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Democrat less wrong than usual about nuclear proliferation

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By See-Dubya  •  June 20, 2008 06:10 AM

Rep. Jane Harman no longer believes the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty protects us from rogue states with nuclear weapons:

Iran is not the only problem. Other countries may travel down the same path, waving the banner of peaceful nuclear energy. Some – including North Korea – already have, and the international system is ill-prepared to prevent wannabes.

Today’s legal regime is no match for the wide dissemination of nuclear technology. Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) standards are obsolete, and the growth in the sheer number of nuclear facilities world-wide has made it difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to achieve its mission.

Well, admitting we have a problem is good. What does Rep. Harman want to do about the NPT’s shortcomings?

A more promising approach might be to create an international consortium of fuel centers that provide enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel, and end-to-end oversight of nuclear resources. Driven by market demand, private companies could operate facilities with IAEA oversight, and participating states would agree not to engage in independent enriching and reprocessing. Material would be purchased from the international market, thereby creating supply assurance for nations who fear being denied fuel.

This concept is a private-sector version of the International Nuclear Fuel Authority envisioned by Sens. Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh, and could borrow from the low-enriched uranium “emergency” stockpile concept proposed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Okay…so we, um, let the UN make all the world’s enriched uranium and ration it. How long until the U.N. manages to turn “Atoms for Peace” into “Oil For Food II”?

More importantly, I don’t hear anything in there that would actually discourage a country like Iran or North Korea from enriching uranium, other than making them pinky swear to the IAEA that they won’t do it–and both countries have already broken their word on the subject.

See, the NPT is fine if you are worried about non-rogue states acquiring nukes. If Finland decided it probably needs a nuclear arsenal, it might be stopped by the fact that it had signed the NPT and it had made a commitment to the international community not to acquire nuclear weapons even though it wanted them. A nice non-rogue country like Finland cares about these things, you see.

But if the NPT didn’t stop Finalnd, well, it’s still just Finland. I’d rather they didn’t have H-bombs riding on their ICBM’s, but even if they do, if there’s (God forbid) a bright flash where Times Square used to be, the first place I look for the culprit is not going to be Finland.

Meanwhile, where I will look is toward the rogue states that either never joined the NPT regime, left it (like the DPRK did ), or are cheating on it like a Kennedy on a blind wife (Iran). They don’t care about international law except insofar as it legitimizes and protects their regimes. Iran’s signature on the NPT does not reassure me. And of course subnational groups–e.g., Al Qaeda, the Russian Mob, aren’t bound by the NPT at all.

Rep. Harman’s right that the NPT doesn’t protect us well. But her alternative plan just sounds like the Democrat version of what I’ve called a faith-based non-proliferation policy, because it trusts the North Koreans (and the Saudis) to do what’s in our interests instead of in theirs, presumably out of the goodness of their hearts.

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{post by See-Dubya}

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