The Rachel Maddow Show | January 31, 2013
>>> i would like for you as the committee is getting to know you, know something about your service in vietnam and your combat experience. were you wounded, senator hagel ?
>> i would respond this way. i think my time is better served and maybe talk about more the specific things like senator mccain asked me about. i had one fundamental question that i asked myself. on every vote i took, every decision i made. was a policy worthy of the men and women that we were sending into battle and surely to their deaths. i did question a surge. it wasn't an aberration to me. i always ask the question is this worth being the sacrifice? because there will be sacrifice.
>> let's bring into the conversation now joseph cirincione , he's chairman of the plow shares fund, the global security corporation, he's our go-to expert on nukes. joe , thanks very much for being here.
>> my pleasure, rachel.
>> i specifically want to get your take on one issue that was broached today at the hearing over senator hagel where both sides did not seem to be talking about the same thing. here's a quick clip.
>> senator hagel has also been an outspoken supporter of the nuclear disarmament and the global zero movement. why would we want to unilaterally disarm ourselves of nuclear capability?
>> the position of global zero, my position, some of the individuals, national security leaders, as senator nunn talked about, including himself, has never been unilateral disarmament , ever. never.
>> joe , what are they fighting about here?
>> yeah. it's -- senator hagel is exactly right. this is not about unilaterally taking apart our nuclear arsenal . nobody is suggesting that. it's about reducing it. it's about adjusting our nuclear arsenal to the realities of the 21st century world. and the target of the conservative attacks on senator hagel was not actually hagel himself today. it was president obama . because senator hagel 's positions are identical to those of president obama , vice president biden, secretary of state kerry, in fact the vast majority of the security establishment in the united states . that we are stuck with an obsolete arsenal of nuclear weapons that have little relevance to the threats we face today of cybersecurity, of nuclear terrorism , of unrest in the middle east , and every dollar that we're spending on these nuclear weapons is taking money away from the troops, preventing us from giving the weapons that they really need. these senators are stuck in a position of defending a 120th century arsenal that has little relevance in today's world.
>> and hearing them read their talking points about this today, awkwardly read these talking points as if they do not come naturally to them and they have been told to read them made me feel like the reason i wanted you to hear inhofe say it how awkwardly he said it is because it makes me wonder what constituencies these senators are speaking for, who believe that by rusing the size of the nuclear weapons arsenal would be a bad thing, that thinks our 5,000th nuclear bomb is make us more safe than our 4,999th. who are they speaking for?
>> that's exactly right. there was a very awkwardness about the questioning.
>> and some of them clearly did not grasp the strategic situation they're debating. i never thought i'd say this, but i miss jon kyl . senator kyl was a fierce defender of the weapons establishment, a fierce defender of every contract, every bomb. he wanted to build more nuclear weapons . but he knew what he was talking about and you didn't get that sense seriously from anyone who was doing the questioning on a nuclear policy today. some of these represent -- senators are representing defense contractors . they want to keep the bases in their state. they want to keep the contracts. some of them are just trying to score a political point, to attack the president as weak and naive and dangerous and even treasonous, as you just suggested. but many of them are just stuck in this cold war mentality and they can't break out of it. it's not just bayonets and battleships. it's nuclear weapons have a decreasing relevance to the threats we face today. but here you have these senators from the conservative wing of the party still clinging to this cold war arsenal, this cold war threat. so when they see somebody like chuck hagel , who's willing to question assumptions, who's thinking new, who wants to state what exactly would we use a nuclear weapon for, how many do we need, can we do with 400, do we really need, as you say, 5,000, that's very threatening to them and you saw that on display today.
>> in terms of how they fit in to broader conservative politics on this, isn't it true that more sort of establishment leading lights of republican foreign policy are much closer to chuck hagel on this? they've tried to make global zero into some communist thing, but aren't there a lot of big-name republicans associated with that?
>> absolutely. so outside the senate, when you go and you look at particularly former republican officials on this, colin powell , completely with this agenda, george schultz completely with this agenda, henry kissinger has joined schultz and former secretary bill perry and sam nunn , two democrats, in leading the charge for a world free of nuclear weapons . part of the inspiration for president obama 's strategy. you see former chairmen of the joint chiefs siding with this. former leaders of the strategic command . they recognize we don't need 5,000 nuclear weapons anymore. we can go to much lower numbers. the president of the united states is clearly on a path to doing that, and part of what you saw today was shots across the bow. trying to stop president obama from continuing to modernize u.s. nuclear strategy , to reduce the cost and the expense and the sail yensy of this obsolete arsenal.
>> politically it will be amazing if the republican party decides they want to go all curtis le may on this issue. but i almost welcome it. joe cirincione, president of the ploughshares fund . always great to have you here.
>> thanks very much, rachel.
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