Would the U.S. pay for Libya’s WMDs?

Conservatives are very concerned about strengthening America’s military while reducing the debt. They are also concerned about threats of terror, sometimes when no threat exists (e.g. Iraq).

I became somewhat alarmed when it was reported that Libya has massive amount of weapons of mass destruction. This includes ten tons of mustard gas and sarin contained in thousands of canisters. Additionally it is reported that Libya has one thousand metric tons of uranium yellowcake, a stockpile of Scud B missiles and perhaps as many as a thousand shoulder-launched missiles capable of bringing down a commercial airplane.

Like Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi has been no friend of Al Qaeda. An ironic difference is that Saddam did not possess Weapons of Mass Destruction in the early 2000s; Qaddafi has considerable amounts a decade later. What happens in post-Qaddafi Libya is a mosaic of uncertainties. The best that most of us can do in determining who the rebels are is to speculate. Are they a revolutionary group hungering for a secular democracy or are they religious fanatics including members of al Qaeda?

Whoever comes to govern Libya post-Qaddafi will have three choices with the WMDs. They can do nothing, just let them sit. They can choose to use them, although it’s unclear against whom. Finally, they could sell them. Naturally they would want the best price, so a somewhat surreptitious auction would take place.

Who would be the bidders in an auction? From the point of view of the United States, the first question would be whether or not it wants to have a seat at the table and bid. The second question is whether the United States is prepared, in the words of John F. Kennedy, to “pay any price, bear any burden, and meet any hardship” to guarantee that it wins the bidding and takes possession of the WMDs.

For good reason, the United States has not always trusted other countries. Similarly, with good reasons other countries have not always trusted the United States. Whoever has possession of weapons of mass destruction possesses the double bonus of increasing its own arsenal while depriving potential foes of increasing theirs.

Never having been in the market for weapons of mass destruction, I’m not certain what the going price is on the black market. But with what Libya has, let’s suppose that the amount is $100 billion. Remember, we’re not talking about the cost of producing them, we’re talking about how much potential new owners are willing to pay in 2011.

Money would have to be authorized for the U.S. to purchase the weapons. The Obama Administration could openly inform Congress of its desire to make the purchase. If they felt uncomfortable with that approach, they could discuss the issue secretly with leaders of Congress and its committees on intelligence.

Interestingly, it would likely be the Democrats who would have no hesitation about stepping forward and protecting America’s national defense. I presume that Republicans would want to do likewise but could they do so considering the arguments that they made in the deficit debate?

Buying Libya’s WMDs would not be consistent with Republicans Holy Grail of cutting spending. It would be the anathema; increasing spending. Would the dogma of their opposition to increased spending trump their concern for national security?

In all likelihood, the Republicans would want their cake and eat it too. They would support appropriations for America to pay whatever is necessary to keep these WMDs out of the hands of opponents. But this expenditure would require that they find other spending to cut. The precedent has already been set. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was willing to provide federal aid to tornado-ravaged Joplin, MO if expenditures were cut for clean energy research.

Does this mean that if the U.S. bids for the WMDs that Cantor suggests taking the money from earthquake or hurricane damage to his district in Virginia? I don’t think so.

The tragedies of tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes put us through enough pain. Do we have to further suffer from the foolishness of politicians’ responses to these tragedies? I fear asking that question to Eric Cantor, so can national leaders with an ounce of compassion come forth and ensure that America takes care of its citizens in times of need, with no strings attached? If so, let’s hear from you.