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September 09, 2008


Wait, something must be wrong here, I don't see Sarah Palin mentioned anywhere in this post.

"...an Obama administration would have a much better chance of achieving our non-proliferation goals."

Really? That assumes a competence that is not in evidence.

Speeches will not do the trick here. It will take someone with the ability to move beyond just fancy words, someone who knows how to use power along with diplomacy, to advance our interests anywhere in the world today.

Speeches will not do the trick here

You do know that Obama authored important non-proliferation legislation right? And assuming you do know that, why would you suggest that he would switch to just speeches once elected? That would be an odd change of heart.

someone who knows how to use power along with diplomacy

What we know is that McCain has the same attitude toward diplomacy and power that the Bush team does. That approach has been discredited.

The Obama foreign policy team has a much stronger grounding in...reality for lack of better word. They are more open to multilateral solutions, consulation and inclusion of allies and the recognition that non-bellicose solutions require a certain level of give and take.

That is a far better starting point. While success is not guaranteed in all settings, the chances for success are much greater.

Speeches will not do the trick here. It will take someone with the ability to move beyond just fancy words, someone who knows how to use power along with diplomacy, to advance our interests anywhere in the world today.

Someone like...Giblets!

I wish more people would comment on posts like this one. They don't seem to get the attention, for whatever reason, that other, more horse-race oriented posts do. I'd enjoy reading futher discussion. I fear I lack the background to add much, so I'll leave it at that. (You must be very popular with lurkers, Eric.)

Well, there are a lot more efforts out there concerning non-proliferation, but you wouldn't know about it from the US media. Here are a few links

Australia trying to get a non-proliferation commission.

Oz is refusing to sell uranium to India

Opinion in India not all for the NSG waiver

And this article hints at some interesting dynamics, including a China-Pakistan-US axis, G8 support of the waiver, and Chinese dissatisfaction

t was very befitting that the sponsors of the NPT and the founders of the NSG moved for waiver for India.It is not a case of India becoming a major power as a result of this development.This development was an acknowledgement of India having arrived as a power. Today, India is the sole nuclear weapon power, that is not a signatory to the NPT and yet given a waiver by the NSG.An international regime has been modified to accomodate India.

Of course, it would be very nice to have the two candidates give their opinions about giving this carrot to India and if it is to balance out Pakistan and if so, why. But I shudder to think of how any discussion would get twisted.

hairshirt: Thanks for the kind words. I do it for the lurkers ;)

Also, if you want to read up on this topic, the awesome Cheryl Rofer put together a pretty cool project a few months back that asked a bunch of FoPo bloggers to address issues of proliferation. They came up with some pretty interesting ideas, and some nice background material. Unfortunately, I was too busy at the time to contribute, but I'm sure the project benefitted by my absence.

here is a link

I wish more people would comment on posts like this one.

Eric deals in matters that are typically more nuanced than the latest campaign gotcha. It's hard work understanding the necessarily long posts he writes. But then, governance is often hard work - assuming you really want to govern well.

Thank you for your work, Mr. Martin. I usually don't comment, but I read everything you write. [That sounds creepy, or I sound like a political junkie, maybe both]

This post struck me as incredibly familiar, and not just because of you and Matt writing such things, and I have been without Internet access since Gustav hit a million years ago (seems like). The first time I read such an article was in a piece for the Nation. I tried to understand it, but the concepts weren't in keeping with everything I grew up understanding about the United States. After several more articles I finally got it, and I am frightened as hell for our future.

I will not be so presumptuous as to attempt writing such an article myself. I am a writer by occupation, so I write only about what I truly understand through and through. The more pieces I find like this that I read, though, the closer I come to being able to write about it. I consider writers such as yourself Colonels in the war against the ignorance sweeping through our nation. I appreciate it very much.


