Monday, November 20, 2006

say goodbye to the NPT

If it wasn’t clear already, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is a dead letter. From the NYTimes:

The Senate gave overwhelming approval late Thursday to President Bush’s deal for nuclear cooperation with India, a vote expressing that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear skills and bomb-making materials.

By a vote of 85 to 12, senators agreed to a program that would allow the United States to send nuclear fuel and technology to India, which has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The agreement, negotiated by President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in March, calls for the United States to end a long moratorium on sales of nuclear fuel and reactor components. For its part, India would divide its reactor facilities into civilian and military nuclear programs, with civilian facilities open to international inspections.

Critics have been unwavering in arguing that the pact would rally nations like North Korea and Iran to press ahead with nuclear weapons programs despite international complaints and threats. Opponents of the measure also warned that the deal would allow India to build more bombs with its limited stockpile of radioactive material, and could spur a regional nuclear arms race with Pakistan and China.

This is a great way to put the nail in the coffin of the already shaky weapons regime. We’re helping India do an end run around the NPT to advance our goals in the region—but will this really even do that? What credibility do the nuclear powers have now in arguing that Iran must abide by its treaty obligations to use nuclear technologies for only peaceful means? The administration has made no effort to build a new rule-based system for regulating and containing nuclear technology. It’s made no effort to address the dubious moral ground on which the NPT is constructed (by what principle do some countries get nukes and others none?) by taking real steps towards a nuclear-weapon-free world. So the current weapons regime is crumbling beneath us and we have no replacement ready—in fact, we aren’t even seriously talking about a new system, it’s not even on the radar. Not a proper subject of discussion in the Senate or the news media, apparently. The only conclusion I can draw is that the administration never saw the NPT as a particularly useful piece of paper to begin with and is now glad to be freed from its constraints. Either that or our national security policy is being decided by true incompetents.

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