Friday, March 02, 2007

A Time To Not Be Unilateral

Reuters is reporting that friction is developing between the US and some of the other members of NATO about the potential deployment of an anti-ballistic missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Germany, in particular, along with several other European NATO members are concerned that the ABM system will destabilize relations with Russia, which has expressed serious concerns over the system, seeing it is an encroachment on the (former) Russian sphere of influence in Eastern Europe, as well as a signal of divergent interests between the West and Russia. Germany is calling for discussions in the NATO-Russia Council, while the US has declared its intentions to press ahead with development and deployment, even without NATO approval or participation, if necessary. The basic plan is to deploy a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile battery in Poland to protect Europe against missile launches from states like Iran or North Korea.

Germany and NATO are right to be concerned about the ABM system, but the object of their concern is misplaced. There's no real reason to worry about Russia; the former superpower is a shell of its former self and simply no longer matters in global politics. There's no reason to be antagonistic towards Russia, but Russia's concerns and needs should not be serious impediments to pursuing things deemed important for US/European/NATO security and interest.

There are two other reasons why the US should defer to NATO here. First is the need to assuage hurt feelings. Germany and France are still smarting from the rejection of NATO assistance in the early days of the invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent invasion of Iraq. The US should be looking for any low-cost opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to NATO and multilateral structures, and this seems like such an opportunity, as building an ABM system should be low on the US's list of security priorities.

As I have blogged about before, I am no fan of ABM systems. I don't buy the arguments that they won't work...although I am suspicious of their efficacy. But the real question is: Is the benefit worth the cost? In a world in which our military is stretched thin, where our soldiers are having trouble getting equipment and training, the massive amounts of money being spent on ABM defense could be much better spent simply paying to enlarge the armed forces.

Given the concern expressed by our NATO allies, the Bush Administration should simply drop this issue. There's no reason to upset our friends, nor spend the money that could be better used elsewhere.


WeeZie said...

Seth, I am intrigued about the statement that Russia should not be seen as some sort of impediment to the United States interests. You and the neo-cons write a lot about the threat of a nuclear Iran (something that is not feasible in the near future, but you never mention)yet at the same time, say that the nation with the second most nuclear missiles behind the United States is somehow weak?

How do you rationalize a nation being weak while possessing thousands of nuclear missiles, yet crying wolf when another nation is believed to want one single bomb?

Seth Weinberger said...

Weezie: First, watch your tone. Your use of the phrase "crying wolf" is clearly meant to be condescending and pejorative. It implies that you already know the answer the question you claim to be asking. If you want to engage in academic discourse, do so respectfully.

Second, I nor anyone that I know claims that Russia does not have the potential to be a threat to US or Western interests. What I did say is that Russia no longer has the clout or power that it did during the Cold War, and the US need not shy away from something simply because Russia is opposed.

Now, why does the potential for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon raise concerns while the nuclear arsenal of Russia does not? Several reasons. First and foremost would be Iran's connection to terror organizations. Second would be that Russia understands that its interests are best met by playing by the rules of the western, liberal order, while Iran does not. This is not to claim that Russia is a true friend of the West...only that for Russia the path of a "rogue" state would not be a profitable one as it is for Iran. The world is not as simple as you'd like to think it is. Threat assessment is not purely a function of capabilities.

WeeZie said...

I am sorry if the crying wolf idea seems condescending but in all honesty, that is exactly what is happening. Iran does NOT have a nuclear weapon and even if they vehemently wanted one, it would take many years to produce.

In your original post, you didn't write about Russia's clout, you wrote "Russia's concerns and needs should not be serious impediments to pursuing things deemed important for US/European/NATO security and interest" thus calling Russia inconsequential.

I don't think the world is simple, I believe your view of seeing things in black and white is simplification on your part.

Pakistan doesn't play "by the rules of the western, liberal order" and yet it is allowed to possess a do we rationalize that?

Iran's program is under the supervision of the IAEA whereas nations like Israel, no not nations like Israel, only Israel, have a stockpile of nuclear weapons which are not under the supervision of the IAEA. Once again, seems like a double standard put forth. You agreed that all nations should have to follow the same international law because law applies to everyone. On this issue, it would seem that the nations that work outside the IAEA framework are more dangerous to world security than those who do things in secret.

What do you think? My apologies if the last comment seemed condescending but I must say that I see a double standard being pushed and that's just not right.

Matthew said...

