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The Nukes! The Nukes!

It's always worth taking a break every couple of weeks to sit back and contemplate the extent to which the administration is still dropping the ball on nuclear terrorism. At this point, the situation is completely absurd. There's no good reason, not even a low partisan reason, for them to be acting like this.

UPDATE: Speaking of crappy nuclear policies, this, I don't get. The administration is 100 percent correct to say that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is, as written, not a very good treaty. It allows non-nuclear countries to engage in uranium enrichment as long as they don't actually build a nuclear bomb. But since the enrichment is the hard part of building a bomb, it means you can go 98 percent of the way down the road, then pull out of the treaty without penalty, and then o build your bomb. Bad treaty. Someone screwed up way back when. But why try "to rewrite, in effect, the main treaty governing the spread of nuclear technology, without actually renegotiating it?" The treaty clearly needs renegotiating! Well, because "administration officials say they have neither the time nor the patience for that process." Neither the time nor the patience! It's kind of important . . . some things in life can be done unilaterally . . . actually changing the content of international agreements is not one of them.

March 14, 2005 | Permalink

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» Nukes of Hazard from Political Animal
NUKES OF HAZARD….Okay, enough about evolution and mental stress, and back to a subject I know a wee bit about. Tuesday's New York Times is reporting that President Bush wants to rewrite the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), because the darn... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 15, 2005 12:57:39 AM

Comments

apparently you haven't heard of paranoia.

Posted by: rse | Mar 14, 2005 11:40:50 PM

never mind. I posted before reading the article.

Posted by: rse | Mar 14, 2005 11:43:37 PM

"What do I care about the law? Hain't I got the power?"

Cornelius W. Vanderbush - er, Cornelius Vanderbilt

Posted by: Glaivester | Mar 14, 2005 11:59:09 PM

"It's always worth taking a break every couple of weeks to sit back and contemplate the extent to which the administration is still dropping the ball on nuclear terrorism. ... There's no good reason, not even a low partisan reason, for them to be acting like this."

Reason #1: The Clinton administration was concerned with loose nukes. Anything associated with Clintonian policies is bad. Therefore, being concerned with loose nukes is bad.

Reason #2: Being concerned with loose nukes is about playing defense. Our policy is go on the offense against terrorism.

Oh. You said good reason. Nevermind.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 15, 2005 12:07:40 AM

I hate to get all dogmatic and lefty, but this type of quote gives credence to the notion that Bush et al. really actually view foreign affairs as a mere pretext for their revolutionary domestic agenda. And I think I'm right when I say that Republicans have been deeply unserious about this deeply serious issue for a very long time. Don't they realize that all of these bi-lateral treaties are strongly in favor of the US? We have all the weapons for chrissakes!

Posted by: fnook | Mar 15, 2005 12:07:59 AM

"administration officials say they have neither the time nor the patience for that process."

Don't you know that freedom is on the march? Who has the time or patience for "treaties" or "processes"? What are you, French or something?

Posted by: Petey | Mar 15, 2005 12:10:31 AM

"We have all the weapons for chrissakes!"

Except for all the loose nukes.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 15, 2005 12:11:24 AM

Too true Petey. I'm scared, frankly, and not only because I just watched the 2nd season of 24. I've now actually read the NYTimes article and while I'm a little embarassed by my knee jerk lefty response to the original post I'm still baffled. Bush has the words right, but he's not apparently willing to put in the hard effort necessary to renegotiate the treaty with all hundred eighty some members. Why is that? Well, it's because they have lots of other things on their minds and only 3 3/4 years to stir up the domestic pot as much as possible. So I guess I haven't changed my position.

Posted by: fnook | Mar 15, 2005 12:31:40 AM

A very important subject.

Worthy of serious research and publication of a few articles.

Much more to this than Sam Nunn shared with the Press Club. * His speech was played on CSPAN; should be repeated within a few days.

We're in trouble...no question.

Posted by: Movie Guy | Mar 15, 2005 1:10:10 AM

In their public statements and background briefings in recent days, Mr. Bush's aides have acknowledged that Iran appears to have the right - on paper, at least - to enrich uranium to produce electric power. But Mr. Bush has managed to convince his reluctant European allies that the only acceptable outcome of their negotiations with Iran is that it must give up that right.

What exactly is a right - on paper, at least - ?

Given that noone on earth is going to fall for this argument that Iran only has the right to enrich uranium "on paper", there is only one interesting question left and it is not being answered.

