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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.

Steve Clemons (who has comments and roughly the same political views as I do, so go torture him), also buries the lede, in the midst of a long interesting post on proliferation: "the [American] intelligence community was well informed about [A.Q.] Khan, well before the public revelations." I was told the same thing by the Indian Consul-General [Correction: Ambassador] last week, but as he had an axe to grind I took him to be lying. Clemons, however, claims to have two credible, independent sources for this.

Our Pakistan policy at the moment strikes me as backwards. If we really must choose between a serious Pakistani anti-proliferation effort and a serious Pakistani effort to get bin Laden, I'll take bin Laden running free without a nuke over bin Laden dead and his successor running around with a nuke. The president, though he's now backed away from it (one of these unfortunate moments where the administration speaks an awkward truth, gets attacked by its opponents, and winds up backing down), was quite right way back in the day when he said that bin Laden per se isn't that big a deal in the greater scheme of things.

September 4, 2004 | Permalink


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