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Proliferation Problems in Iran and North Korea

The US is having trouble enforcing its non-proliferation policies against both Iran and North Korea simultaneously, and it’s no surprise. One of the problems is India. The US just gave India a get out of jail free card, despite the fact that it was one of the first proliferators. The lesson of India is that if you proliferate and wait patiently, you will be forgiven and you can keep your atomic bombs. Our policy toward Pakistan gives sort of the same message, although somewhat ambiguously. Pakistan has turned into one of our allies in the war against terrorism, despite the fact that it is a notorious proliferator, and has helped other countries (Iran, North Korea) with their nuclear programs.

India is not such a bad country in this regard, and we probably need to work out some transitional arrangement for it to enter the nuclear club, but just to admit it to the club won’t work, because everybody else will want to follow India’s lead. We need some new agreement to replace or supplement the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It would have to set standards that tend to discourage other countries from following India’s example, and that place stringent controls on their nuclear weapons. Ironically, we probably are happy that India has nuclear weapons with which to deter Chinese aggression, while we presumably are unhappy that there is something of a nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has shown total disregard for legalistic solutions to international problems. But that’s what we need here. It’s hard to envision a network of military alliances that would send US troops in on India’s side of it fights China, but would bring our troops in on Pakistan’s side if India fights Pakistan. Meanwhile what do we do about Iran and North Korea, and maybe later Brazil, Argentina and some other countries? They see India as the model for developing nuclear weapons. Just hang tough and you’ll get to keep them.

The fact that negotiations with Iran and North Korea are going nowhere illustrates the weakness of this policy. It was probably influenced by John Bolton, who thankfully will be otherwise occupied, until we bring the issue to the UN Security Council for sanctions. Speaking of sanctions, what will they be? It’s easy for the US to support any sanctions, because we do almost no business with Iran or North Korea. But if you don’t do any business, sanctions have no effect. Countries that do more business with Iran (Russia, China) will be much less enthusiastic about sanctions.

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