Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Do what I say, not what I do

If you listened to the Bryant Park Project on NPR yesterday (or looked at any major news source I suspect) then you've probably heard about the U.S. intelligence report that concluded that Iran stopped pursuing creating nuclear weapons in 2003. This morning, however, the BPP (and the NY Times) delivered the (rather predictable) news that Bush says that his tough policy towards Iran is justified because Iran has pursued nuclear weapons in the past and will do so in the future if the chance arises.

I don't know if the new U.S. intelligence report is correct. I don't know if Iran intends to get nukes in the future (although, honestly, I suspect that they might). What I do know is that Bush scolding Iran for attempting to create nuclear weapons is the U.S. talking out of both sides of his/her mouth.

November's issue of Scientific American poses the question "Do We Need New Nukes?" as the cover story. In the article, the author, David Biello, explores the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Defense's (DOD) proposal to replace "the W76, which makes up a third of the available warheads" (and according to Biello we have "a stockpile of roughly 10,000 nuclear weapons"). Apparently, W76s have a 30 year life span which is about to expire. The bulk of the article is about explaining and critiquing point by point, DOE and the DOD's argument both for the particular design they'd like to use to replace the W76s (a design filed under the moniker the Reliable Replacement Warhead [RRW]) and for the replacement project in general.

Near the end of the article Biello discusses what I think is the main argument against replacing these outdated warheads. Biello quotes Sidney Drell from the Standford Linear Accelerator Center as saying
If the United States, the strongest nation in the world, concludes that it cannot protect its vital interests without relying on new nuclear weapons for new military missions, it would be a clear signal to other nations that nuclear weapons are valuable, if not necessary, for their security purposes, too.

Or in other words the United States could restart (continue?) the nuclear arms race by pursuing the RRW program.

I'm with Henry Kissinger on this one, who, along with George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn have issued a statement saying, "We endorse setting the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and working energetically on the actions required to achieve that goal."

We are sending mixed messages to Iran. While we are demanding (through Condoleezza Rice in the above linked NY Times article) that “Iran...stop enrichment and reprocessing activities," we are simultaneously sending them the message (through actions such as proposing the RRW program) that maintaining a fully function nuclear warhead supply should be the top priority of world powers.

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