Odds Against Nuclear Disarmament

Charles V. Peña. antiwar.com, 29 July 2009.


…a country can be a party to the NPT but decide that abiding by the treaty is no longer in its best interests and withdraw, which is exactly what North Korea chose to do in January 2003, claiming, “A dangerous situation where our nation’s sovereignty and our state’s security are being seriously violated is prevailing on the Korean Peninsula due to the U.S. vicious hostile policy towards the DPRK.” Given that North Korea had been named a member of the axis of evil a year earlier and the United States was on the verge of invading Iraq (a non-nuclear power), it’s perfectly understandable that the regime in Pyongyang might believe it was in the DPRK’s “supreme interests” to no longer formally agree to be a nonnuclear power, i.e., a pushover for regime change.

The NPT is not a universal treaty. There are 193 countries in the world, but not all of them are signatories to the NPT. The result is the so-called “D3 problem,” or the de facto nuclear states: India, Pakistan, and Israel. These countries were never part of the NPT regime and were thus able to develop nuclear weapons, because they are under no obligation to abide by the NPT. And it’s not lost on the rest of the world – particularly the Muslim world – that the United States doesn’t hold Israel to the same standard as Iran. Indeed, like previous presidents, Obama refuses to even acknowledge that Israel is a nuclear power.

…the NPT does not exist in a vacuum. It’s impossible to ignore U.S. foreign policy, particularly a proclivity for military intervention supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. Since the end of the Cold War marked by the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the United States has engaged in nine major military operations, but only one of those – Operation Enduring Freedom – was unambiguously in response to a direct threat to the United States. This is a powerful incentive for countries such as Iran and North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons as the only reliable deterrent against U.S. invasion. As long as the United States continues to have an interventionist foreign policy (and the Obama administration has not overseen a sea change in U.S. foreign policy), it will be next to impossible to prevent proliferation.

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