Weezie: You are forgetting three countries here when you state: "whereas nations like Israel, no not nations like Israel, only Israel, have a stockpile of nuclear weapons which are not under the supervision of the IAEA." India, Pakistan, and now regretfully, North Korea, all have nuclear arsenals outside of the reach of the IAEA.

The problem with Iran is that not only are they signatories to the NPT, but that even with an internal IAEA presence, there are still many ambiguities surrounding the program. Singling them out just because they have yet to progress to a status enjoyed by Israel, India, and Pakistan, doesn't make much sense: the point is to prevent the addition of a new nuclear power.

Just because Iran doesn't currently possess a nuclear arsenal nor the capacity to produce one, doesn't mean there is no rationale to applying pressure to Tehran.

WeeZie said...

Matthew, you are wrong in your assertion. Pakistan and India actually sit on the IAEA board, aside from being part of the organization, they are part of the organizational structure. The North Korea threat is never taken seriously now is it? They fired a bomb yet they got a slap on the wrist and now are going to get international aid.

Iran DOES NOT have a bomb and their are talks of an impending attack on the nation. That is the problem with this line of thinking. International law must be equally enforced and it is not. Iran IS infact part of the IAEA so why not go after those nations who aren't under inspection first?


Seth Weinberger said...

There's a lot of stuff to cover here. First, Weezie writes that international law (IL) should apply equally to every state. Perhaps it should; after all, that is the purpose of law. But in reality, IL does not apply equally. States break IL, often with impunity. IL lacks enforcement and often even adjudication. So, as much as we might like it to be fair, binding, and equally applied, it isn't.

Furthermore, Weezie, it's simply wrong to argue that Israel, Pakistan, and India are breaking laws with their nuclear arsenals. None of those countries is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) as is Iran. It doesn't matter that India and Pakistan sit on the board of governors of the IAEA; it's the NPT that controls non-proliferation. The NPT was a volunatary treaty, the signing of which commited states to forgo nuclear proliferation in exchange for assistance with peaceful nuclear power programs. Israel, Pakistan, and India never joined the NPT; thus, their nuclear programs are not, in any way, illegal. Iran did join the NPT, and received international assistance for its peaceful nuclear program. Thus, Iran's obstruction of the inspections and apparent move towards proliferation is a violation of its international commitments.

Finally, let me repeat that threat assessments are not merely a function of capabilities. All rhetoric about Bush or Israel being a bigger threat to international security aside, there is not a single state -- not Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, or Syria -- that truly fears Israel's nuclear arsenal more than the possibility of Iran proliferating. The same goes for India. Pakistan is, as you note, perhaps a different story. But, due to Pakistan's cooperation (more or less)in the War on Terror, Pakistan has a pass for the time being at least. And even if the international community wanted to get Pakistan to give up its NW program, it has no legal grounding for doing so.

WeeZie said...

But it wasn't me that brought up India or Pakistan, it was Matthew. I was just correcting his statement that India and Pakistan are not on the IAEA. Seth, you are absolutely correct in saying that states break IL with impunity and our government is perhaps at the forefront of that. I did not state that India or Pakistan or Israel are breaking any laws by having nuclear weapons, merely that their should be a greater effort made into making sure that their programs are monitored under IAEA guidelines. Seeing that the Pakistani and Indian programs fall under IAEA rules (since they are on the board after all) that leaves Israel the only one of that trio which has a program with no international oversight.

Also, although you claim that threat assessments are not merely a situation of looking at capabilities, it can also be inferred that a state with NO capability cannot launch a nuclear attack? To infer that Iran is dangerous when it possesses no capability AT ALL is tantamount to lying about what is happening in order to meet your own political means, i.e, getting the Mullahs out of Iran.

Again, you bring up Pakistan. Pakistan has its program, as does India. Although they aren't signatories to the NPT, they nonetheless follow IL when it applies to their nuclear programs, Israel not much.

Iran's obstruction is a move towards proliferation? Was this the same argument about Iraq and Scott Ritter himself shot this argument down, as did Hons Blix? The NPT allows for nations to pursue nuclear programs for peaceful means and as far as the IAEA has indicated, the Iran program is not built on the making a nuke.

Should Iran have a nuke is a completely different story. In reality, if Iran wanted a nuke, they could easily take themselves out of the NPT just as North Korea did, and face the international consequences, but still acquire the nuke. If Iran is the great Satan, certainly they can take themselves out of International Law and just operate outside the IAEA and the like.

WeeZie said...