What effective deterrent do the US and/or its allies have?

Is the US willing to go to war over this, and would the US win?

To the degree that legality matters, going to war to prevent Iran from exercising a right it has "on paper" is far more illegal than the war against Iraq.

Posted by: Stuart Ahrens | Mar 15, 2005 2:19:47 AM

"But why try "to rewrite, in effect, the main treaty governing the spread of nuclear technology, without actually renegotiating it?" The treaty clearly needs renegotiating! Well, because "administration officials say they have neither the time nor the patience for that process." Neither the time nor the patience! It's kind of important . . . some things in life can be done unilaterally . . . actually changing the content of international agreements is not one of them.

Ok, I'm officially puzzled: Why is it wrong for Bush to want to treat an international treaty EXACTLY the way liberals treat the Constitution? Is he infringing on your patent, or something?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 15, 2005 5:41:54 AM

"EXACTLY the way liberals treat the Constitution?"

Bloody hell, Bellmore, you're getting tiresome. You know nothing whatever about constitutional law--but you sure have a lot of opinions about it.

As a lawyer who actually litigates constitutional law issues on occasion, I regard your views on constitutional law with much the same respect that, say, a civil engineer would regard your views on the technical issues involved in building a bridge.

Posted by: rea | Mar 15, 2005 6:46:03 AM

"Ok, I'm officially puzzled: Why is it wrong for Bush to want to treat an international treaty EXACTLY the way liberals treat the Constitution? Is he infringing on your patent, or something?"

That's the stupidest thing I've read in Matt's comments for a long while. Grow up.

Posted by: fnook | Mar 15, 2005 9:51:37 AM

Dear All,

Um, isn't the most obvious explanation that when nukes start going off, especially on American soil, it'll be the best thing that ever happened to the Republican party and right-wing causes?

But they would never be deliberately slack for *that* reason would they?

Nooooooo -- not *these* people!

Posted by: Ruttiger | Mar 15, 2005 10:04:14 AM

Actually, as a mechanical engineer and FEA analyst, a civil engineer would probably have to accord my views on such technical issues at least a little respect. LOL

Rea, the legal community has been doing a find job of turning constitutional law into a self-contained little universe, ever more isolated from it's roots in the consent of the governed. You really ought to remember that your legitimacy is NOT a given, that it IS possible for you to push your little word games too far.

In other words, it DOES matter whether laymen agree with you high priests of law.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 15, 2005 10:05:03 AM

"the legal community has been doing a find job of turning constitutional law into a self-contained little universe, ever more isolated from it's roots in the consent of the governed"

In the Anglo-American tradition, law, Bellmore, is a constraint on the power of the soveriegn. You don't seem to understand that, which is a big part of why you cannot discuss it intelligently.

Posted by: rea | Mar 15, 2005 10:48:01 AM

Perhaps they don't want to renegotiate the theory because they don't want the ugliness of the nuclear powers nonconformance to this treaty to be brought up.
The NPT has 2 elements - prevention of acquisition of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear states, and nuclear disarmament by the nuclear states. None of the nuclear signatory states has disarmed or even considered it over the 35 years since the treaty was signed.

Posted by: chrisg | Mar 15, 2005 11:32:31 AM

"Ok, I'm officially puzzled: Why is it wrong for Bush to want to treat an international treaty EXACTLY the way liberals treat the Constitution? Is he infringing on your patent, or something?"

"That's the stupidest thing I've read in Matt's comments for a long while. Grow up."

Please don't feed the trolls.

Posted by: J Thomas | Mar 15, 2005 11:45:58 AM

There can be no victories in the fight against nuclear terrorism. At best, you can have an absence of defeats. That doesn't make for good PR.

The only matter of substance that concerns the administration is protecting the wealthy. Everything else, even the bones thrown to the religious fanatics, is just PR.

Posted by: Njorl | Mar 15, 2005 11:57:17 AM

This is mainly in the eye of the beholder.

The specific grounds for complaint are alleged to be the lack of:

"A global effort to upgrade the security of all nuclear weapons and weapons-usable security at their source;"

The Russians and Chinese and even the French and Israelis and Indians, probably, would never agree; the Pakistanis, the most likely exporters, are under the thumb, as per the US. The North Koreans ?

Given the very poor prospects for success I don't see the point in trying for a general agreement.

