Apples of Discord
Published on: April 14, 2010
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  • Peter

    “And, of course, nukes are bad … ”

    Not being plagued with wishy-washy centrism or political correctness, permit me to question that asseretion.

    In the hands of the U.S., nukes seem to have been a blessing in more ways than one.

    First, the atomic bomb promptly ended the War in the Pacific, thus saving millions of lives, mostly those of the Japanese. Fact.

    And then there’s the proposition that our nukes prevented the Evil Empire — that the godless and now defunct USSR — from overrunning Western Europe at the end of WWII.

  • NS

    “Public opinion around the world hates and fears nuclear weapons; why not harvest goodwill by coming out against them? More, the NPT (non-proliferation treaty) requires nuclear states to move toward disarmament. It also emphasizes the right of all states to the peaceful development of nuclear energy. If we want to strengthen the enforcement mechanisms in that treaty to help us deal with countries like Iran and North Korea in the future, it helps to show that we as a nuclear state are finally serious about the goal of nuclear disarmament — and sensitive to the needs of more countries to develop civilian nuclear programs.”

    We could engender enormous worldwide goodwill if we denounced non-NPT signatory Israel for its undeclared nuclear weapons. Maybe AIPAC actually does have a downside.

    If we truly care about allowing countries to develop civilian nuclear energy, why did we exempt Iran from the latest pledge to not nuke NPT countries?

  • I agree with the latter part of your analysis, Walter, and particularly about the coming salience of biotoxins, a matter I have myself discussed in print several times. I am not so willing, as you are, to credit the healing powers of atmospherics, which is all this summit really amounted to. Charles A. W. Manning once wrote–and I often find use for this insight nowadays–that one cannot affect the position of shadow by doing things to the shadow. I have nothing against retail diplomacy. After all, there are some 6,000 employees at Main State on 22nd and Streets whose job that mainly is. But there were no significant deliverables from this so-called summit. None, zero. When summits work, it’s because the sherpas bring pre-negotiated deals with them to ratify and magnify. No sherpas, no yak milk — and here we clearly ain’t got milk.

    Let’s be clear here: No amount of retail diplomacy without substance, speeches without deliverables (and I’ve written my share), ceremonies, hand-shakes, tinsel smiles and all the rest means a damned thing when real interests really conflict. So more people around the world “like” Obama now and the US by extension–so what? That and five dollars will get you a super latte at Caribou Coffee. When you want countries like China and Russia to actually do things to help ease a problem, and you care more about that problem than they do, then, as you say, you have to pay for it. You have to trade something they want. It therefore makes no sense to raise the trading value of an empty gesture like this summit, because, again as you point out, the more we talk about how important Chinese “agreement” is the more they will extract in payment for it. This is not very smart.

    I would feel a lot better about all this, too, if I thought that the President and his advisers understand the second, less cheerful part of your analysis, Walter. But I see no evidence that they do. I think they believe they actually accomplished something, and that all this smoke and mirrors is really more than that. And if that’s what they think, then the whole affair has been a net debit to our security and that of others, not a marginal plus.

    Of course, we’ll find out if this is so in the future. In the end, it will take real courage and a lot of hard work and hard decisions to deal with the real nuclear security issues approaching, namely Iran and North Korea. (Then there us the potentially even more dangerous legacy of Indo-Pak nuclearization and where that may lead, a challenge that U.S. policy can do something about only if it tries really, really hard.) If the administration faces these threats realistically–and the President gives every indication that he understands the gravity of these problems–then we’ll be able to look back on this summit and say, yes, it was a small, public-relations part of a strategy that was serious and that worked. But if the administration retreats into toothless legalisms and flaccid, lowest-common-denominator sanctions while real dangers are left to grow, well, that’ll be something else altogether. We just have to wait, I think, before any judgment on this summit can be pronounced.

  • Nothing but good points here. We need more wishy-washy centrism. The notion that even if we got rid of all nukes, that biological weapons, et al. would replace them and be even more deadly and threatening puts this issue in context. And the context is that there’s really only one problem we face, though it has many faces, that of human nature. Humans are social animals whose strength lies in social grouping and joint endeavoring. It is also our weakness and leads to our many wars and countless lesser acts of violence. As a species, we need to manufacture an evil THEM as much as we need to find our homeboy US. Once some genius solves this pesky little human nature problem, we can all join in on a lovely chorus of Kumbayas and really mean it. Afraid all this flashy conferencing is nothing more than the uninhibited expression of Obama’s inner ADD child as he continues to run from the more pressing issues we face and yet haven’t begun to face down.

  • John Barker

    Bloggers should read Phillip Bobbitt’s “Terror and Consent” for more on the theme of this piece. Bobbitt thinks we have a small window of opportunity to adjust our laws and policies to deal with technologically enhanced terrorism, which will surely be upon us sooner than later.

  • n.s.

    WTF? This is not in good faith!

  • Luke Lea

    Does this not argue for some form of world governance with enforcible standards of international behavior? If the world’s leading industrial democracies decided to enforce such standards by collectively denying non-complying countries access to their ports, international data networks and the international banking system, that might do the trick. It would mean no exports, no imports, no international travel, not even the ability to use a credit card or the internet for the citizens of such countries.

    Absent that it is hard to imagine a world without nuclear and biological weapons, or one that would be save with them.

    There really is no viable alternative in the long-run to “liberal internationalism,” which is to say, a system of international law maintained and enforced by the world’s industrial democracies. The window of opportunity may not stay open forever — once China becomes fully developed for example.

    I’d like to hear Mead’s counter-argument if he has one.

  • While I agree that there’s “no viable alternative in the long run to ‘liberal internationalism,'” which is in itself a wise statement, the last half of Mr. Lea’s sentence spells its core problem: to have “the world’s industrial democracies” running such an amorphous and unwieldy beast as ‘liberal internationism’ would be met with accussations of post-colonialism. And yet, as Mr. Lea says, there truly may be no alternative. Just like the U.S. couldn’t afford a certain critical mass of say 10-30 states to simultaneously declare bankruptcy, the world couldn’t afford the near-simultaneous collapse of a critical mass of failed nations…which a lengthy global recession, or more certainly an outright depression, would likely bring on.

  • Carl Olivas

    “Biology is much more frightening than physics”

    This gives no comfort to Israel and other nations in the Middle East. Obama’s appeasement policies have emboldened Syria. They have just placed Scud missiles in Hezbollah Land.
    Hezbollah for years, has been fighting Iran’s wars -by proxy. What’s next? Nukes?

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