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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Do Your Homework Before You Write for The New York Times

Today I read [this] op-ed piece in the New York Times. I have to admit, I was shocked at how little substance it had to it. Most of the content was completely out of line with reality. Let's look at some of the points the author attempts to make....

Another puzzle is why an administration that spends hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq doesn't try harder to secure uranium and plutonium in Russia and elsewhere. The bipartisan program to secure weapons of mass destruction is starved for funds Ñ but Mr. Bush is proposing a $41 million cut in "cooperative threat reduction" with Russia.

That is simply not true. There are at least two separate incidents in the public record that directly contradict the author's assertions. In December of last year, US and Russian special operations forces [secured 37 pounds of highly enriched uranium} from a Bulgarian WMD site with the cooperation of local Bulgarian authorities. In 2002, a similar operation was conducted with the cooperation of Serbia and Yugoslavia to [secure 100 pounds of HEU] from a former WMD site. Of note is the fact that the United States government would have been outside of it's legal powers to execute some parts of these operations, instead the nonprofit group [Nuclear Threat Initiative] provided private support.
And those are only two incidents that have been publicly reported (a [third] was reported less widely). In addition to direct seizures of fissile material, there are ongoing operations at sea to interdict the material infrastructure necessary to support a nuclear program. As part of the [Proliferation Security Initiative], the United States and partner nations are conducting constant Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) operations on the high seas, boarding ships carrying illicit cargo like [Scud missiles] and centrifuge parts destined for North Korea and it's clients. The $41m "cut" in cooperative threat reduction is misleading. One blanket program was cut back, while more money was allocated to counterproliferation activities like PSI in other budget line items, where it was being used more effectively to begin with.

The author mentions North Korea several times:
One of our biggest setbacks is in North Korea. Thanks to the ineptitude of hard-liners in Mr. Bush's administration, and their refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations, North Korea is going all-out to make warheads. It may have just made six new nuclear weapons. Then there's Iran, which has sought nuclear weapons since the days of the shah, and whose nuclear program seems to have public support. "I'm not sure there is a way to get an Iranian government to give it up," a senior American official said.

The steps that are needed, like negotiating seriously with North Korea and securing sites in Russia, aren't as dramatic as bombing Baghdad.

I'm not sure where the author was during the 1990s, but apparently he was not paying attention to United States foreign policy. From 1993 to 2001 the [United States and North Korea] were constantly negotiating over the North's nuclear program. In 1994 the United States and several Asian countries entered an [agreement] with North Korea where in exchange for financial aid and technical assistance the North would end it's nuclear program.
Obviously, North Korea still has a nuclear program. When this latest round of talks with the North began, they clearly wanted to [extort more money] from the West in exchange for the empty promise to stop their nuclear program. The negotiations with North Korea from 1993 on have become a case study in the failure of foreign policy, a fact apparently lost on the author, who seems to suggest that the United States give North Korea several hundred million more dollars for nothing in return. Benjamin Franklin said "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.", which seems to be exactly what the author is advocating.

Even further from the truth is the author's assertion that:
It's mystifying that the administration hasn't leaned on Pakistan to make Dr. Khan available for interrogation to ensure that his network is entirely closed. Several experts on Pakistan told me they believe that the administration has been so restrained because its top priority isn't combating nuclear proliferation Ñ it's getting President Pervez Musharraf's help in arresting Osama bin Laden before the November election.

The fact that the United States is [providing assistance] to Pakistan to improve the security of their nuclear weapons is lost on the author. The author also seems to have forgotten how tenuous the political situation in Pakistan is at this point: the [very people] that we do not want to have control of the Pakistani government are attempting to assassinate the Prime Minister. Right now the priority of the United States is to keep him alive, if only to keep Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs secure. The very elements trying to remove him from power are the people that we do not want to have control of the Pakistani nuclear aresenal, much less their nuclear engineering programs. Khan's network has been well known since the late 1980s, and only a fool would think that with the recent public disclosure of Khan's proliferation activities would that network still be covert. If anything, exposing Khan and the support he received from the factions within Pakistan's military - largely militant Islamic elements who support the Taliban - would dramatically weaken the Prime Minister's hold on the country and his progress towards stabilization.

For all of the criticism - mostly baseless - the author provides, he does not provide a single constructive suggestion for dealing with any of these problems. I expected more from the New York Times.

3/10/2004 06:51:00 PM ] [  0 comments  ]
A good quick laugh