Katherine Herridge of Fox News asked me on Sunday whether the cat’s already out of the bag on nuclear proliferation. The answer is that yes, it is, but we cannot allow it to continue and we have to do everything we can to strangle the nuclear weapons programs of rogue nations in their cradles before they end up arming every Islamist fascist regime and terrorist group on the planet.
The ever-wrong editorialists of the New York Times went out of their way to condemn President Bush’s efforts to control nuclear proliferation on Monday, characterizing his efforts as a “disappointingly limited series of responses” to the problem. What they want, of course, is more dedication to the feckless and willfully blind efforts of Mohamed el-Baradei’s International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN. They are half right. We do need to be doing more, but not through the UN.
Under the supposedly-sacred Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — which India, Pakistan, and Israel have never signed, and North Korea withdrew from last year — all of the other nuclear powers have agreed to halt any proliferation of nuclear weapons technology to non-nuclear nations. But as the disarmament of Libya’s program proves, the treaty is completely ineffectual when a nation such as China decides to violate it.
The Libyan disarmament was brought about by the force of American arms in Iraq. Muammar Qaddafi may be crazy, but he’s not stupid. He saw what a failure to disarm in the face of U.S. demands brought to Saddam Hussein, and he didn’t want to be next on Uncle Sam’s list. Qaddafi is shipping his nuclear technology and materials to the U.S. by the plane load, and what he’s shipping to us demonstrates what may be one of the many examples of Chinese violations of the treaty. A significant quantity of the documents we’re getting from Libya is written in Chinese. These documents are — in part — detailed instructions on how to make an atomic bomb. These revelations come at the same time that the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program — Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan — confessed to selling nuclear weapons secrets to both Libya and Iran.
KHAN IS A NATIONAL HERO in Pakistan. When he confessed, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf only fired him from his post of science adviser, and imposed no punishment for his crimes. Khan, who is virulently anti-American and pro-Islamist, is being protected by the Pakistani intelligence (ISI) and Musharraf. We will probably never know what he did, or where he did it. On Monday, Khan was reported to be in critical condition from a heart attack. He may conveniently expire before anyone can question him about his complicity in arming Libya and Iran.
Musharraf has been a helpful ally in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. His position is weak, threatened by the radical Islamists in his nation, and the Pakistani Interservice Intelligence Agency — ISI — which is more than just sympathetic to the Taliban and al Qaeda. In effect, ISI created the Taliban regime, and remains closely tied to al-Q and other Islamist terror organizations. To maintain his tenuous hold on power, Musharraf has refused international inspections of the Pak nuke program.
If America followed the Times‘s anti-proliferation doctrine, we would continue to rely on the IAEA and the treaty to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. But failure at the UN doesn’t breed success. It breeds more failure. Though we should continue to cooperate, and urge other nations to do so, the IAEA is a very weak vessel to place our safety in. El-Baradei and the IAEA rely on inspections which — as we learned in Iraq — only work when the nation being inspected cooperates. Mr. Bush has a better idea, and we should be pressing it forward in every respect. It’s called the Proliferation Security Initiative.
Announced last May, the PSI is an agreement among Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States to interdict and search ships, aircraft, and ground transports of any nation believed to be carrying WMD materials to unauthorized nations. The strength of the PSI is that it is not subjected to the supervision of the UN. Only the nations that are members will decide how and when interdiction actions will be taken, and dissent among them will not stop the interdiction from taking place. We need to do more. And we are.
The PSI provides a framework for intelligence sharing and military cooperation. We can’t share intelligence information with France (which spied on us for Saddam by passing our intel on to him). We can’t trust Germany, Italy, Portugal, or Italy to make more than a token contribution to the effort, because they lack the military and intelligence assets to do so. France, an adversary not an ally, should be pushed out of the PSI and intelligence shared only on a limited basis with other suspect nations (which all are, except Australia and Britain). The next step, however, must be in joint covert operations which can use the intelligence and special forces assets of most of the PSI members.
Iran is well along in its nuclear weapons program. It may have weapons within the next two to five years. We cannot allow Iran or any of the other rogue nations — including North Korea — to threaten the world with their nukes. Our ability to operate covertly in those nations is weak, but growing. We need to develop — with our reliable PSI partners — the means to conduct major covert operations to disable the nuclear weapons programs in Iran and elsewhere, and to control those nations such as Pakistan that have an interest in proliferation. Which means, for starters, that we need to bring India into the fold.
WE HAVE BEEN ESTRANGED from India for many years. Our putative alliance with Pakistan has distanced us farther from India than we should allow. The most contentious issue between the two nations — the Kashmir — is still so sensitive that a war could be started by another upsurge of terrorist activity against Indian presence in the region. India’s hands on the Kashmir question are far from clean. A post-World War Two plebiscite was supposed to determine whether Kashmir would become part of Pakistan, but India prevented the vote from taking place. At this point, India’s historical transgressions are of only academic interest. Our interest in stopping Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation trumps it ten times over.
We should pressure Musharraf and begin to repair our relationship with India by providing technology and assistance to India in protecting its people and presence in Kashmir. No Americans — save only a few advisers — should be on the ground there. If India is now isolated, we must end the isolation. If we can get India’s cooperation in the PSI — regardless of its entry into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, its considerable naval forces can help interdict North Korean missile shipments, and its intelligence apparatus can assist in covert pressure on Musharraf’s nuclear program.
India is not the complete answer to Pakistan, and in any event is unlikely to buy into the PSI in the near future. But it is a building block in the wall that should surround Pakistan and the other proliferators of nuclear weapons and missiles. We have to try to end India’s isolation. American diplomacy is notoriously ineffective. Now is the time for it to get better fast. The State Department’s budget is huge. It’s time for State to start earning its pay in India. If it does so at Pakistan’s expense, so be it.
TAS Contributing editor Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and now often appears as a talking warhead on radio and television.
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