"A U.S.-Russian agreement to identify tactical nuclear weapons in both country's arsenals;"

A fair point with respect to the Russians. I am sure the US has close control of its weapons. Twisting the Russians arms on these things is a delicate process. I think more could be done on this. I guess they could be bribed into it.

"A drive to stop commerce in highly enriched uranium;"

As far as I know this has been going on in fact.

"An inventory of vulnerable radioactive sources everywhere;"

Is this even possible ?

"An effort by members of the "nuclear club" to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons in their own arsenals, while strengthening arms control efforts like the comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and stronger enforcement of nonproliferation agreements;"

Stronger enforcement of non-proliferation is what the US has been about lately I thought. As for the rest, that is not exactly relevant to nuclear security.

"An accelerated stockpiling of equipment in the United States in vulnerable locations to give first responders the tools they need."

What is "accelerated" ?

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 12:20:16 PM

Mr. Yglesias,

It is likely that Iran, for instance, will have their bomb long before the NPT treaty can realistically be renegotiated and re-signed by all concerned. And then there is the probability that the usual suspects won't sign on to a stricter treaty.

And then there is the demonstrated uselessness of the treaty in the first place. Laws are only as useful as the police available to enforce them. Power first, law next. The prerequisite has not been supplied.

Posted by: luisalegria | Mar 15, 2005 12:27:59 PM

"Laws are only as useful as the police available to enforce them. Power first, law next."

Good point. Until there's a superpower ready to enforce its will on the world, why bother to make laws to confirm its right to do so?

Posted by: J Thomas | Mar 15, 2005 1:28:36 PM

"Good point. Until there's a superpower ready to enforce its will on the world, why bother to make laws to confirm its right to do so?"

Nope, the point is that if the nations involved don't want to enforce the treaty (even in the pathetic form in which it currently exists) it is a waste of time to draw up a stronger piece of paper which will also not be enforced. The lesson is that if you can't trust the international community to enforce a weak treaty, you really can't trust them to enforce a strong one.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw | Mar 15, 2005 2:43:44 PM

Here's a conclusion from all this:

First, I think any reasonable person would agree that nonproliferation is pretty much dead. We stopped iraq (which didn't have any), we stopped libya (which had completely run out of steam). We might stop iran. We aren't going to stop anybody else. This is the last gasp of nonproliferation, the last death rattle.

So we need a constitutional amendment. Whenever we elect a senator or representative, he must have a backup guy that we elect as his backup. The backup guy can't be in DC when the elected official is, and can't legally be within ten miles of him wherever he is. Likewise, the vice president can't be in DC when the president is and can't be within 10 miles of him ever. And if we do happen to lose a congress, the others have to do their business long-distance, never have more than 10 senators or 30 representatives in the same city.

Also we need to move all essential administrative functions out of DC. FEMA made a good start putting their headquarters in Charlottesville, VA. The rationale is that if you're in DC, it means you're too unimportant to move elsewhere.

This is plain common sense, I don't know why it isn't getting attention. Passing a rule that after an emergency 5% of congress is enough is no substitute.

Posted by: J Thomas | Mar 15, 2005 2:44:17 PM

"Dear All,

Um, isn't the most obvious explanation that when nukes start going off, especially on American soil, it'll be the best thing that ever happened to the Republican party and right-wing causes?

But they would never be deliberately slack for *that* reason would they?

Nooooooo -- not *these* people!"

This only gets to part of it. I don't think that these maniacs necessarily *want* a nuclear war; I just think they don't not-want it to a reasonable degree.

But there's another element to Bush's withdrawl from the NPT that hasn't been mentioned here yet - namely, the desire of this administration to resume development of more nuclear weapons, both smaller (for theater operations and, well, what can only be described as tactical state-led terrorism) and larger (just because).

And this is not just for its own sake - it fits into a larger plan, including the weaponization of space and the continuing missile defense boondoggle.

These guys want a powerful, feared Fortress America, able to exert its will anywhere at the touch of a button. That developing into such a nation would lead to/depend on nuclear war is, depending who you're talking to, variably an "undesirable" or "unfortunate" thing.

Look - these are the same people (exact same people) we spent the entire Cold War trying to keep away from the "Fire" switch. They were the ones who always wanted a "more aggressive posture" against the USSR.

We kept the world from getting blown up in no small part because we kept these lunatics out of the control room. Now they have the keys, and they've locked the door from the inside.

My advice about nuclear proliferation - don't think too much about it. The truth is already too terrible to contemplate.

Posted by: jkd | Mar 15, 2005 5:01:45 PM

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