Is the Proliferation Genie Out of the Bottle? 2
A Belmont Club reader sends a link to a Reuters story entitled "World May Be Headed for Nuclear Destruction, ElBaradei Says".
The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Thursday the world could be headed for destruction if it does not stop the spread of atomic weapons technology, which has become widely accessible. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Mohamed ElBaradei wrote that nuclear technology, once virtually unobtainable, is now obtainable through "a sophisticated worldwide network able to deliver systems for producing material usable in weapons."
Above all ElBaradei echoed President Bush's call in a speech on Wednesday for states to tighten up the control of their companies' nuclear exports to proliferators. ElBaradei, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general, said the world must act quickly because inaction would a create a proliferation disaster. "The supply network will grow, making it easier to acquire nuclear weapon expertise and materials. Eventually, inevitably, terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology, if not actual weapons," he wrote. "If the world does not change course, we risk self-destruction," ElBaradei said.
ElBaradei is making two critical claims. The first is that the Pakistani network threatens the lynchpin of nuclear containment by commoditizing -- "systems for producing material usable in weapons." The second is the implied claim that a beefed up non-proliferation treaty and the IAEA could halt this march to "self-destruction". The subtlety in the first claim lies in the object of the sentence -- not "materials usable in weapons" -- but systems for producing material usable in weapons. That opens the possibility for the subjunctive: if we can keep these enrichment systems from being built then the materials will not be produced. That leads directly to the second claim. Just who is going to prevent these enrichment systems from being built? Why the international community, headed by -- ahem -- the IAEA -- the very agency that never detected the crisis until it was uncovered by Allied intelligence. ElBaradei even denies the possibility of any legitimate unilateral enforcement. "In a clear jab at the United States, which plans to forge ahead with research into the so-called mini nukes, ElBaradei said the world must drop the idea that nuclear weapons are fine in the hands of some countries and bad in the hands of others. "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security -- and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use," he said.
ElBaradei's statement reads like a proposition with an embedded logical contradiction. If the world is headed for destruction, which may be true, how can it's salvation be entrusted to the agencies which so singularly failed to prevent or even detect the threat? And since international police power must be used to prevent this threat, how can he argue against it's use? If ElBaradei were your local mayor, he might have said, 'we must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for criminals to have guns yet morally acceptable for the police to rely on them for security -- and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use'. Police power, above all, means the concentration of force in some hands but not in others. If nonproliferation does not mean this, it means nothing at all. If ElBaradei cannot think this, he can think nothing at all.