Mead Treadwell Gets It on Defense Policy

by Paula A. DeSutter
Alaska should replace Mark Begich with someone who understands the manifold threats to America.

As voters go to the polls for this year’s midterm elections, they should bear in mind the growing threats to American security. Our adversaries and enemies are emboldened, while our allies hear words of assurance but know they are not backed by deeds. America needs strong leadership, not just in the White House, but in Congress.

This situation has only worsened since 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president and Mark Begich was elected to the Senate. This year, Alaskans will decide whether to reelect Senator Begich or return to its record of sending leaders like Senator Ted Stevens to the U.S. Senate.

Speaking as someone deeply interested in national security, I believe Alaska and the country need Mead Treadwell to replace Mark Begich in the U.S. Senate.

From 2002 to 2009, I served as President Bush’s assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, working on a wide range of arms-control and missile-defense issues with both allies and strategic rivals. Mr. Begich’s experience and leadership on these issues pales in comparison to that of Treadwell, whose record and continuation of the Ted Stevens legacy was recently commended in NRO by Ambassador Hank Cooper, a former head of the Strategic Defense Organization.

Mead was there in the 1990s, arguing that the United States needed to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which limited our missile-defense capabilities, and develop a defense strategy both in Alaska and nationally. Alaska’s legislature was the first of ten states in the nation that have called for national missile defenses.

The ground-based interceptors the Bush administration deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and in California are currently the only missile defense of the American homeland. To his credit, Senator Begich has spoken in support of the program. But he hasn’t followed up his words with action: The senator, despite serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has done nothing to counter the administration’s larger missile-defense failures.

The need for leaders who are serious about foreign policy is only growing: We have seen a resurgence of murderous radical forces across Syria, Iraq, and Libya. We see expanded missile and nuclear programs by countries such as Iran and North Korea, but also by China and Russia. We see an administration willing to tolerate Russia’s belligerent behavior, providing the missiles that shot down a civilian airliner in Ukraine and most recently practicing bombing runs with their strategic nuclear bombers near Alaska. While Russia violates treaties on conventional forces in Europe and intermediate-range nuclear forces, the Obama administration covers up for them and calls for further “bold reductions” in US and NATO forces.

On the administration’s critical failures of defense and foreign policy, Mark Begich has remained conspicuously silent. He’s even supported the Senate-rejected Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which would weaken America’s nuclear deterrent but not stop Iran or North Korea or others developing or improving their nuclear weapons.

Anyone who has ever been on a playground knows that bullies don’t target the strong — they go after the weak. America has, until now, been the strong kid on the playground. Mead Treadwell understands this, and has long been a leader on national security, notably with his work with Alaska’s late, great Senator Ted Stevens.

He knows threats cannot be wished away, that we must take the often difficult, expensive, but necessary steps to deter them. Where Mark Begich has been silent, Mead Treadwell has been outspoken, leading on missile defense in defiance of the conventional D.C. wisdom.

In the interest of disclosure, I should note that my tenure in the State Department overlapped another candidate in Alaska’s Republican Senate primary, Dan S. Sullivan. Sullivan has also served his country honorably as a Marine. Notwithstanding Sullivan’s background and D.C. connections, however, I believe that the Senate needs Mead’s foreign and defense-policy experience. His 40 years of experience fighting for Alaska, both for greater national-security concerns and to preserve the strategic economic, strategic, and trade advantages that Alaska alone provides, will benefit us all.

Unlike Mr. Begich and President Obama, Mead Treadwell has a reality-based approach to national security that’s skeptical of treaties and other lines in the sand unless they are backed up by a willingness to respond to violations. His missile-defense advocacy has long sought to ensure that these defense deployments are part of a larger strategy to make America unassailable. His leadership as chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission has involved both the pursuit of good science and technological advances and standing up to Russia for their intrusions into American fishing grounds.

Alaskans have been fortunate to have Treadwell as their lieutenant governor. By sending him to the U.S. Senate, Alaskans will be serving not only Alaska, but all of the states to its south, too.

— Paula A. DeSutter served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance from 2002 to 2009. 

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