-long economic boom, the subcontinent desperately needs nuclear power to keep pace with its energy demands. Recognizing this, the Bush administration brokered a deal for the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to supply nuclear material to India’s civilian nuclear reactors.
The land of 1.1 billion people and nine percent economic growth has a destiny as a great power, and its democratic history makes this ally a vital counterbalance to both Chinese hegemony and regional jihadists. Although India conducted its first atomic test in 1974, and its economy frequently struggled during the intervening 35 years, New Delhi has no history of nuclear proliferation to foreign nations.
Nonetheless, the deal sent the Honorable Mrs. Tauscher into fits. Last July, she called the agreement “a dark day for global efforts to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction.” She further charged, “By rewarding a friendly country and pushing this deal through the NSG, the Bush administration has made it far harder to curb the South Asian nuclear arms race, undermined efforts to address North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs, and limited our ability to strengthen the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at the 2010 Review Conference. It’s a dangerous precedent that would be impossible to erase, and I will work to block its passage through Congress.”
Nominee Tauscher believes North Korean and Iranian provocations are best rewarded with diplomatic talks (which at least one regime regards as only a means to an economic end), while recommending India and Israel be subjected to tighter strictures.
The Originator of “Bush Lied, People Died”?
Rep. Ellen Tauscher has a less savory history in international relations: she may have been the first Democrat of national repute to call President George W. Bush a liar during the Iraq War. Tauscher, who once had a hawkish reputation, voted for the invasion. In September 2002 she prodded President Bush, in tortured syntax, “to put specifically the Security Council members – Russia, China and France – their feet to the fire and ask them how they can honestly expect us one year after this terrible tragedy as they continue to appease and continue to allow Saddam Hussein to do clearly what everyone recognizes that he does.” Following Security Council inaction, the president launched the war in March 2003.
As David Horowitz and I recount in Party of Defeat, by that July – barely three months into the war – Tauscher, a member of the Armed Services Committee:
told a crowd at the University of California at Berkeley, “I believe that this administration cooked the books on the intelligence that caused us to believe that Iraq was an imminent threat.” In fact, the president had said the opposite, that Iraq was not an imminent threat, but that America could not afford to allow Iraq to become one. But Tauscher barreled on. “This administration took part fact and part supposition – subjective information delivered to them by the intelligence community – and they shaped it to reach a preconceived conclusion for the use of force, something that they had determined to do sometime well before March of this year.” She called for a congressional investigation into her charges.
She added she was “deeply disturbed that I didn’t know at the time that the aluminum tubes could possibly be used in gas centrifuges, but also in vacuum cleaners.” Even antiwar activist Col. Lawrence Wilkerson confirms French intelligence insisted they had conducted scientific tests and had “proof positive that the aluminum tubes were not for mortar casings or artillery casings, they were for centrifuges.” Regardless, as Colin Powell pointed out, the possession of these tubes for any weapons systems, nuclear or conventional, violated the terms of the UN-imposed ceasefire. “Iraq had no business buying them for any purpose,” Powell said. “They are banned for Iraq.”
Following her turn hard-Left, her Iraq record proved dismal. She opposed a measure commending our troops for removing Saddam Hussein from power. She wrote the president in December 2005, urging him to remove all troops from Iraq. She later voted for a 90-day withdrawal of all forces from Iraq and a measure condemning President Bush’s surge, instead backing John Murtha’s “slow bleed” strategy. She went on to support investigating charges of impeachment against the president for “lying” to the American people. Despite possibly being the first Congresswoman to claim the soldiers in Iraq were killing people for a lie, she was outraged when she saw someone had distributed a handbill of her quotations about the war, claiming she was “slimed in the Green Zone.”
Iran: “I’m Not Going to Sit Idly By and Be Duped” – by Bush
Continuing her vicious campaign to paint the wartime commander-in-chief of U.S. forces as a liar, she widened the indictment. In the same July 2003 speech, she told her Berkeley audience the Bush administration exaggerated the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear program, as well. “I hear the drumbeat and the rhetoric coming from the administration about Iran and their nuclear program. And it all sounds vaguely familiar,” she said. “I am not going to sit idly by and be duped.”
That is exactly what has happened; the world has sat idly as Iran improves its nuclear capabilities. She is now being rewarded with a sensitive appointment for such insight.
A (Mostly) Unfortunate Record
Despite these significant, disqualifying gaps, Tauscher’s record is not all bad. She is the current chair of the New Democrat Coalition due to her longtime belief in the power of free trade, a stance she has repeated as recently as mid-May. Similarly, she has advocated easing restrictions on military sales to South Korea, a vital strategy given the encroachments of the North.
Within her party, she favors more moderate voices. Upon the Democrats sweeping the House of Representatives, she supported Steny Hoyer over Nancy Pelosi. (Pelosi later threatened to redraw Tauscher’s Congressional district.) As late as May 2003, she supported Joe Lieberman’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and endorsed Hillary Clinton in June 2007, a move likely responsible for her elevation in Hillary’s department. These centrist defections KOS’ed Markos Moulitsas Zúniga and fellow netroots denizens to turn their sites on her.
Trade aside, she is not especially centrist on any front. Fox News notes Tauscher “posts a more centrist voting record than many of the other Bay Area Democrats,” an easy task to say the least. “Tauscher is liberal on most social issues and voted against a ban on late-term abortions and a ban on gays in the Boy Scouts…The American Conservative Union gave Tauscher’s 2007 voting record zero out of 100. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave her 95 points.” As recently as last December, she promised to introduce legislation overturning the Clinton administration’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning open homosexuals in the military.
Her foreign policy and Homeland Security records prove particularly troubling. She has a mixed record, at best, of supporting warrantless wiretaps against foreign jihadist terrorists, supports extending habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo Bay detainees, and favored unionizing federal airport screeners. She supported Dennis Kucinich’s quixotic bid to establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence. Despite Chinese nuclear proliferation, she has voted against deterring arms sales to Beijing, opposed a bill to withhold some portion of our UN dues until the international body cleaned itself up, and boasts a 78 percent voting record from SANE (now the Peace Action Network).
Thankfully, some public servants are showing greater concern for our national security than Tauscher. Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl has publicly criticized her opposition to missile defense, and media outlets have reported confirmation from a Kyl aide that he will place a hold on her nomination. Tauscher would replace Kyl’s aide, John Rood, who served in that position since 2007. Rood, an expert with 17 years’ experience dealing with missile defense, was never confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Anyone with Tauscher’s record of startling naivete should neither be confirmed, nor serve.
This article originally ran as the lead story on Monday, June 1, 2009, on FrontPage Magazine.