Nuclear Realities

Tuesday, August 16, 2005 11:57 AM

Leave it to the International Herald Tribune diplomatic columnist William Pfaff to inject a dose of sanity into the burgeoning  Iran-is-going-nuclear brouhaha. (See below.) Say, haven't we seen this movie before, not too long ago? To wit, the same plot line.

The exaggerated/ fabricated nuclear “danger” from Iran is being used as a set-up for the invasion and/or bombardment of that country in a similar fashion as Iraq's nonexistent WMD were hyped by Bush/Cheney and their "neoconservative" jackals during the run-up to "Operation Iraqi Freedom". Are we going to pretend to be fooled by the same fraud perpetrated by the same fraudsters a second time?

How does one explain the quick rerun of such apparent insanity? First, ask yourself: who/what has been openly pushing this aggressive agenda upon Washington? Take a cursory look back at AIPAC's important May 22-24th powwow in Washington, which Israeli PM Ariel Sharon attended and at which the very top leadership of America's two political parties (e.g., Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, among others) paid their obligatory obeisance.

This extravaganza, while senior AIPAC officials were under investigation by the FBI for espionage, is part of the public record for all to see. It is just a straw in the wind, but it demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that both national parties are subservient to the Israeli Lobby. It's not insanity; it's business.

A friend of mine has recently suggested that this unadvertised scandal is "outside the bounds of prudent discourse". If so, how are we suppose to face reality? That is why I say, “pretend to be fooled” by what is happening before our eyes. Many informed observers have not been fooled; they know what is happening, and understand why it is happening. But it is out of bounds to discuss it.

So criticism focuses upon the standard bugbears of oil, the Arabs, empire and ineptitude, staying clear of domestic politics and lobbying, the crux of the problem. Like Bill Clinton before them, Bush and Cheney are in the bag, and have been since day one. Nothing will happen with respect to American policy in the Middle East that the authorities in Tel Aviv do not want to happen.


Nuclear realities



PARIS / The background to the controversy over Iran's nuclear program is an American position on nuclear nonproliferation that is unsustainable in the long term. Much of the international policy community understands that this is so. It is perhaps time that the Washington policy community comes to terms with this reality.
America's determination to stop nuclear proliferation produces perverse results. At a period of mounting instability in the Middle East and U.S. engagement in two wars in Islamic countries, it increases the allure of nuclear weapons to governments that do not have them, and reinforces their perceived value as political assets and as deterrents against foreign attack.
Nuclear proliferation does not itself promote aggression. Take the alarmist scenarios routinely cited by American and Israeli officials. There is no imaginable way by which nuclear aggression by Iran against Israel could have other than catastrophic results for the attacker. The same is true for any attack by North Korea on an American base in East Asia, or by India on Pakistan, or Pakistan on India.
The existing nuclear states, on the other hand, could attack a non-nuclear nation and escape military retaliation, although not huge political and moral opprobrium. Since everyone sees this, it adds to the perceived injustice of the American position defending the nuclear monopoly of these states.
John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, an eminent member of the "realist" school of policy analysis, notes that everyone understands that the implicit aim of U.S. nonproliferation policy is to prevent limits being placed on America's freedom of action in dealing with other countries. He writes, "The country that acquires nuclear weapons becomes unattackable. It is precisely for that reason that it wants them."
The usual antiproliferation argument contends - to quote a recent French analysis - that "a world in which 20 or 30 states have the bomb would be uncontrollable." Usually added to the argument is the proposition that some weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists. Indeed they might, but is this any more likely than now, when much former Soviet nuclear material is still unsecured?
The aim of the governments that want to acquire nuclear weapons is security. This implies more stability, not less. The leading American academic authority on proliferation, Kenneth Waltz of Columbia University, makes the argument for proliferation by saying that since the only real utility of nuclear weapons is dissuasion, proliferation logically should "contribute to stability, peace and prudence." This again is a rational argument made by a political realist.
The American position is politically unsustainable in the long term (and morally unsustainable as well, to the extent that the moral case carries weight) because it comes down to an implied claim that the United States should have permanent nuclear superiority, as demanded in the administration's 2001 national strategy statement. This is because it claims responsibility for maintaining global security.
As Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, argued last year, "American power is uniquely central to world peace." Hence the United States has "the right to seek more security than other countries." It can be trusted to use nuclear weapons responsibly. The same is true for its ally, Britain, which has nuclear weapons because it originated what became the Manhattan Project.
Washington would undoubtedly concede that the current existence of six other nuclear powers - France, Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan - is probably irreversible (although undesirable). But to the rest of the world, the United States is saying that the nuclear club now is closed. This is not likely to prove true.
In the nonproliferation treaty signed in 1970, to which 188 states formally adhere, the existing nuclear weapons states, led by the United States, also committed themselves to eventual nuclear disarmament, and that is not happening.
This, plus the senior nuclear states' admittance of India and Pakistan to the club, is a source of tension with such major states as Japan and South Korea, and with many of the nonaligned countries.
A situation has been created in which eight countries - nine, if North Korea actually should have a nuclear weapon, however undeliverable - are conceded power to destroy another country. None gives sign of respecting the nuclear treaty members' obligation to disarm. (Israel, India and Pakistan never ratified the treaty.)
The nonproliferation treaty is in the process of collapsing under the pressures of conflicting geopolitical interests, the power of nationalism and fear in the states that consider themselves discriminated against, the unilateralist ambitions of the United States, and the bad faith of too many of the governments involved. To admit this could be a step toward realism.


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