We Pay, Iran Promises
I wonder how long we’re going to delude ourselves about our ability to coax the genie of nuclear know-how back into a bottle — in other words, continue having illusions about non-proliferation. Once nations have the know-how, the rest is a matter of political and economic circumstances occurring in certain combinations, which over time they’re almost certain to do. This being so, what’s surprising isn’t how many states acquired nuclear weapons since the original five (U.S., U.S.S.R., U.K., France, China) signed the 1968 Non-proliferation Treaty, but how few.
After 45 years, we know only of three confirmed additions to the nuclear club today: India (1974), Pakistan (1998), and North Korea (2006). An unconfirmed addition is said be Israel, whose capacity to field nukes may go back to the 1960s. None are signatories to the NPT of 1968, so they aren’t in breach of treaty obligations. For non-nuclear powers, obligations consist essentially of not becoming one, while the five nuclear powers are obliged to share the benefits of peaceful atomic technology with the rest of the members.
Needless to say, in scientific and technological terms there’s little difference between peaceful and bellicose purpose, and such well-meaning programs as Atoms for Peace may well have played a key part in the proliferation of Atoms for War, but the know-how would have become available sooner or later in any event. The question was who was going to utilize it and for what purpose.
We found out soon enough. Predictably, nations that flirted with acquiring nuclear weapons since 1968 had several things in common. None were Western-style democracies. All were from conflicted regions and had uneasy relations with their neighbours, or worse. They could ill-afford the sophisticated technology they fancied, or couldn’t afford it at all but for oil revenue — or extortion. They included such rogue tyrannies as Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, with Gaddafi retaining his nuclear ambitions until 2003 and abandoning them only upon witnessing the inglorious demise of Saddam (which didn’t save him from an equally inglorious demise a few years later.)
Saddam’s fate was even more ironic. It seems he abandoned his nuclear program some years earlier, but to retain respect as the Gulf region’s top tyrant, he was ambiguous with UN inspectors about his weapons of mass destruction. In other words, displaying the judgment of a juvenile delinquent, he pulled a toy gun on the police. Giving your life for your nuclear program is one thing, I suppose, but such is the cachet of nukes among tyrants that it made Saddam give his life for a nuclear program he didn’t have. It’s good to see that not only democrats are silly.
Democrats are silly enough. If nuclear proliferation had been the aim of some U.S. administrations, they could hardly have come up with policies more likely to achieve it. In 1994, for instance, North Korea’s “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung, the current Kim’s grandfather, resorted to an apocalyptic threat to save his Mao-inspired despotism. Though unable to feed his people, he announced that his famine-ridden fiefdom was developing nuclear weapons.
Clint Eastwood might have said, “Make my day,” but, as old Kim correctly surmised, the White House’s then-occupant wasn’t Clint Eastwood. Far from saying anything crude or martial, Bill Clinton offered Kim’s dysfunctional dictatorship a basketful of goodies. In return, Grandfather Kim promised to refrain from reprocessing plutonium and enriching uranium, the stuff of nuclear weapons. After the Great Leader passed on, his son, “Dear Leader” Kim, admitted that his Dad continued to dabble in reprocessed plutonium and enriched uranium. Yes, he did, after he said he wouldn’t — quelle surprise. And guess what? “Dear Leader” Kim followed in “Great Leader” Kim’s footsteps, until one day, about seven years ago, the Earth in North Korea moved 3+ points on the Richter scale, and geologists were satisfied the cause wasn’t Dear Leader Kim Jung-il’s sex life. Pyongyang claimed to have tested a nuclear device — and so it did. It meant the KKK, Korea’s Kommunist Kimdom, home of the 155 centimeter male, had joined America, Great Britain, France, Russia, mainland China, Pakistan, and India, as the eighth declared member of the nuclear club.
The reality is that nukes are proliferating, not in peaceable kingdoms but bellicose tyrannies
How could they afford it? They couldn’t. We could and did. We paid for it. And by now we would have done the same thing for Iran if the French hadn’t stopped us.
At the urging of the Obama White House this week, we — meaning the West — were ready to sign a deal with Tehran’s nuclear ayatollahs, in which they get billions in lifted sanctions, and in return we get a promise that they’ll develop their nukes more slowly.
Yep. That’s the deal. I didn’t make it up. We pay, they promise. That’s it, even if an Obama spokesperson would put it in different words.
What if the ayatollahs don’t keep their promise, you ask? Never mind. Let’s say they do. Let’s say the ayatollahs are as good as their word and Iran joins the nuclear club only next year. Or the year after. Is that non-proliferation?
No. That’s delusion. That’s trying to stuff the genie back inside the bottle. The reality is that nukes are proliferating, not in peaceable kingdoms but bellicose tyrannies, and the question is, when are we stopping them? Today, when it’s already too costly, or tomorrow, when it may also be too late?
George Jonas has published 16 books, including the international best-sellers Vengeance (1984) and By Persons Unknown (with Barbara Amiel, 1977). His columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday on the Op Ed page of National Post. He has contributed to such U.S., British and European publications as the National Review, Saturday Review, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Daily Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy Magazine, the Hungarian Review (Budapest) and The National Interest. Jonas’ media awards in Canada and abroad include the Edgar Allan Poe Award for the Best Crime Non-Fiction Book (New York, 1978), two Nelly Awards for the Best Radio Program (Toronto, 1983 and 1986), three National Magazine Awards (Toronto, 1991; 2006 and 2007), and two Gemini Awards for the Best TV Movie and for the Best Short Dramatic Program (Toronto, 1993).
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