And Seth, the new Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said before the Senate Armed Forces Committee that ""We assess that Iran seeks to develop a nuclear weapon. The information is incomplete, but we assess that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon early-to-mid-next decade."

and just to understand what they mean by assess, they cleared it up in the most recent NIE as "When we use words such as "we assess," we are trying to convey an analytical assessment or judgment. These assessments, which are based on incomplete or at times fragmentary information are not a fact, proof, or knowledge. Some analytical judgments are based directly on collected information; others rest on previous judgments, which serve as building blocks. In either type of judgment, we do not have "evidence" that shows something to be a fact."

The intelligence community is not sure of a program so how is Iran going against the NPT? There is no indication from Iran, the IAEA or U.S intelligence that in fact, Iran is making a bomb. The only people who are fully on board with that proposition are the Zionists, the far-right neo-Conservatives and perhaps the MEK and we have seen where those people have led us in the past 5 years. As Negroponte put it "I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do [is] give you the worst-case assessment"

And going back to that "assessing", well its been going on since 1995. They have been saying since 1995 that Iran is on the verge of a program, verge of a bomb, wipe Israel off the map, etc etc.

I'm sure your not on that whole "Iran only wants to wipe Israel off the map" bus because that is just being to paranoid. As Gates put it himself, ""While they [the Iranians] are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for a nuclear capability, I think they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons-Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west, and us in the Persian Gulf."

That's all I got for this for now.

Seth Weinberger said...

Weezie: If you don't want to be branded a conspiracy theory type, be careful about blaming things on Zionists and neo-conservatives. The UN Security Council has declared Iran to be in breach of its NPT obligations and has imposed sanctions. Hard to see the hand of the Elders of Zion there.

You ask "how is Iran going against the NPT? There is no indication from Iran, the IAEA or U.S intelligence that in fact, Iran is making a bomb." Easy. Read this report ( which details all of Iran's NPT violations. If Iran is truly seeking a peaceful program, there is no logic behind these violations.

WeeZie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WeeZie said...

Seth, I cant believe a professor has to resort to that sort of chicanery in order to make an argument, specifically if you cannot attack my argument itself. Labeling me as some conspiracy theorist doesn't offend me, as I have not said a single thing hinting at some sort of conspiracy. I am not speaking about some sort of secret cabal (which your reference to the Protocols suggests) but a very sophisticated PR machine, heavily funded by Zionists (both Jews and Christian Zionists) that is aimed at creating a false reality.

A few months ago, when the Israeli Military Chief of Staff, Daniel Halutz, was asked how far Israel was ready to go to stop Iran's nuclear energy program, he said "Two thousand kilometers" ­ the distance of an air assault.

By putting that out their, is that some sort of reference to the Rothchilds? This Protocal business is getting a tad bit old now.

Also, Israeli Minister of Defense, Shaul Mofaz, affirmed that in view of Teheran's nuclear plans, Tel Aviv should "not count on diplomatic negotiations but prepare other solutions". Now, Israel says point blank that they are not willing to negotiate. Once again, does that make ME and anti-Semite for quoting a high Israeli official?

Furthermore, Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party and most likely the next prime minister of Israel said that Iran was ready to do to Iran what it did to the the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.

This is a bit old but the December 6, 2005 edition of Haaretz says "Israel must go about making its preparations quietly and securely ­ not at election rallies." Far from accusing all Israelis (58 per cent of the Israelis polled believed the dispute over Iran's nuclear program should be handled diplomatically)those in charge are actually calling for a war. And speaking of those in charge, at the end of January, 78 percent of the Israeli public was "unhappy" with their leaders for a variety of reasons.

Im still perplexed at the accusation of being a conspiracy theorist. And when I speak of the Zionists, this does not mean every single person in the government either. Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, now regard Bush's war in Iraq as a highly destabilizing disaster for the entire region and a major boon to Iran's power, and they regret having endorsed it.

And people on the right still peddle this idea that Iran is intent on destroying Israel (because of course the government does care one bit about its own people nor the death that they would receive it they were to attack Israel for no reason). Even the Israelis are more rational than that Seth. The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University predicted that Iran would behave rationally with nuclear weapons and "that the elimination of Israel is not considered to be an essential national interest"

The cloak of invincibility has been removed from the IDF as they got their backsides handed to them over the summer in Lebanon and to show strength, Likud and the like, including of course the Kahanists, are pressing for war NOW. I know my stuff Seth, you can't scare me off with the name calling.