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Sokolski on NPT

When I worked on missile non-proliferation issues at State over ten years ago, Henry Sokolski was my opposite number at the Pentagon. We were almost always at loggerheads. It was my impression that he, like most conservatives working on arms control issues, wanted absolute security from any arms control agreement. That is not going to happen. There are many laws against murder — local, state, federal — but murders occur every day. Many innocent people are killed simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Similarly, arms control agreements are no guarantee that the things they are supposed to prevent will not occur. But, it’s better to have laws against murder than not to have them, and it’s better to have arms control agreements than not to have them.

The other principle is that countries will usually only agree to things that are in their self interest. They are not going to agree to something that will disadvantage them militarily vis-a-vis neighboring countries, for example. So, if you want Iran to give up something that it believes is in its self interest, uranium enrichment for example, you have to make Iran see that it is in its self interest to do so. For example, if Iran were assured that it would be guaranteed a supply of fuel for nuclear reactors at a lower price than it could produce that fuel itself. But, at the same time, it would have to be sure that neighboring countries, Israel for example, could not threaten it will nuclear destruction. It might also mean that current nuclear countries, other than Israel, would have to renounce nuclear weapons, the US for example.

Sokolski glosses over this major problem of nations not agreeing to things not in their self interest, when he says:

The first view was reflected in the original intent for the negotiations announced by Fred Aiken, the Irish foreign minister in 1959, when he laid down the first resolution for a nonproliferation treaty. He basically was concerned that the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states would make disarmament less likely, because it would make war, either inadvertent or deliberate, more likely.

Now that set of concerns produced the first three articles of the treaty, and they basically said, “If you have nuclear weapons, don’t give them to anyone else; if you don’t have any, don’t try to get any; and everyone should submit themselves to inspections to make sure there’s no diversion.” That was, I think, a very sound view. What happened in the mid-1960s was [the result of] impatience in getting the superpowers to agree with this treaty, compounded by a new theory of what the worry of the world was, which was that there would be an arms race between superpowers that would start the next war, and there would be what they call vertical proliferation, and that had to be blocked. And that what we really needed to do was to get countries to make sure that if they had nuclear weapons, they didn’t get many more of them, and that they didn’t try to proliferate and make them better and quicker, or more accurate. And that what we really needed to do then was to make sure that there were only finite deterrent forces, if there were nuclear weapons. Now, that theory gave rise to things like mutual assured destruction and the like. (Italics supplied)

You can’t have a treaty unless people (nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear states) agree to it. My problem with Sokolski and other DOD types was that they always wanted one-sided, restrictive agreements that no one else would accept. Their favored agreements were dead on arrival.

If they rewrite the NPT in the same manner, the NPT will cease to be an agreement which almost every country in the world has accepted. Granted there are important exceptions — North Korea, India, Pakistan, Israel — but by refusing to accept the NPT they brand themselves as outlaw regimes. The problem is not only what to do about countries like Iran that adhere to the NPT but might withdraw at some future time, but what we do about those countries like North Korea and India, who simply thumb their noses at the treaty.

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