Friday, March 02, 2007

producers, dealers, and users

Perhaps I should read the actual article first, but this idea from center-left foreign policy guru Anne-Marie Slaughter just isn’t doing it for me:

The Slaughter-Wright Thesis is that we should make "nuclear transfer a crime against humanity" in order to "[capture] the enormity of the crime" and to "dramatically increase the cost of getting caught." How precisely the latter will occur appears to escape our authors' attention, although they do go on to explain that:

Nuclear transfer threatens the lives of millions of people. It merits a place in infamy alongside genocide and other evils. Creating a nuclear transfer taboo would strip away feigned protestations of innocence and illusions of a victimless crime. It would stigmatize black-market financiers and other facilitators of nuclear transfers as the ultimate merchants of death.

The white elephant loudly shitting in the corner of this room is that it is not "nuclear transfer" per se that threatens the lives of millions of people, but nuclear weapons, which, as the authors point out, must be produced by states, which are the only entities currently able (to our knowledge) to marshall the substantial industrial resources necessary for the production of such weapons. Why, I wonder, does that not "merit a place in infamy along genocide and other evils?"

Also there is the small matter of this which led to this (warning: the second link is gross).

As I understand it, there’s a very short list of actors who’ve used an atomic weapon against other human beings. But IOZ must not understand the appropriate use of the word “infamy” or he wouldn’t keep asking these silly questions.

Update: A couple of points after reading the Slaughter-Wright op-ed:

What they are calling for is for nuclear transfer to be considered a new "crime against humanity" by the International Criminal Court, a crime of universal jurisdiction that could be prosecuted by any nation anywhere in the world, subject to the constraints of the ICC (i.e. domestic state must be unable or unwilling to pursue enforcement, jurisdiction of the court is limited to cases where the accused is a national of a state party, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the court by the UN Security Council).

The current administration is not going to sign onto anything that strengthens the ICC or the system of international law more broadly, as this proposal certainly would. The White House has already shown its lack of interest in pursuing multilateral solutions by eviscerating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by cooperating on nuclear issues with India, which is not a signatory to the NPT. This proposal likely is aimed at reframing the debate on a possible nuclear Iran away from unilateral military action by the US and towards multilateral institutional-based solutions. Any possibility of implementing this proposal must wait until a Democrat is in the White House in 2009.

So far so good. But the authors seem to feel constrained by domestic political considerations to focus solely on dealers, which the US is not, rather than on producers and users, which the US is or has been (and might be again). But the domestic political debate is framed in part by the parameters set by foreign policy experts like Slaughter and Wright. Slaughter at least (I don't know much about Wright) represents mainstream liberal foreign policy thought today. She could be doing much more to reframe the debate in a way that pushes the ball forward, such as acknowledging that the US itself needs international institutions to avoid its worst foreign policy excesses produced by its savior/martyr/victim mentality, rather than simply trying desperately to stave off a new war with Iran before Bush leaves office in two years' time.

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