Senator John McCain spoke Tuesday (May 27) at the University of Denver in what was billed as a major policy speech on nuclear security. He essentially condemned the Bush Administration approach to unilateralism, repeatedly invoking the importance of collective action in dealing with the acquisition of nuclear technology by developing countries and by transnational anti-American organizations. To his great credit, he called for dramatic further reductions in nuclear missiles, and for a new arms limitation agreement with Russia to accomplish it. Catholic Social Teaching has dictated action of this nature for nearly 50 years, and a wide variety of Catholic voices addressing these issues had fallen on virtually deaf ears during the eight Bush years in the White House.
But Senator McCain fell far short of meeting what most Catholic thinkers would call the moral imperative on these issues. He called for continuing the militarization of the North Pacific, a move condemned last week in a joint statement by the Russian and Chinese governments as the beginning of a new arms race. He also reinforced the highly destructive unilateral Bush move to place a network of missiles in Central Europe on the pretense that the US needs to protect Europe from Iran, even though most European countries have condemned this costly escalation in hostilities.
Senator McCain failed to even mention the most urgent need regarding nuclear forces, namely Pentagon planning under the Bush Administration for the militarization of space. Mr Bush is requesting $10 million in funding in fiscal year 2009 for a "Space Test Bed" as part of a space-based missile defense system. The program would begin the process of putting weapons in space for the first time and would therefore have dangerous long-term consequences.
Last year, Congress rejected funding for the Space Test Bed. But this year, the Union for Concerned Scientists has warned that several influential senators have expressed a willingness to fund space weapons and anti-satellite programs on the mistaken assumption that the US can effectively "defend" its satellites in the face of China's threat to deploy space weapons. Not only would the program break the international taboo against weapons in space, the interceptors have no chance of providing an effective defense despite the enormous cost of their deployment.
Senator McCain also reinforced his determination to continue the killing, and the dying, and the unfathomable spending, in Iraq. While any student of foreign affairs must applaud his general sentiment of increased engagement with US allies, the commitment to heightened militarism in the face of so much economic need at home and abroad can only be described as grossly incompatible with the central imperative of Christianity--devotion to and imitation of a Savior who sacrificed his own life for the wellbeing of every human being.