A question occurred to me with I though Eric (Foreign Policy Maven To The Lurkers) might be able to answer:

Outside of Iran and North Korea (the obvious bad cases!) what other countries in the world are there who are even trying (or might try) to manufacture nuclear weapons? Seriously - I'm sure every tin-pot dictator would like a few nukes in the arsenal for the prestige, but outside of the "Axis of Evil", who else is there who could AND would?

I had heard that both Brazil and South Africa HAD had military-nuke programs in the works, but had been dissuaded by NPT diplomacy: are ther any others?

Thanks, Eric. I'll try to be as awsome as possible in my comment.

I think that getting as many ordinary people as possible involved in pressing for nuclear disarmament is one key. That's why I tried out the blog-tank idea. Now that we have the intertubes, there are so many ways to work together.

The University of Maryland, a year or so ago, did some polling that found that something like 75-80% of people in the United States and Russia want nuclear disarmament. That's ultimately the key.

And you've forgotten one very, very important factor that is contributing to proliferation. That's the NPT Article VI requirement for the nuclear powers to work toward nuclear and general disarmament. I think, along with Thomas Graham, that a bold gesture like the US president (arm in arm with the Russian president?) declaring to the UN that nuclear weapons should be outlawed would turn a lot of things around in the world very quickly.

We've outlawed chemical and biological weapons. What do we plan to use nuclear weapons for? And I use the word "we" to include all nations that have them or are thinking of having them.

To Jay C: There are no other nations we know about that are seeking nuclear weapons now. Brazil has parts of the nuclear fuel cycle and might go in that direction if some things changed, but no immediate danger. Japan could build nuclear weapons rather easily, which is one of the reasons that North Korea poses such a danger. But Japan is also content with the status quo.

South Africa actually built six nukes and disassembled them under IAEA inspection. It's not just NPT diplomacy but a whole large variety of reasons, primary among them security from internal and external threats that have caused many nations to eschew the nuclear path. Argentina was at odds with Brazil and also looking at a nuclear solution until the 1990s. That negotiation took 14 years.

If you go back to the sixties and seventies, quite a few countries did some very hard thinking before they signed up to the NPT. Sweden and Taiwan were two, but there were many more.

"That's why I tried out the blog-tank idea. Now that we have the intertubes, there are so many ways to work together."

I'd like to try a blog-submarine, so when trolls swarm, we can submerge for a while.

"To Jay C: There are no other nations we know about that are seeking nuclear weapons now."

There's the Syrian question.


This is really good.

"To prevent countries from going nuclear, you need a...robust level of international cooperation and that means a fairly neutral, objective scheme that all different kinds of countries can endorse."

This would also apply to international standards for cooperating to suppress terrorism.

Now there's nothing factually wrong with what Ken said - using power and diplomacy. I disagree with the implication that Obama is just speeches.

Now negotiations can at times be pushed along by grand gestures. And establishing common principals can create good political incentives to achieve certain goals.

But there's also a certain more machiavellian component of diplomacy depending on horse trading and deterrence and perceptions of how others will react.

Probably among those who can best give the Iranians something to consider before developing nuclear weapons is not Israel or the United States, but instead Saudi Arabia, other Gulf neighbors and Turkey.

The US and Israel will have nukes no matter what Iran does. An Iranian nuclear weapon though could encourage more Sunni states currently involved in brutal proxy conflict with Iran, more incentive to go nuclear than otherwise. Iran has the next move, it doesn't have the last move.

@ Cheryl R.: That's what I had thought the situation was. Thanks.

@ Gary F.: True, but ISTM that the "Syrian question" needs a lot more data points provided before any sort of answer can be postulated. I haven't seen ANY analysis of the "Syrian nuke plant" raid that passes the smell test: most of the "conclusions" have come either from the Israelis or the Bush Administration: and both sources have severe credibility problems: especially the latter.

See, told you Cheryl was awesome.

Adding to what she said, the fear is that a host of nations might be on the cusp of pursuing nukes and could make the plunge if things keep moving in the current direction.

