Monday, April 27, 2009

What if You Sit Next to Ellen Tauscher on a Plane?

Or Rose Gottemoeller, Gary Samore, Ivo Daalder, Valery Churkin, Mohamed ElBaradei, or Sergei Ordjonikidze? You would want to lobby them, wouldn’t you? But would you know what to say?

Lucky you. I will suggest a line of conversation about nuclear disarmament with each of these powerful people.

First, Ellen Tauscher. She used to be a California congresswoman but is becoming Obama’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. She will participate in the National Security Council, advising the president on arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament.

I suggest that you offer her the peanuts that the flight attendant gave you (pretend you are too allergic to eat them) and say,

“Congratulations on your appointment, Ms. Tauscher. I wonder whether you have read the Draft Nuclear Weapons Convention that has been proposed by ICAN, the organization sponsored by IPPNW? It would prohibit the development, testing, production, stockpiling, transfer, use, and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as the production of fissile material suitable for making them. It would require all nuclear armed countries to destroy their nuclear weapons in stages. The last stage would place all fissile material under international control to prevent nuclear weapons ever being made again. I’d be glad to send you a copy of that document.”

After that, you’re on your own.

Second, suppose you meet Rose Gottemueller. She’s an expert on US Russian relations who worked as Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center until recently. Now she is becoming Assistant Secretary of State for Verification and Compliance. You might do well to discuss with her the question of Iran’s compliance with the NPT. Say,

“Ms. Gottemoeller, I imagine that Iran is your worst headache at the moment. May I offer you an Anacin? And while we’re on the subject, of nuclear compliance permit me to endorse the approach that President Obama is taking. Evidently Iran is not complying with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and has not even signed the Additional Protocol, which would allow the IAEA inspectors to make unannounced visits. Nevertheless, the best approach at the moment seems to be to try and rebuild the tone of the relationship between Iran and the international community. If the hostility can be mitigated, perhaps there can be a new arrangement that will recognize Iran’s security interests. In the longer term, of course, we would hope to establish a new situation with all countries, not just Iran, would put all highly enriched uranium or plutonium under international control. ”

Okay, that should get you started.

Third, let’s suppose you sit next to Gary Samore. He was an arms control negotiator in the Clinton Administration. Now he is the new White House “czar” for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Probably he will work closely with Vice President Biden, who is supposed to shepherd the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty through Congress. You might say something like this,

“Mr. Samore, the turbulence this plane is going through is probably nothing in comparison to the turbulence you experience every day on the job. I take my hat off to you sir, and wish you every success with your work. It’s a pity that the CTBT never entered into force, but I suppose it will, now that President Obama is supporting it to firmly. And it is thrilling that you and Ms. Gottemoeller have been asked to start immediately to negotiate a treaty with Russia that will replace START in December. I hope the new treaty will reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons on both sides to 1,000 or even lower. Mr. Obama has committed to retain his deterrent capacity until all the nuclear weapons in the world are finally disarmed together. If deterrence is a major issue, you could probably even reduce the American weapons well below 1,000 if those are kept on ships at sea. That way, any potential enemy could not find them and destroy them with a surprise first strike,”

Certainly this opener should be sufficient to get you off onto a lively conversation.

Fourth, suppose your neighbor on the plane is Ivo Daalder. What would you say? This one is easy.

“Hello, Ambassador Daalder. I see that you are being appointed as the American Ambassador to NATO. Congratulations. Well, sir, I live in a country that is also a member of NATO, and I have a suggestion to make. The Canadian Pugwash Group has been lobbying various members of NATO, suggesting that they require that nuclear weapons be removed from their soil. Probably a year or two ago the United States would have become very angry about any such idea, but now it might work to your advantage. If you could privately indicate to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey that you wouldn’t mind their demanding the removal of nuclear weapons, some or all of them would probably be happy to do so. That would cause a lot of publicity and make people aware of the current nuclear threat posture,. I think it would strengthen public opposition to nuclear weapons.”

Fifth, suppose you meet Valery Churkin on a plane. Here’s what you should say,

“Ambassador Churkin, it is a pleasure to know that you are representing Russia in the United Nations. You certainly have a long history of contact with Western societies, and I’m sure you have a deep grasp of Russian and American nuclear weapons policies. It was good to read the joint statement of President Medvedev and President Obama recently. They said they have agreed to achieve a nuclear free world in the long run. That’s a wonderful goal. And we can expect to see a new treaty of Strategic Arms Reductions by summer. I want to express my agreement with you on the subject of missile defence. The American plan to deploy missile defence installations in Europe is probably unnecessary and understandably the Russian government opposes it. On the other hand, President Obama is deliberately taking a slow route to making any final decision on this matter. There is probably enough time for Russia to develop a more cooperative relationship with America on such matters of mutual concern in Iran and Pakistan. If you succeed in doing that, probably the missile defences will never be installed. I hope that’s what you plan to do.”

