by Cheryl Rofer
Endgame strategy is different from openings or midgame. That's something that hasn't been recognized now for some time with regard to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Bushian propensity for bombast and unilateralism has obscured this, along with just plain bad judgment and overprotectiveness of the defense industry.
But they're not the only ones who haven't recognized the endgame. The nonproliferation community is just as blind in its own way. Here's today's sample from Graham Allison and Ernesto Zedillo. They recommend strengthening the IAEA so that it can take bold steps. Well, yes. Those are the recommendations of a commission that the authors served on. Perfectly valid, salutary. But what are those bold steps that are needed?
Opening and Midgame
Ireland proposed a nonproliferation treaty in the 1960s. By 1970, enough signatories had been collected that the treaty came into force. That included only 43 countries. Various sorts of arm-twisting and horse-trading, some as difficult as reconciling Brazil and Argentina to each other and persuading South Africa to give up its small arsenal, continued until the mid-nineties, when the vast majority of states had signed on.
There remain three states that have nuclear weapons and have not signed the treaty: India, Israel and Pakistan. North Korea has withdrawn from the treaty and is currently recalcitrant in the talks to draw it back in.
For those four, the NPT offers only non-nuclear-weapon status: only states that tested nuclear weapons before 1964 can join as nuclear-weapon states. North Korea is early enough in its development of nuclear weapons that it is conceivable it can be turned away from nuclear weapon status. The others will not give up their nuclear arsenals any time soon.
Bush takes on the endgame
George Bush developed an alternative for India, consistent with his doctrine that friends can have nuclear weapons, others not so much. In one of his increasingly rare successes, the 123 legislation that effectively gives nuclear-weapon-state status to India has passed the House of Representatives, having vaulted through the Nuclear Suppliers' Group earlier this month. I have no doubt that it will pass the Senate. The India lobby, now almost as powerful as the Israel lobby, has joined with the defense industry lobby, which expects to sell conventional arms to India via the agreement.
Meanwhile, the nonproliferation community has stuck with a "just say no" posture, insisting that those four nations must join the NPT as it stands.
Bush recognized that the strategy must change, but he has taken up the wrong strategy. The nonproliferation community is correct that fewer nations with nuclear weapons is the direction to go in, but they have provided little in the way of guidance, as we see from Allison and Zedillo today.
The other endgame
The proposal by George Schultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn provides the alternative to Bush's endgame, although they didn't put it that way. That proposal basically resurrects the NPT's base bargain: if other countries will refrain from developing nuclear arsenals, the countries that have them will get rid of them. As Article VI of the treaty, it is the endgame.
The Bush administration, playing its endgame, sees no connection between its nukes and other people's nukes, so it's perfectly acceptable to play politics with the START treaty extension talks (h/t http://www.newshoggers.com/blog/2008/09/russia-says-us.html)
It is essential for the United States and Russia to be more explicit and more rigorous about their nuclear arms reductions. That would have provided the leverage for a deal with India that would have restricted its production of fissile material and moved it toward reductions in its nuclear arsenals. Such a deal could have been used as a model for further deals with Israel and Pakistan.
The next administration will have to turn toward nuclear reductions. Agreement on a START extension looks like it will have to be the first achievement on which it must concentrate. But that administration, and the arms control and nonproliferation community will do us all a service by recognizing that we need an endgame strategy.