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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Desperate people do stupid things

If you ever wondered what often drives men to do stupid things, we have a perfect example before us right now. A president of the most powerful nation on earth is faced with the following:

  • Slumping popularity in the polls
  • Scandal and ineptness all around him (Libby, Brown, Chertoff, et al)
  • A preemptive attack on a nation over WMDs it did not have
  • Unconstitutional eavesdropping against American citizens
  • Troops committed to a war that over 2/3 now believe we should withdraw from
  • A nuclear arms crisis brewing in Iran and North Korea
  • 8 billion dollars a month committed to the war effort
  • Impending Civil war in Iran
  • The recent controversy over the Arab company Dubai Ports

With not idea what to tackle or where to start, the President has run off to India to offer them a sweet nuclear deal in the name of making the world safer. That is right, if India will separate it's nuclear energy program from it's weapons program, we'll give them more nuclear material. The idea is that somehow, separating these two programs and giving us the option to inspect the weapons facility from time to time makes the world a safer place.

Keep in mind these three things:

  1. India never signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
  2. They already have nuclear weapons.
  3. They presently are finding it difficult to access additional nuclear material.

So the President, in the name of some great benefit to the security of the world, is going to reward a nation that has refused to be a partner over all these years to the nonproliferation treaty, by giving them privileged treatment and awarding them more nuclear material. What kind of precedence will this establish? How will you say no to other nations, and how is this going to stabilize nuclear powers and make us all safer?

This is the kind of stupid thing that desperate people do. Now we can make a reality TV show called Desperate Presidents.


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6 comments:

tmpfs said...

> 3. They presently are finding it difficult to access additional nuclear material.

About that... it's not really that difficult. India has substantial Uranium and Thorium deposits, and its current technology is enough to make something like 10 bombs a year. All the current ban on selling nuclear tech to India does is prevents it from using modern advances in nuclear tech, forcing it to burn fossil fuels instead.

> What kind of precedence will this establish? How will you say no to other nations, and how is this going to stabilize nuclear powers and make us all safer?

The moral dilemma you present is irrelevant. Iran and North Korea proliferated despite signing the NPT. China helped Pakistan with nuclear capable missiles and nuclear know-how despite being a legit N-weapons state. (One could argue China has done more to deal a death-blow to proliferation than any other country, but that's grist for another post.)

I'm sure Bush-bashing is all the rage in the US right now, but it's quite interesting about how the Bush-haters have forgotten their own arguments about 'international consensus': France, Britain, Russia and the US have come around to the notion that India as a nuclear power is an idea whose time has come. The only holdout, not surprisingly, is China which invaded India in 1962...

I believe at some point those against this deal will have to look at their high moral ground, and the reality on the ground and decide if they want to bring the 'good guys' into the fold or choose to stick with a system that doesn't particularly discourage the 'bad guys'.

Metlin said...

Let's see now - you are equating the world's largest democracy (where in a nation of mostly Hindus, they have a caucasian Roman catholic party president, an Oxford economist Sikh prime minister and a Muslim vegetarian rocket scientist president) with countries like Iran and North Korea.

Wow, sometimes you Bush-haters do say the most ridiculous of things.

Do you know what kind of treatment it is? It is recognizing an upcoming stable democracy that for a change, does things like help foster technology and sides with the US. It's a future partner, and a partnership between two of the world's greatest democracies.

Sheesh, we can make another show called Desperate Liberals.

Michael said...

Metlin - In fairness, no, I do not equate India in all respects to Iran and North Korea. But their development of nuclear capabilities have been, as have Pakistan’s without regard for nonproliferation. That should not be rewarded. Nor do I see the U.S. Congress rubber stamping a deal that promotes nuclear buildup to be in the best interests of the world at large.

tmpfs-

With respect to the moral dilemma -it is entirely relevant to this issue. Surely you don't believe that Iran and North Korea are purely interested in nuclear capabilities for the sole purpose of peaceful energy?

I have never advocated that the U.S. treat India as a adversary, and I am sure there are many ways that our nations can continue to work together. The nuclear deal that Bush has hammered out with India is quite revolutionary. It is indeed out of the norm, and I do believe we have to ask ourselves what offering this carrot on a stick can lead to.

