Rep. Adam Smith on nuclear arms control and how to lobby Congress

Rep. Adam Smith spoke at a meeting of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about arms control, nuclear arms non-proliferation, and  President Trump’s withdrawal from international treaties.

Smith said we need to modernize our nuclear weapons, but we should not intend to use them tactically, as some people do   Perhaps one leg of the nuclear triad should be eliminated. He said that if you listen to the hawks, you would believe that the nation is always in the midst of an existential threat to our security and that we must spend billions more on weapons systems.  Smith says we can’t afford it.     He wants to balance the need for deterrence with the need for efficiency and for domestic spending.

He quotes Winston Churchill, “Gentlemen, we’re out of money, and now we have to think.” He said at one point the Pentagon got more money than they knew what to do with. He said a venture capitalist friend told him he’s never seen a company that doesn’t run better if you cut its budget by 10%. The Pentagon wouldn’t accept that logic, “But we can get better and more efficient about how we do this.”

At about 26 minutes into the video, he says how to lobby Congress to control nuclear weapons proliferation:

The moderator asks him, How can the nuclear arms control and non-proliferation community effectively lobby Congress and counter “the we’re all going to die unless we spend more on the military” message. Rep. Smith replies:

Well, the most effective thing, to begin with, is, you know, “I’m a constituent of yours and I care about this issue.” People ask me all the time, “How can we organize? What can we do?” and they’re mystified that there’s got to be some secret formula, code in order to influence Congress. It’s pretty straightforward. Lobbying is not a dirty word and is easily understood. And there are a lot of groups that do a very effective job at it.

Organize constituents and send them to talk to your member of Congress with a several asks, he says.

He mentions the Smith-Mundt Act, which says that the government can’t propagandize its citizenry. (Isn’t that what the DoD does with money spent at sporting events and other venues?) Smith says Congress amended the act because of the Internet, by which propaganda crosses borders.

By the way, I got a link to the video in Rep. Smith’s email to his constituents. The video had only 562 views and one Like when I watched it, on the afternoon of May 25, 2019. A few hours later, it had 564 views. This suggests that most people don’t care much about these things. No wonder bad outcomes proliferate.

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