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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

They must be on 'shrooms
Today's bloggerIf the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud, then please point them both at my head, because Bush's foreign policy is nuking my brain. (How's that for a heavy handed use of bad metaphors?) If you've looked at a single television or newspaper in the last week, you'll know that Pres. Bush has signed a deal with India regarding nuclear power, and you might even know that some people are in a tizzy about that, and maybe not much else. Well, your national security blogboy is here to tizzify in more detail for you. But first, let me tell you a little story....
Once upon a time, the federal government decided, "Okay, we're going to legalize medicinal marijuana. If you are sick and want to use marijuana, you can grow a certain amount in your home for medicinal purposes only. We'll even provide assistance -- give you seeds, teach you about hydroponics, provide access to some bitchin' UV bulbs -- as long as you promise to let the cops in anytime they want to look at your plants. If you don't agree to this, you can't have seeds, fertilizer, or UV light bulbs." It was a risky move, but many many patients were happy.

One girl - we'll call her Colombia - decided not to sign onto that agreement. She put bars on the windows and didn't answer the door for no cops. She led a very secluded life for several years while she grew pounds and pounds and pounds of pot, to the point that was way beyond medicinal. She and her friends were downright stoners; the federal government, had they known, would have considered her a Menace to Society™.

Then one day, her hydroponics equipment just wasn't enough to keep up with demand. She went down to the local Marijuana Regulatory Office and asked for some federal assistance in the form of better lamps and fertilizer. "Are you sick?" "No, not really; it's just that my friends and I are smoking way more pot than I can grow and I need---" "Wait, you mean, you're like...a total drug dealer? That's not cool, man. Do the cops know about this?" "No, I never signed up for that stupid program. But now I like totally need some help. C'mon, gimme some of them bitchin' UV lightbulbs y'all got."

"I'm sorry, but, you'd have to have signed up for the Medicinal Marijuana Compact to get assistance...but since you've already blatantly violated the spirit of the Compact, there's no way you could actually join it now. Perhaps if you let us come in and get rid of all your surplus pot and opened your whole house to the cops to---" "No way, man, my basement stash is mine, I just need a little federal assistance for uh...my grandmother. Yeah, that's it. My grandmother has glaucoma. Can I get some help now?"

"But you said your basement---" "Pleeeeeease? Pretty please?" "Oh, alright. Step right this way." And Colombia lived happily ever after, still a Menace to Society™, but now taking full advantage of federal marijuana assistance. The End.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into effect in 1970, and it basically attempted to pull a "no-tag-backs" on the non-nuclear weapons states at the time. Five global powers had managed to go nuclear (US, USSR, UK, China, France) and then called the game off while they were still ahead ("Yay I win!"). In exchange for the rest of the developing world promising to sit on their hands as far as The Bomb was concerned, the nuclear weapons states (NWS) promised to help the non-NWS with "peaceful" civilian nuclear technology, under strict (and permanent) supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). None of the NWS were supposed to pass nuclear weapon technology to the non-NWS, and the non-NWS weren't even supposed to think about buying or developing such nasty things. A surprising majority of nations jumped on board this treaty (wow, the Irish saved civilization a second time), and while enforcement wasn't perfect (there are now 9 NWS instead of 5), the world has far fewer NWS than many of the gloomy pundits of the 1960's predicted. South Africa even gave up the nukes it had developed in order to join the treaty, and when the Ukraine gained independence from the former Soviet Union, it packed the nukes on its territory neatly into "Return to Sender" boxes and signed on, too. Among the non-signatories, Israel continues to maintain a don't-ask-don't-bomb policy about the 200 warhead it is assumed to have (guess whose help they had in that); India and Pakistan, more interested in pissing each other off than maintaining a low profile, conducted nuclear test explosions in 1998 in a spectacular observance of Coming Out of the Nuclear Closet Day, and had they signed the ill-acronymed NPT, would have been in abject violation of it. (India had already flexed some atomic muscle in 1974, when it conducted a test of the awesomely named "Peaceful Nuclear Explosion," which are handy for the civilian purposes of digging really big holes.)

Since the PNE and even moreso since the nuclear weapons tests of 1998, the US and the rest of the Nuclear Suppliers Group have kept a pretty tight lid on any nuclear or dual-use technology that might further India's weapons program. But now, in this day and age when we sell port operations management to former harbors and abettors to terrorists, the Bush administration has decided to end its nuclear tech trade restrictions on India, in exchange for...uh.... I don't know. A promise to eternally answer our computer tech support phone calls, perhaps.

