USIS Washington File

18 October 1999

Byliner: Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Chuck Hagel on the CTBT

(Op-ed column from October 16 issue of The New York Times) (910)

(This column by Senators Joe Lieberman (Democrat of Connecticut) and
Chuck Hagel (Republican of Nebraska) first appeared in The New York
Times October 16 and is in the public domain, no copyright

Don't Give Up on the Test Ban
By Joseph I. Lieberman and Chuck Hagel

(Joseph I. Lieberman, a Democrat, is a United States Senator from
Connecticut. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, is a Senator from Nebraska.)

In this town, conventional wisdom is usually far more deadly than
conventional weapons. And so it was this week with the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty.

After the Senate's disappointing defeat of the treaty, the Beltway
coroners wasted little time issuing their post-mortems -- determining
the cause of death and judging the guilty parties -- and quickly
cementing the prevailing notion that the test ban had been banished,

We beg to differ.

In fact we do differ. We voted in opposite ways on the treaty and
would do so again tomorrow.

But we nevertheless agree that the cause of stopping the testing and
spreading of nuclear weapons did not die on the Senate floor on
Thursday and that it is still possible to salvage a viable, verifiable
test ban.

Saying so won't make it happen. We recognize that the Senate remains
deeply divided on this issue, that there are legitimate points of
contention about the treaty in its current form, and that the bad
taste the partisan debate left won't help in resolving the

But saying so will at least begin to reassure the American people and
the people of the world that the United States is not abandoning its
commitment to reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation or its
responsibilities of leadership as the world's lone superpower. That is
why we feel it is important to speak out now and dispel the misguided
conventional wisdom. Our constituents and our country's allies have
expressed grave concerns about our hasty rejection of the treaty and
the impact of that rejection on the treaty's survival. They need to
know that we, along with a clear majority of the Senate, have not
given up hope of finding common ground in our quest for a sound and
secure ban on nuclear testing.

This is a point that has been lost amid all the post-vote
re-evaluations and recriminations.

Although there were not enough votes to ratify the treaty in its
current form, most Senators from both parties thought it was a mistake
to force a vote now. They would have much preferred to move more
deliberately, with a full set of hearings and a full opportunity to
air and address the serious questions that critics of the treaty have
raised about verifying compliance and about its impact on the
reliability and safety of our nuclear deterrent.

Sadly, of course, that was not how events proceeded. The Senate,
bogged down, backed itself into a procedural corner and could not find
the will or the way out, leaving us to reject the first major treaty
in 80 years and to undercut the long and proud tradition of
bipartisanship that has governed our foreign policy.

We could spend a lot of time assessing blame for this disappointing
outcome, and there is plenty of it to go around.

But it is more constructive to focus on tomorrow and on what it will
take to build a lasting consensus.

In pursuit of that goal, we would be well served to take note of the
way Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush handled the second strategic
arms limitation treaty. Faced with certain defeat in the Senate,
President Carter asked to have the treaty as it was first negotiated
withdrawn from consideration. President Reagan opposed the treaty in
his campaign but promised to abide by its conditions voluntarily and
to renegotiate it.

After additional negotiations, a treaty emerged; it was signed by
President Bush and ratified by the Senate.

Certainly there are many differences between these treaties, starting
with the fact that the strategic arms treaty was a bilateral agreement
and the test ban is multilateral. However, that does not mean we
cannot learn from this example, set aside our political differences,
and thoroughly examine the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the many
arms control issues it raises. That is the test ban test. Can we pick
up the pieces and start anew without partisan rancor? We believe we
can, and we are encouraged by comments we have heard from many of our
colleagues in both parties who do not want this vote to be the
prologue for proliferation.

They believe, as we do and most Americans do, that a verifiable test
ban that allows us to assure that existing nuclear weapons are safe
and effective would deter nuclear proliferation and improve America's
national security.

There is no quick fix here. We cannot offer a simple road map to
resolving the differences on the treaty in its current form.

But we can offer the resolve to get there, and we intend to spend the
next several months reaching out to our colleagues on the Armed
Services and Foreign Relations Committees, throughout the Senate, and
in the Clinton Administration, in hopes of determining what steps can
be taken to secure a strong bipartisan vote in the Senate for nuclear

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