Tuesday, February 20, 2007

thoughts of the day

1. Via Dan Drezner, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that:

as a hot-button headline issue, offshoring appears to have gone the way of Y2K and the Red Menace. File it under N, for Not as Big a Deal as We Thought.
On to the next xenophobic craze!

2. From TPM Muckraker we find that the Supreme Court will likely determine whether or not Guantanamo detainees merit habeas corpus review in civilian courts, since the D.C. Circuit Court upheld the administration’s position that they do not. Marty Lederman has some pretty thorough "brief, preliminary reactions to the majority opinion” here.

Let’s hope Justice Kennedy is in a good mood when they hear arguments on this one.

3. And IOZ brings us the latest bit of grandstanding from Ahmadinejad about Iranian nukes:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking to a crowd of thousands in Iran, said his country was ready to stop its enrichment program, but only if Western nations do the same _ something the United States and others with similar programs are unlikely to even consider.

"Justice demands that those who want to hold talks with us shut down their nuclear fuel cycle program too," he said. "Then, we can hold dialogue under a fair atmosphere."

The White House dismissed Ahmadinejad's call.

"Do you believe that's a serious offer?" White House press secretary Tony Snow asked. "It's pretty clear that the international community has said to the Iranians, `You can have nuclear power but we don't want you to have the ability to build nuclear weapons.' And that is an offer we continue to make."

I like Snow’s answer: “Are you serious? Like, I’ve already told you no more cookies and it’s way past your bedtime. What you can do, though, is go brush your teeth.”

Ahmadinejad: “But it’s not fair! Why do you get to stay up all night and eat all the cookies?”

Snow: “Because I’m the dad and you’re not. Now go to your room.”

I like the fact that the U.S. doesn’t feel compelled to offer up even the tiniest sliver of a justification for why it and selected other countries get nukes and nobody else does. Snow doesn’t argue that the expansion of nuclear weaponry anywhere increases the chances of a nuclear attack somewhere, or assert that Iran has a history of violent behavior towards its neighbors (it doesn't), or basically even attempt to string together nouns, verbs, and adjectives to form a coherent thought intended to persuade. “Just because” is all he’s willing to offer.

He can’t even rely on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and say, “Well, this is how everyone decided it should be back in 1968,” since the U.S. kneecapped the treaty with Bush’s recent buddy-buddy deal with India.

I got a similar response from a State Department nonproliferation official at an international law conference a couple years ago when I asked a panel he was on by what principle the nuclear powers thought non-nuclear powers should accept the premises of the NPT. He didn’t even bother to acknowledge that the question had been asked. Another member of the panel offered by way of quasi-explanation that nations which had previously sought nuclear weapons, like Brazil and South Africa, thought that supporting the status quo in the form of the NPT was sufficiently in their interests to abandon their nuclear programs. I take this to mean that it is the consensus position of the international community, such as it is, to support the nuclear freeze even if it’s inherently unequal since the consequences of nuclear proliferation could be so dire. That position would seem to make the NPT, including its provisions requiring the nuclear states to gradually disarm, the lynchpin of any successful U.S. nonproliferation program.

But we’ve made it clear we don’t really think much of the NPT. What we’d much prefer is a more ad hoc arrangement whereby we don’t disarm and we prevent others from arming themselves. Any attempt to further formalize multilateral nonproliferation arrangements will be met by the U.S. with a rousing yawn, if not outright hostility. And we’re sufficiently confident that this approach will carry the day that we won’t even bother to explain something as basic as why we are right and they are wrong. We are always right, and they are always wrong—it is in the nature of things, a fundamental truth about how the universe works, a premise upon which further argumentation can be based.

What everybody knows is that the only rule about nukes that matters is whoever gets them gets to keep them. This is the inevitable result of U.S. nonproliferation “policies”. Iran is just stalling for time, and all Bush can do is splutter and threaten and in the end, do nothing.

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