Dr. Lewis over at ACW picked up on an article by Jofi Joseph in
the National Endowment for Democracy's Democracy Journal [ed. Democracy Journal is actually different from NED's similarly titled Journal of Democracy publication. Thanks to Jofi for pointing that out.] about the intrinsic flaws of the Bush administration's approach to nonproliferation.
Joseph's article is even-handed and well reasoned. My only criticism is that he didn't thoroughly explore why the Bush administration's preference for strategic decisions and disdain towards coercive diplomacy. How does an administration that appears to be obsessed with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction willingly accept the cost of its 'tough guy' policies? How do policy makers on the National Security Council and in the President's cabinet deal with the fact their emphasis on the strategic decision is often the reason why their policies fail?
A Bush administration critic would probably point to negative qualities, such as a lack of creativity and flexibility or an undeserving sense of self-righteousness?
I think there is a logical explanation for Bush administration policy that goes beyond personalities and simple partisan arguments. The key is taking all of the elements of Bush nonproliferation policy together at once (they are arranged in no particular order):
+ The 'Axis of Evil' statement
+ Torpedoing the Biological Weapons Convention implementation talks
+ Abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty
+ Fielding national missile defense
+ The Moscow Treaty
+ The Proliferation Security Initiative
+ Rolling on Congressional pressure for the Reliable Replacement Warhead
+ The Bush-Singh nuclear deal
+ Strategic decision-based policy towards Iraq and Iran's nuclear programs
+ Foot-dragging on renewal of the START verification process
There appear to be a few common themes here. The most glaring one is a belief that weapons proliferation is inevitable. Another is an emphasis on the maintenance of U.S. preeminence instead of U.S. leadership in the international community. Quite possibly the most significant theme is a rejection of the classical notion of nuclear stability through mutual vulnerability.
Preparing for a more proliferated world: If you take together the Bush administration's push to field national missile defense (and acceptance of the RRW), its willingness to 'blow a ginormous hole' in the NPT for India while simultaneously allowing the most significant nuclear confidence building measure ever lapse, and its clear preference for the conclusiveness of military action over diplomatic negotiations, I think the White House's proliferation pessimism becomes pretty clear. Each one of these characteristics have been carefully crafted to maximize the flexibility and relative strength of the U.S. in a more proliferated world.
U.S. preeminence instead of U.S. leadership: This idea dates back to Condi Rice's "Promoting the National Interest" from the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs and extends all the way through the run-up to the Second Persian Gulf War to today. The goal of U.S. nonproliferation policy is not to prevent proliferation by establishing norms and constraints on would-be proliferators. Instead, it is a more subtle policy calculation that values enhancing U.S. advantages against proliferators more than improving the disincentives for proliferation. The Bush administration's different approach to each member of the 'Axis of Evil' epitomizes this theme.
No more MAD: There are three key examples of this characteristic. The first is the Bush administration's willingness to field a national missile defense before most of the components are even ready. The second is the 2002 revision of the Nuclear Posture Review, which put nuclear weapons on the same footing as conventional capabilities. The third was early Bush administration initiatives to enhance the 'usability' of nuclear weapons, including very small yields, 'reduced collateral damage' warheads and the robust nuclear earth penetrator.
In the context of these three themes, every policy initiative listed above certainly seems logical. The problem is that these policies convey the deep proliferation pessimism and skepticism they are based on to the international community. As the most powerful state in that community, Bush administration policy has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if it continues to cast off the vestments the arms control and nonproliferation institutions built between the Cuban missile crisis and September 11th.
These institutions were not perfect, but they were definitely successful. Is the long-term cost of continuing to abandon them over the next few years really worth the short-term victories the Bush administration seeks?
Note: Sorry about the reformatting. Feels like I've been using right-align too often.