[First published August 1, 2005] Some ideas have such a tight hold on thoughts and actions, that the underlying logic is taken for granted. One such is the idea of nonproliferation. For example, the usual arms control crowd are outraged that President Bush has reversed the long standing, blindly held American nonproliferation policy by helping india develop nuclear power. He said that India, “as a responsible state with advanced nuclear technology, should acquire the same benefits and advantages as other such states.” He added that he will “work to achieve full civil nuclear energy cooperation with India as it realizes its goals of promoting nuclear power and achieving energy security.”
As Strobe Talbott put it in an article titled, “A bad day for nonproliferation, this will:
give India virtual membership in the club of recognized nuclear-weapons states created by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. . . . “The administration tends to see the world in black-and-white terms, a view that has translated into a nonproliferation policy that cuts extra slack for “good” countries, like India, while cracking down on “bad” ones, like North Korea and Iran. . . . Seeing the outcome of [India’s Prime Minister] Singh’s U.S. visit, at least some of those states will be more inclined to regard the nonproliferation treaty as an anachronism, reconsider their self-restraint, and be tempted by the precedent that India has successfully established and that now, in effect, has an American blessing.
Talbott and many other’s of like mind seem not to realize that democracies with nukes are no threat to each other or the United States. They, in fact, are the “good guys.” Britain has almost 200 strategic nuclear warheads, France near 500, India 45 to 95 nonstrategic (short to intermediate range) warheads and israel perhaps 75 to 125 also nonstrategic. But they are of no national security concern to the United States. We do not defend against them. Only Pakistan’s 30-50 nonstrategic, China’s strategic 300, and now that Russia has slipped into authoritarianism, Russia’s 6,094 are of concern. We do defend against them with our growing missile defense shield, and with the threat of retaliating with our own 7,296 war heads if attacked with their nuclear weapons.
The idea of nonproliferation never took into account the democratic peace between democracies and the need for democracies to defend themselves against dictators. I’m for proliferation among the democracies and have often said that South Korea, Japan, and yes, Taiwan, stable liberal democracies all, should develop nukes for their own defense (with utmost secrecy in the case of Taiwan).
Yes, I know, I know — this would create instability, encourage the bad guys to develop nukes, and risk democracies using nukes in local crises (as between Pakistan and India). Yes, so we should prevent the democracies from protecting themselves with nukes (and thus from having their own defense policy of assured destruction), while the likes of North Korea and Iran develop their own.
Link of Note
“Kissinger warns about the Iranian threat “ (5/1/05) NBC
Where does a nuclear Iran rank on a list of American security concerns?
Answer by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger:
It ranks very high, partly by accident. Partly by the fact that it’s the next country. And partly by the fact that it has a government that has demonstrated great hostility over a long period of time. But our concern should be great, regardless of the government, essentially because of the government. Because each expansion of the nuclear club brings with it comparable countries who then feel they have to, that they are entitled to do the same thing.
Iran first of all has a terrorist capability but also it would bring with it Turkey, Egypt, similar-type countries and, at some point, the nuclear problem is going to get out of control, at some very early point.