The reason some of us are jumping up and down screaming about this is that it basically rolls the NPT up into a giant spliff and stones the world into an international obligations stupor. The purpose of the NPT was to say, "You can have nuclear technology and assistance from the rest of the world, or you can try to make nuclear weapons on your own, but you can't have both, and we'll be pissed about #2." For the last year, India has demanded -- and has now been given -- both. They are not going to sign the NPT, because frankly that ship sailed when they came out of the nuclear closet, but they want the guarantees of a "right" to civilian nuclear technology promised to the non-NWS even though they are now a NWS. The Bush administration has wholeheartedly embraced this dichotomy, advertising with flashing neon lights and bells and whistles and sirens to the rest of the world that perhaps there are no real actual consequences to violating the NPT. "If you pursue the path of nuclear weapons, you will be shunned by the rest of the world on civilian nuclear technology! For like, a few years. Then, when you have all our jobs, we'll give you whatever you want. So, no biggie." India gets to have nuclear weapons, keep several nuclear sites as secret military installations (opening about 2/3 of their facilities to IAEA safeguards), and enjoy all the benefits of nuclear trade and technology. It is now a de facto member of the acknowledged NWS club without signing the treaty.

You ready for the real I-just-ate-a-whole-bag-of-shrooms moment? The White House's justification for this cognitive dissonance is outstanding:
CRITICS: Doesn't this initiative effectively recognize India as a nuclear weapons state?

COUNTERPOINT: No, the United States has not recognized India as a nuclear weapons state. The 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) defines a nuclear weapons state as "one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to January 1, 1967." (The United States, UK, France, Russia, and China exploded nuclear devices prior to that date.) India does not meet this definition, and we do not seek to amend the Treaty.

Um. Okay. Having nuclear weapons doesn't mean you're a NWS, because this piece of paper here doesn't say you are. Meanwhile, Indian nuclear scientists are quite pleased:
There is nothing in the agreement, he felt, which would tie India's hands and prevent it from pursuing its strategic weapons programme.

Now we have to somehow ignore this elephant in the room while we're still fighting to convince Iran, a signatory to the NPT, to stop availing itself of certain dual-use technologies promised to it as a non-NWS. The Administration's counter-argument to that is, Well, the Iranians never wanted to deal with us, anyway, so let's not pretend the India deal is a real excuse. It's nice to see that the Bush White House holds international treaties in the same high regard as Tehran.

I actually heard a conservative pundit say -- and I can't google my way to finding out whether Bush himself said this -- that giving India more nuclear energy is a good thing because it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That's a pretty good one, because we all know Bush doesn't actually believe greenhouse gases are a bad thing. Sorry, try again. They say that our good friends in India need our uranium and light water reactor technology to keep up their rapid development. Wait, they need our uranium? India's actually quite ahead of the curve on nuclear fuel, pursuing breeder reactor technology to turn its vast, otherwise useless thorium deposits into uranium-233 (instead of the weaponizable U235), and believe they'll be a perfectly happy thorium-based state in five to seven years! What do they need with our uranium? Nothing. But we had to promise them an endless supply of nuclear fuel for them to agree to the (NPT-required) endless IAEA safeguards, a promise we are not willing to make to Iran.

I have no idea what we get out of this deal: it's bad for proliferation in Asia (China's not going to be so thrilled about it's dodgy neighbor now being able to quadruple its arsenal); it's bad for international law (some said the NPT was comatose, but even a Bill Frist diagnosis can't save it now); and it's certainly bad for nuclear containment in Iran and North Korea.

You right-wingers still think Bush is keeping you safe? Well shoot man, gimme a hit of what you're smoking.
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posted by Aerodad at 3/08/2006 03:00:00 PM


Blogger Kate said...

Is a thorium deposit anything like a flux capacitor?

3/08/2006 08:06:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Muchas gracias. The medical marijuana story is a tres bon analogy, and now I totally get it. I'm being serious. Analogies are good like that.

3/09/2006 11:02:00 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Question is, why aren't people in a bigger tizzy? Do you think it would be safe in New Zealand?

3/10/2006 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Justice said...

What do we do about this??? Does the administration have a death wish? I join with Emily in asking about the possibility for safe existence in New Zealand or alternatively Costa Rica.

3/14/2006 04:58:00 PM  

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