Friday, May 08, 2009

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Nuclear Arms Are Bad...Except When They Are Good!

Apparently there is a certain tension in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty between two diametrically opposed points of view.

Maybe that's why its abbreviation is NPT and not NNT?

In a post about the problem with NPT, Shmuel Rosner refers to a 2004 article by Dr. Emily B. Landau of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS).

Landau writes that the NPT recognizes that a country can have legitimate reasons for having nuclear weapons:
The central conceptual tension that plagues the NPT is the co-existence of two distinct messages on the value of nuclear weapons. While the principle of “nuclear weapons are generally bad for the security of states” was clearly the dominant message and rationale for the treaty as a whole, the idea that “nuclear weapons can sometimes be good for security” was legitimized as well.

The most visible expression of this duality is the very fact that the NPT recognized the five NWS [Nuclear Weapons States] as parties in their current status, while all other states that were parties to the treaty committed themselves to remain in a non-nuclear weapon status. However, the tension is more deeply embedded in the provisions of the treaty. In a recent article, Henry Sokolski notes that the diplomats who negotiated the NPT essentially agreed that all nations had a right to acquire nuclear weapons to defend themselves.[1] This is the basis for their understanding that if NNWS [Non-Nuclear Weapons States] agreed not to exercise this right, they deserved to be compensated accordingly.[2] The exit clause of the NPT is particularly revealing in its recognition of the right of states to withdraw from the treaty if extraordinary events jeopardize their “supreme interests.” In other words, the treaty acknowledges that extreme circumstances may require that states exercise their right to defend their national interest through the development of nuclear weapons. As to a potential clash between the principle that nuclear weapons are bad for security and other security interests that might encourage proliferation, the treaty implied that “resolution” would be carried out outside the bounds of the treaty – i.e., with the withdrawal of a NNWS whose supreme interests are not served by continued adherence to the treaty.

Beyond the provisions of the treaty itself, the message of the positive value of nuclear weapons has been underscored by the attitudes and behavior of NWS over the years. At the level of the superpowers, the US and USSR/Russia have negotiated important and far-reaching bilateral arms reductions, but these were always carried out with an eye to their national security interests through continued nuclear capability. Even the most committed supporters of arms control today recognize that a certain, limited nuclear arsenal will long be deemed necessary by the superpowers for purposes of national security. Some recent discussions in the US advocate integrating nuclear weapons more actively in the national security doctrine. In addition, the US and other states have tended to accept Israel’s nuclear deterrent as justified by its unique security situation and the serious threats that it faces. [emphasis added]
Israel's possession of nuclear arms as a deterrent against its enemies is not only recognized by the US and others--the concept itself is built into the NPT itself.

The gap between seeing the possession of nuclear arms as bad, yet recognizing that there are cases when their possession is legitimate, is more than merely a theoretical footnote. There are real world consequences:
The extent of the gap today is captured by the following two statements, the first reminding us of what the US anticipated might happen with regard to nuclear development at the time the treaty was being negotiated, and the second representative of the current sense of disillusionment with the NPT, due to its demonstrated inability to stymie determined proliferators:
· "After the NPT, many nations can be expected to take advantage of the terms of the treaty to produce quantities of fissionable material…In this way, various nations will attain a well-developed option on a bomb. A number of nations will be able to detonate a bomb within a year following withdrawal from the treaty; others may even shorten this period."
US Department of State, Policy Planning Council, May 1968[3]
· "The [IAEA report on Iran] is a stunning revelation of how far a country can get in making the bomb while pretending to comply with international inspections."
Gary Milhollin, as quoted in the New York Times, November 13, 2003
The assessment from 1968 indicates that at the time of negotiation the expectation was that the NPT would in fact very likely not stop a determined proliferator, and may even enable its proliferation.[4] Thirty-five years later, there are expressions of surprise that the NPT was not able to effect what in fact it was never intended to do. [emphasis added]

The NPT was never intended to bring about the complete elimination of nuclear weapons, rather to serve as a moderating force to control their unimpeded proliferation.

And it surely was not intended as a club to beat up Israel and deprive it of one of the tools it has as a defensive deterrent.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

Technorati Tag: and and .

No comments: