Trying may indeed be the first step toward failure, but that maxim is a little frightening when applied to nuclear proliferation.
Last week, the Bush administration switched gears and declared it would not support inspections to verify a new nuclear weapons treaty that would ban the accumulation of nuclear material and extend the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty to states that have recently gone nuclear, such as Pakistan, India and Israel.
The treaty, known as the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, would represent a key deterrent for nations seeking to acquire material for nuclear weapons. Without verification, rogue nations could obtain nuclear material and stay below the world’s radar.
But the State Department disagrees, saying, “even with extensive verification measures, we will not have high confidence in our ability to monitor compliance.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean we should scrap inspections altogether.
The administration’s move is damaging on multiple fronts. It seems to accept nuclear proliferation as a fait accompli, as if nuclear weapons were bound to wind up in the hands of every nation sooner or later. To be sure, part of the rationale behind inspections is to provide a policing organization, but the primary goal of verification is to provide a deterrent for ever obtaining nuclear material in the first place. This decision weakens that deterrent and creates opportunities for nations to defy what will now become a toothless treaty.
Our nuclear stockpile would be immune from inspections, so it’s not as if our nuclear secrets would be in danger. And as we learned from our invasion of Iraq, independent inspections have a better track record of demonstrating a country’s weapons capabilities than our current intelligence bureaucracy does. Implementing verification procedures would at least provide some chance of deterrence or monitoring – something which giving up on independent inspections and relying on the CIA doesn’t offer.
If the Bush administration is attempting to repair bridges and expand the international presence in Iraq, such a unilateralist stance on a treaty that most of the world was ready to sign is hardly reconciliatory. Questionable moves like this will continue to drive away the world in the face of American defiance.
Giving up on inspections fails to increase the security of the world, and only adds fuel the dangerous fire of nuclear proliferation.