Yesterday, a representative of former undersecretary of state for political affairs and ambassador Thomas Pickering reached out to Right Turn to ask if Pickering could speak to me regarding Chuck Hagel and nuclear weapons. (In response to an avalanche of criticism over Hagel’s co-authoring the Global Zero initiative, Pickering and others who worked with Hagel on Global Zero posted on Monday a broad -brush defense of the Global Zero proposal, saying it wasn’t really unilateralism and it really wasn’t out of the mainstream.) I promptly responded that I would be happy to talk to the ambassador on the record but wouldn’t want to be confined to the nuclear issue. To my chagrin, the representative, despite a follow-up from me, went silent.


Former ambassador Thomas R. Pickering -State Dept.

Really, Ambassador Pickering, if you are out there, please come back. An experienced diplomat should have no trouble defending Hagel on the record. It would be foolish, after all, to think a prominent defender of Hagel would not be asked questions and would not be held accountable for his attempts to spin the media. I would still be happy to speak with the ambassador. In fact, I’ve been thinking of many questions for him. Maybe the Senate committee can ask him, or better yet, Chuck Hagel directly:

Did Hagel merely sign the Global Zero proposal or did he help draft it and formulate it?

 

Has Hagel helped with Global Zero fundraising?  Who are the donors?

 

Ambassador Pickering says the Global Zero plan was not unilateralism. However, the Senate Republican Policy  Committee observed in an email sent out on Wednesday: “In recommending close to a 75 percent reduction in the number of deployed nuclear warheads, page 1 of the Global Zero report itself reads as follows, with emphasis added: “These steps could be taken with Russia in unison through reciprocal presidential directives, negotiated in another round of bilateral arms reduction talks, or implemented unilaterally.” Page 16 of that same report reads: “The reductions and de-alerting proposed under this illustrative plan could be carried out in unison by the United States and Russia through reciprocal presidential directives, negotiated in another round of bilateral arms reduction talks, or implemented unilaterally.” While acknowledging that unilateral implementation is a “less good approach,” page 18 of the report says “a strong case” could be made for “unilateral deep U.S. cuts.” The Global Zero report therefore by its own terms is unilateralist, recommending that one potential course of action for massive U.S. nuclear reductions is that they be completed unilaterally.” What say you, Mr. Hagel and Ambassador Pickering?

 

Why would rogue countries follow our “lead” and unilaterally disarm?

 

Why have so many national security officials condemned the proposal?

 

Why does the Global Zero group think our current alert posture isn’t sufficient? As the Republican Policy Committee noted, “The U.S. Strategic Posture Commission, on the other hand, made the following analysis in evaluating ‘de-alerting’ recommendations: ‘The alert postures of both countries [United States and Russia] are in fact highly stable. They are subject to multiple layers of control, ensuring clear civilian and indeed presidential decision-making.’ President Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review concluded the current alert posture should be maintained.” So who is wrong — the president or the Global Zero group?

I’m still looking forward to talking to Ambassador Pickering, but it would be a disservice to Right Turn readers not to have him speak openly and answer some critical questions about Hagel. I mean why shouldn’t we hear from someone who purports to know Hagel well, have worked with him and be confident he is an appropriate choice for defense secretary?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.