Saturday, September 04, 2004


Foreign Policy, Bush Administration Style

Matthew Yglesias reminds me of one serious bit of foreign policy in the news in recent days.

Nonproliferation Notes

Readers may recall that about a month ago I was dumbfounded by reports that the Bush administration was scuttling the verification component of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. The Treaty would, if properly enforced, damage US interests not at all while making it harder for terrorists and rogue states to acquire nuclear weapons. The administration's official line on why they'd done this -- that it was too expensive -- seemed to seriously call into question their sanity. Verification may be expensive, but it could hardly be too expensive to reduce the single greatest security threat facing the nation.

The current issue of the Economist has a seriously buried lede explaining that the main motivation was, in fact, "the worries of Israel and Pakistan, two allies that want to keep the option of adding to their stockpiles." We scuttled a treaty that will keep bombs out of the hands of terrorists so that Israel and Pakistan (!) can build bigger arsenals? Israel and Pakistan! The same Pakistan whose chief nuclear scientist was operating a global proliferation market. The same Pakistan whose intelligence services built the Taliban and nurtured al-Qaeda in its early days. The same Pakistan whose military runs terrorist training camps. That Pakistan? Apparently so.

What Matthew was dumbfounded by was this article:

US backs out of nuclear inspections treaty

By Dafna Linzer in Washington
August 2, 2004

In a significant shift of US policy, the Bush Administration has announced that it will oppose provisions for inspections and verification as part of an international treaty to ban production of nuclear weapons materials.

For several years the US and others have been pursuing the treaty, which would ban new production by any state of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons.

At an arms control meeting in Geneva last week the US told other countries it supported a treaty, but not verification.

US officials, who have demonstrated scepticism in the past about the effectiveness of international weapons inspections, said they made the decision after concluding such a system would cost too much, require overly intrusive inspections and would not guarantee compliance with the treaty.

However, they declined to explain in detail how they believed US security would be undermined by creating a plan to monitor the treaty.

Arms control specialists said the change in the US position would greatly weaken any treaty and make it harder to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. They said the US move virtually killed a 10-year international effort to persuade countries such as India, Israel and Pakistan to accept some oversight of their nuclear production programs.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Matthew links to Laura Rozen's thoughts on the issue:


This administration is insane. I have no words.

Hard right conservatives and neocons have always disdained arms control treaties saying "Why bother? They can't be verified." But by killing the verification component of this treaty which would ban production of nuclear materials, they have surely made that a fait accompli. To what end? It surely couldn't hurt, and it's not like the US has such a good track record of intelligence on WMD issues in India, Iraq, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, or Libya.

And, in one of those moments where movies speak volums about real life, Matthew links to Brad DeLong:

Kurtz: "What did they tell you?"

Willard: "They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound."

Kurtz: "Are my methods unsound?"

Willard: "I don't see any method, at all, sir."

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