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Fred Kaplan on Nukes
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From Fred Kaplan, in Slate:

Why shouldn't nations like Iran and North Korea try to build A-bombs? Isn't building the bomb a logical policy in the post-Cold War era?

It depends on what you're trying to achieve, doesn't it? If, for example, you've signed treaties and agreements saying you won't develop nukes in exchange for good will, trade, aid, and other incentives, some might say, oddly enough, that you should honor them.

You might logically pursue the path of making those agreements while secretly still pursuing nukes, but this might backfire if you are found out, destroying any good will and trust that you might have built up...which may not be a logical course of action.

But honestly, if you're going to couch all actions in terms of utilitarianism, excluding morality, you can justify some very horrid action indeed. Why would it not be logical for me to rob a bank if I needed money? To kill those I dislike? To rape those I desired? These would all be logical actions, wouldn't they?

Yet most governments did not respond to their new freedoms or insecurities by hiring vast teams of physicists and erecting supercolliders. Why not?

Some nations refrained on moral grounds.

Ah, yes. Kaplan does bring up morality. Doesn't that mean we should reward such countries for doing so? Why should we reward a country for not living up to its agreements? Isn't that the textbook definition of extortion?

The point is that some nations—even nations led by very dangerous people—have objectively valid reasons to acquire the bomb. This does not mean the rest of the world should sagely nod and let them go ahead.

And yet, I've heard people argue for this very thing, a laissez-faire nuclear policy, which I think is madness.

The Cold War has been over for a dozen years, yet nobody—not Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, or Kofi Annan—has begun to formulate a policy on nuclear nonproliferation.

On this point I actually agree with Kaplan. There does not seem to be a comprehensive, organized, international nonproliferation policy...and I most definitely think we'll need one if we're going to get through the next century alive.

There is, clearly, no way to transform Iran and North Korea into, say, Spain and Costa Rica. But that doesn't mean it's impossible or fuzzily naive to devise a system of inducements—some combination of rewards and punishments, security guarantees and economic incentives—that might lure such nations away from atomic temptation.

But haven't we been trying this with North Korea for the past 9 years? You could argue that the particulars were flawed, but the idea was the same. They took our aid, our incentives, and went right on building nukes covertly.

It's the alternative—the supposedly "hard-headed" dismissal of such ideas as "appeasement" or "succumbing to blackmail"—that constitutes the real, and in the long-run more deadly, naiveté.

Really? Well, at what point do you play hardball with them? After they've deceived you for the 12th time? This is what I believe ultimately undermines the pacifist perspective--the unwillingness to ever draw a line in the sand. Diplomacy and economic incentives should always, always be employed first as tools to resolve international dispute. But if there comes a point, after long periods of time and many trials, that they do not work, one must be willing to no longer appease despotism. And sometimes, eventually, reluctantly, force must be used.

I don't believe that time has come with North Korea. Not yet. But I wholly support a hard line with them, after almost a decade of diplomacy and incentives. We would be utter fools to enter into an agreement similar to the '94 one (burn me once...). Any new agreement would need to be many times more stringent in terms of verification, but ultimately there is a principle at stake, that we should not reward blustering, irresponsible states for acting recklessly and shredding international agreements. We should reward those states that do choose to live in peace and adhere to international law, and punish those that do not.

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