Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, might be excused for not remembering much about the nuclear arms race of the Cold War era and the very real fear of a hydrogen holocaust that had people building fallout shelters in their basements and children being taught in school how to “duck and cover,” just in case.
He was born at the end of the 1950s and had hardly turned 3 when the Cuban missile crisis almost made the unthinkable happen.
Indeed, most people born after 1960 can be forgiven for not knowing how hard it was for the presidents, premiers, diplomats and statesmen to agree to reduce the nuclear weapons both sides knew had been stockpiled far beyond what’s needed to wipe humankind from the face of the earth.
We could excuse all this if Rogers were not a congressman who should know history, even if he has not lived it.
Despite what he should know and understand about nuclear disarmament, Rogers says he will introduce an amendment to the defense appropriations bill coming up before the U.S. House that will prevent the Obama administration from joining Russia in further reducing nuclear arsenals. This amendment will be one of the more than 100 that are holding up the passage of the bill.
Rogers may have a point when he criticizes the White House for not working more closely with Congress on the disarmament issue. However, the congressman should know as much as anyone that there is as much symbolism as substance in our willingness to lower our stockpile of nuclear arms. If he wants the president to explain his position, he should also point out that even with the proposed reductions we still have the capability to reduce enemy cities to rubble within a few hours.
A strong nuclear arsenal is a deterrent if an enemy is concerned about the welfare of its people. At the same time, reducing our nuclear arsenal sends a signal to the rest of the world that we are willing to put innocent civilians in a little less danger, even though we still have the capacity to unleash the horror of nuclear war.
In this debate, the American people could use a little less rhetoric and a lot more facts.