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Thursday, August 12, 2004


I'm back.

I'd like to say that I'm "tanned, rested and ready" but that would be too many lies even for Dick Nixon. My skin burns, so I avoid and/or block the sun, I stayed up too late virtually every night on vacation and, frankly, I wouldn't have minded another week or two off with my family.


Still, upon my return, I couldn't help but notice that the part of the blogosphere that I follow is carefully re-examining the problem of nuclear proliferation.

More than a month ago, Matt Yglesias asked: "Iranian Nukes: So What?". Yglesias acknowledged that he'd prefer a non-nuclear Iran, but didn't think the goal was worth a war:
Perhaps a case can be made that a nuclear Iran is such a bad thing that's it's worth preventing by any means necessary. But it's not a case I've heard.
This week, Dan Drezner's guest blogger Siddharth responded:
we don’t want a radical anti-American regime with links to terrorist organizations to have nuclear weapons. It’s another version of the Pakistan problem
Yglesias has now attempted to debunk this argument too:
the "madmen give nuclear weapons to Hezbollah" scenario strikes me as a bit, well, far-fetched. It's similar to the Pakistan problem except (a) less realistic, and (b) less threatening to the USA.
Chris Young at Explananda has also joined the fray, seemingly on Siddharth's side of the argument:
A world in which a whole lot of unstable, undemocratic countries have nuclear weapons is a world in which there is a much greater chance of fatal miscalculation.

I'm not a dove on this issue....We are running out of time. The spread of fissile material and nuclear technology is unstoppable, but it is slowable. For the short and the medium term we need to slow it as much as possible.
This is an issue I've long followed. My 1983 undergrad honor's thesis was entitled, "Pondering the Perils of Nuclear Proliferation: American Foreign Policy Choices" and my intercollegiate academic debate career was based in large part on my secondary research on the topic.

So, where do I stand?

First, I'm with Yglesias and the academic realists on the inappropriateness of the Bush Doctrine as a tool of nonproliferation. I wouldn't go to war with either Iran or North Korea.

Second, Young makes a point that I've made before, but that is too often overlooked. Western countries, including the US, are often completely hypocritical on this issue.

I won't reproduce Article VI of the NPT, but it's easy enough to find.

The US is pursuing new, more usable nuclear bombs, reversed sanctions on India and Pakistan after 9/11, and refuses to ratify various arms control agreements, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

I'm not saying that the US should "Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," but I do think that deterrence means something real to states. More importantly, the US and other states need to get their own houses in order and stop pursuing hawkish measures that promote proliferation.

Fred Kaplan's piece on how the Bush team botched North Korea is a very good read on this topic.

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