Monday, November 22, 2010

Re-thinking strategy

Choose domestic legislation over international treaties in nuclear disarmament efforts?

For anyone working on freeing the world of nuclear weapons, the standoff between the Obama Administration and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona on the required Senate approval of New START has been an infuriating chapter in 2010’s already rich collection of thrilling nuclear arms control tales.

Speaking for myself, it is sometimes difficult to see any positive side to the ‘what if-scenario’. Put plainly, if Senator Jon Kyl and his loyal group of Senators keen on obstructing the White House any way they can, manage to thwart ratification of New START, then surely all headway made by President Obama with regard to nuclear disarmament will have evaporated.

It seems that for every step that is taken in the right direction, two are taken in the opposite direction, effectively getting us further and further away from the end goal of a nuclear weapon-free world. As a result, the cynics are rewarded while the idealists have to be resilient and “get back on the horse.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Answering Bolton and Yoo: New START Will Strengthen U.S. National Security

Two staunch ideologues who served in the George W. Bush administration, John Bolton and John Yoo, ask rhetorically in a New York Times opinion piece, “Why Rush to Cut Nukes?”  Bolton, a recess appointment as United Nations Ambassador under Bush II, never met an arms limitation agreement that he supported.  Yoo, the lawyer who wrote memos supporting the legality of water boarding under international law (not a very favorable prospect for captured U.S. soldiers), worked in Bush II’s Justice Department.  Bolton and Yoo can find no good reason to support the New START agreement with the Russians, arguing that without amendments it will weaken “our national defense.”

Let me answer the question posed in the title of their article.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Selling Arms in Asia

My impression of President Obama's trip to Asia is that he has unfortunately gone as chief arms salesman to new frontiers.  This says much more about the US than it does about Asia.  First, Congress allocates much of our discretionary income, more than half, to strengthening our military and bolstering our armaments, and then our President flies off to Asia to boost the sales of tanks, planes and missiles to client states.  We call it geopolitics, but at its heart it is about greed and gluttony.  Asian economies seem vibrant.  Ours seems stuck in the mud of militarism. 

America's needless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are reducing us to a second or third rate power, a helpless giant.  China is one beneficiary of our wasteful militaristic policies.  India and other Asian countries could be as well, if they resist the temptation to purchase our second-hand military hardware and follow our lead into unnecessary and illegal wars.  If the United States still wishes to be respected in the world it needs to return to the basics of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and international cooperation.  There are too many serious problems confronting the world for the US to be focused on pushing arms and building war coalitions in Asia or any other part of the world.  We need to think much more deeply about the example we are setting and how it is already returning to haunt us.

Monday, November 8, 2010

That Little Problem of Nuclear Energy

 I recently wrote this short piece for an online publication in the UK called The Fresh Outlook.

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant makes the world a more dangerous place. There – I said it. On this point, I am in agreement with the hardliners in Israel, the United States and the West in general. Where our viewpoints diverge, though, is why it is dangerous and what we should do about it.

Article IV of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty gives “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” In this sense, Iran is well within its rights to develop and operate one or more nuclear power plants.

However, given the relative ease with which a country can employ dual-use technologies to clandestinely develop a nuclear weapons programme, perhaps it is time to reconsider spreading nuclear power plants across the globe. Apart from the astronomical expense, danger of operation and lack of a plan for highly toxic waste, a double standard of encouraging nuclear energy in “good” countries and trying to prevent it in “bad” countries simply cannot hold.
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