Sixth, let us suppose that you happen to meet Mohamed ElBaradei on a plane. You may recognize him right away, since he is often seen on TV. He is the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate is probably recognized in public many times each day. You might begin by offering him your copy of the International Herald Tribune. Then say,

“Dr. ElBaradei, I have read the speech you delivered recently in Beijing at the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy. Personally, I still wish that the IAEA did not have to promote nuclear energy. With commitment, we could shift over to alternative sources of fuel soon enough. However, I realize that your job requires you to endorse the expansion of nuclear power plants in many new countries, and probably you believe in that, so the real question is, how can access to fissile material be eliminated for would-be weapons makers? I like your proposal for a fuel bank to be managed by the IAEA. Moreover, you said that you want the entire fuel cycle, including the disposal of wastes, to be managed multinationally. That is an excellent idea. And I also support your near-term goal of implementing the additional protocol to the comprehensive safeguards agreements, so the Agency can verify that no undeclared nuclear activities are taking place. Certainly, global nuclear security standards should be made binding, rather than voluntary as at present.”

Seventh and finally, let us suppose you meet Sergei Ordjonikidze on a plane. He is the UN Deputy Secretary General. He runs the UN’s Geneva office, which is where the Conference on Disarmament meets. You could say something like this,

“Mr. Director General, I see we are both drinking red wine. It is so-so but not nearly as good as the excellent wine from your homeland. I wish we could buy Georgian wine in Ontario’s LCBO. Now, as to the agenda of the CD, I am encouraged by the commitment of Presidents Medvedev and Obama. There seems to be new hope for the CD to accomplish a fissile material cutoff treaty. After all, this was agreed as one of the 13 practical steps toward disarmament at the 2000 NPT Review Conference. President Bush had opposed it, arguing that it would not be verifiable, but there is no scientific basis for that opinion. I hope that President Obama’s team will move forward with it. Let me toast the success of the CD with this mediocre, non-Georgian wine.”

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Flummoxed by Afghanistan

The news from gets worse and worse, offsetting the brightness of last week’s announcement of Obama’s new approach. (Even that announcement contained worrisome elements, but the overall emphasis was on development, which has to be the most liberal way of solving such predicaments.)

But now there are two ugly stories. Yesterday the (maybe a Pakistani branch, though I’m not sure) promised some “amazing” terrorist act in Washington D C. And today there’s a nasty real development: The Afghan government has enacted a new law rolling back the progress of women. Now a man can legally his wife, and she must have his permission to leave the house, and be accompanied by a male relative.

So here’s the situation. Obama has given up on the goal of turning Afghanistan into a . Most people say it just can’t be done. He has scaled back the goal. Now the purpose of the war is simply to make sure that al-Qaeda cannot attack the US or other countries from bases in Afghanistan. (Never mind that al-Qaeda is actually not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan, where NATO fighters are not allowed to go.)

I have a lot of trouble with the idea of abandoning democracy as a goal. I would never have invaded the country to make it democratic — that’s not the way to do it — but I feel a special kind of responsibility for the people whose lives we have disrupted by invading. We broke it, so we have to buy it, as the signs warn in china shops. We have more obligation to fix that society than we might have had if we hadn’t gone into it.

So Obama has stopped talking about the Taliban as the object of our disaffection; it’s that he worries about. There are logical grounds for this, because until now no Taliban person has been involved in a terrorist act in any foreign country. (So says Fareed Zakaria, whose knowledge I would not dispute.) Likewise, Gwynne Dyer proposes that we get out of Afghanistan and leave the Taliban alone, since he doesn’t think al-Qaeda is capable anymore of attacking the West, and the Taliban have no inclination to do so.

But yesterday there was such an expression of intent. One of them is going to amaze us with a terrorist act in Washington – something bigger even than 9/11.

This may be a reaction against the Petraeus approach: to “peel off” some parts of the Taliban and make friends of them. It worked in Iraq, so maybe it will work in Afghanistan — but maybe not. Anyhow, some of the Taliban may be feeling irked by hearing of this plan, especially if they believe it is possible.

Mostly I lean toward the idea of assisting the of villages and helping to establish good governance on the local level as a way of liberating the Afghans from the Taliban – an outcome that apparently they would greatly prefer.

Smart people, including not only Petraeus, Dyer, and Amitai Etzioni (whose newsletter I was just reading) say that the wise approach is to deal with the tribal leaders, for it is the tribes that have always governed Afghanistan. Forget trying to clean up the new national government. It’s too corrupt to fix. Just deal with the tribal elders and win over as many of them as you can (as they did with the Sunni elders in Anbar Province, Iraq).

But can we ignore ? Can we forget about creating a national police force or army? I doubt it. At least, Obama has not tried to promote that degree of devolution. But above all, this business of abusing women appalls me. There was a photo of Karzai in London today, sitting face to face with an enormously displeased Hillary Clinton. The guy looked defeated and shriveled up, far weaker than he had seven years ago when he assumed power. Now everyone admits that his government is a totally corrupt failure – but he’s running for re-election, and in order to gain support he has endorsed this horrible anti-woman law.

Can we support him after that? (Assuming that we would otherwise.) I don’t think so. But what is the alternative? If we believe in promoting democracy, some people would say that’s what we should do – help him and the Afghan people get the kind of laws they want, not the laws we prefer. But what kind of democracy violates the human rights of its female population?

I’m sorry but I have no clue. I cannot imagine any solution that I could embrace without qualifications. And that’s just when it comes to Afghanistan. If I were to discuss Pakistan here, I’d really be at a loss!

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