Meaning, Japan could be provoked by NoKo. Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations could be motivated by Iran (as mentioned upthread by spockamock).

yglesias' comment on this matter is plain silly, and I am afraid expecting a "global nonproliferation framework" is unrealistic. As the first comment to yglesias' post says, you need to satisfy the security needs of a nation that derive from its environment before anyone in that nation takes you seriously on nonproliferation. The NSG was set up precisely to "maintain a global nonproliferation regime" without american fiat, along with the NPT and CTBT and the like. It is *extremely* hypocritical to ask a nation to give up its security options, especially when it has realistic reason to believe that fundamental threats to its security exist from its neighborhood(See Eg. India & China), when the United States reserves the right to nuke anyone it pleases.

A true nonproliferation regime would require that *all* nations be equal in this respect and give up their options. When non proliferation advocates in the United States preach, they look completely dishonest and sanctimonious, because most of them want to have it both ways. They would like their nations to retain the right to test, and have a large weapons stockpile, while trying to deny other nations with a legitimate threat to their security the right to a minimum deterrent. This is also not a matter of presidents. I don't think a president Obama will be taken seriously if he decides to preach the virtues of nonproliferation in a similar fashion.

liberal japonicus,
I should point out that opinion in India (except the commies who are a different kettle of fish) is divided because many Indians don't have faith in the United States keeping to its commitments, given previous history, and not because of any nonproliferation concerns. Secondly, it does not help that democrats in the house are making noises about "non proliferation". The policy of Oz and Australia, on the other hand is very shortsighted. Australia has no problems selling uranium to the Chinese, and Oz can afford to worry about "non proliferation" because it has no direct security threats and is also under a nuclear umbrella (SEATO).

Meanwhile, the political classes of the UK (another nuclear power) pay absolutely no attention to Article VI on nuclear powers working towards disarmament. Britain, in fact, had decided to update our Trident nuclear weapons. This is 'justified' on the basis that it's a dangerous world out there, and maybe something might happen so we need them etc, etc. More plausible reasons for the vast waste of money are a) that it creates the illusion the UK is still a significant power and so deserves to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, b) it pleases the Americans and c) Labour were electorally unpopular in the 1980s for being unilateralists and are still running scared. (The French meanwhile, keep their nuclear deterrent to ensure French 'gloire' and because they don't trust the Americans to protect them). Even though there were a lot of protests at the Trident decision, since both main political parties supported it, it couldn't be stopped.

So while the US is particularly hypoctitical about this, the UK, in its own smaller way, is just as hypocritical when its politicians go on about the wickedness of proliferation, as they quite often do.

sorry, I didn't see your comment. I wasn't very clear, my point in linking was not that there is some gandhiesque undercurrent in India concerning non-proliferation, but that there is a lot of room for maneuver. (I am assuming that 'democrats in the house' means those in India, not here on this blog) As Eric points out, some in the Japanese government have been making sounds of exploring a nuclear option, despite the fact that the populace is probably as strongly against it as it could be.

As for Australia's shortsightedness, I think China occupies a unique place, especially since you had the Chretian government vying to sell CANDU reactors to China from 1995 and the Aussies and the Canucks were competing to sell uranium to Canada from 2006. While it would be nice if countries would take non-proliferation seriously, it seems like the US is the first pickle in the jar and the world might look at things differently if the US did take its committments seriously.

I did a fairly detailed analysis of the al-Kibar photos (that Syrian site the Israelis bombed) that the CIA released last spring. This post (on the reactor photos)has links to the other two in the series.

Like Jay C, I think there are still a lot of questions, some of which I get specific about in those posts.

And I've been noticing increased traffic to those posts recently. Anyone have any idea why?

And I've been noticing increased traffic to those posts recently. Anyone have any idea why?

Recent Syria/Israeli peace talks? The issue of al-Kibar has come up in the context of those talks (as in, Syria was caught with its pants down and is now probing a different avenue).

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