Friday, June 17, 2005

Why is the U.S. Making Non-Proliferation Talks More Difficult?

Iran and North Korea are playing games with the U.S. and other nations when it comes to talks regarding their nuclear programs. North Korea has not been shy to state they have nuclear weapons already, whereas Iran insists their program is strictly for civilian nuclear power (which they are allowed to do as a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), although in 2002 they were forced to admit they had been secretly trying to enrich uranium, a first step for weapons production). Even with today’s elections, Iranian officials state a new president will not affect or alter nuclear policy. The U.S. and European nations that have been trying to engage these members of the Bush ‘axis of evil’ do not, of course, trust the Iranians or North Koreans, with good reason based on past actions.

However, it seems to me that we are making things more difficult for ourselves because of the hypocrisy demonstrated by the Bush administration’s program to develop a new nuclear based generation of ‘bunker busting’ bombs. The so-called mini-nukes have been quietly researched over the past two to three years. In negotiations with any nation over non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, how can any government be expected to take such negotiations seriously if the U.S. is involved? The ‘might makes right’ and ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mentality we have demonstrated can only make serious negotiation and progress towards non-proliferation more difficult. For a known sponsor of terrorists such as Iran and a secretive, isolated regime such as we find in North Korea, when they are backed into a corner by the U.S. with threats and tough rhetoric, the response they will exhibit loses any practical, predictive level. Throw in hypocrisy over nuclear weapons and we have just given them incentive to continue to play games; what reason do we offer that other nations can trust us?

It is no secret I think hitting Iraq when we did was a mistake. Iraq was contained at the time with no-fly zones and inspectors on the ground. If the Bush administration had actually let the inspectors do their job we likely would have avoided war if the true reason was to disarm Iraq from WMDs. From the recent publication of the British Downing Street memo stating war plans were drawn up many months before public talk about a possible war, it is more clear than ever this was not necessarily the case. Be that as it may, by saving our military from an Iraq conflict, we would be in better position to back up our tough talk with Iran and North Korea. Even three or four years ago Iran and North Korea were thought to have more established WMD programs than Iraq, and we gave the other two axes of the evil triangle multiple years worth of time to dig in and likely expand their programs. With few military options left for these countries presently, and hypocrisy taking away a truly persuasive argument to dismiss the intent to develop nuclear weapons, we should not be surprised by the continued difficulties we face with Iran and North Korea. Besides these negotiations, the U.S., in my opinion, should be making a much greater effort to get the Russians to stabilize their nuclear stockpiles from the black market, which is likely the greatest threat for a nuclear weapon to get in the hands of a terrorist group.

For some articles on the effects of ‘mini-nukes,’ check this out.

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