Clearly Iran and North Korea are not alone in their desires for nuclear capability. I think you must ask yourself two questions here.

1. Is the world’s security enhanced by more nuclear weapons and potentially more members of the nuclear club?

2. If the U.S. can offer such a sweet deal to India, what then gives us the credibility to oppose any other member of the nuclear club down the road from making similar deals unilaterally?

Metlin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Metlin said...

Michael,

Here's the scenario - where is discouraging India going to take the US? India is the world's largest democracy, and has quite a lot in common with the US. However, it is also in a highly volatile region where on one hand, there is China which is a communist dictatorship and on the other there is Pakistan, which is an Islamist state with a military dictatorship. India's acquisition of nuclear technology was merely for the purposes of telling the world, "Hey - don't mess with us, you hit us and we can hit back." And secondly, India has not demonstrated any aggressive behavior, and just goes about doings its business.

You said it yourself - Iran and North Korea are not interested in nuclear capabilities solely for the purpose of peaceful energy. However, India is a developing country with a booming economy and an active democracy. And they have a billion people to support. You can be fairly certain that they are doing this for the purposes of peaceful energy.

The problem with the views expressed by folks like Rep. Edward J. Markey is that the idea of sanctions and the like on a peaceful democracy is pointless. You're not really stopping the bad guys (for instance, China sells weapons tech to Pakistan and this stuff manages to get around to NK, Libya, Iran etc etc.) but you are discouraging the good guys who may genuinely need it from using it.

As for your two questions, you are confusing civilian technology with military technology. If all someone wanted was to have the means to blow up places, I'm sure finding the means wouldn't be that hard. However, tried and tested, reliable civilian technology for energy purposes does need a lot of research and investment - hence the deal. And secondly, all countries except China have already expressed unilateral support to India on the issue. But then again, China invaded India in 1962 and supplies weapons tech to Pakistan, so that's not really surprising.

So, coming back, encouraging India however does a lot of good to the US. In a poll in India, 71-74% of Indians said they liked and supported the US, second only to 83% right here. There is a lot of technology partnership, and there is a signficant Indian population in the US. Both are democracies, and what better ally to have in that region for the US to have, than another democracy which shares a common language?

As an Indian in the US, I'm thrilled at this prospect. And honestly, the way the democrats and liberals have reacted to this surprises and disappoints me, given that they are supposed to be of the more open-minded sort. If anything, I'd expected acceptance at a peaceful, democracy that genuinely needed this tech, rather than what seems to be the reaction all around.

Sad, that.

tmpfs said...

Thanks for replying (and not biting my head off -- I have had bad experiences on some blogs).

> 1. Is the world’s security enhanced by more nuclear weapons and potentially more members of the nuclear club?

Easy answer. No. Hard problem: you already have quite a few gatecrashers in the nuclear club, North Korea being the prime example. (And Iran if it weren't for that Israeli airstrike and a long, sapping war with Iraq.) Worse still, nuclear technology isn't exactly rocket science, and primitive nukes are getting easier to build, even for non-state actors. It is my firm belief that a suitcase nuke attack somewhere in the world is at most five years away.

So in this environment you've got to ask yourself, how good has the existing regime been at keeping nukes away from countries/actors we don't like? The answer is: not very good. *And* this regime has kept us from engaging countries like India which live in a dangerous neighborhood and have an excellent record on non-proliferation.

> 2. If the U.S. can offer such a sweet deal to India, what then gives us the credibility to oppose any other member of the nuclear club down the road from making similar deals unilaterally?

I believe India's record is virtually unique in that it combines multiple civilian governments, a strong democratic tradition, a professional defense force and a strong record on non-proliferation with a very strong case for nukes, given its neighborhood.

If any one of the NPT nuclear powers were to give any other ally of theirs such a 'sweet deal', I think that ally should be judged on their merits. If that ally were Japan, say-- I'd say, why not. If that ally were Brazil (I really don't know that much about Brazilian government) I'd probably agree if nothing alarming turned up. If that ally were Pakistan or Iran, it'd be a clear no-no.

What I'm trying to say is: the old rules don't count for much anymore. It's a country's record that matters. Thankfully, you'll find all the NPT nuclear powers have a lot to lose from a rogue nuclear state (hence China's reining in of N.Korea) and you're likely to see little real division on an issue like this.