Here's something that should really be getting a extraordinary amount of attention, but I suppose a Friday web article and a Saturday non-front-page story in the New York Times will have to do. Several months ago, defying all strategic logic, President Bush and some of his Congressional allies pushed through a bill that would allow the United States to dance around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and supply India with civilian nuclear facilities. The caveat for India was that they would lose our support if they illegally tested any more nuclear weapons. The upshot for the United States was...nothing. In fact, between loss of prestige in the world, and inflaming both American and Indian tensions with Pakistan and China this was almost inarguably a huge loss for us.
But apparently that wasn't enough for New Delhi, who now say that they can't promise not to illegally test any more weapons. Our president's response was to, with almost shocking quickness ,turn over all our chips to them and immediately cede to their wishes.
Until the overall deal was approved by Congress last year, the United States was prohibited by federal law from selling civilian nuclear technology to India because it has refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The legislation passed by Congress allows the United States to sell both commercial nuclear technology and fuel to India, but would require a cutoff in nuclear assistance if India again tests a nuclear weapon. Indias Parliament balked at the deal, with many politicians there complaining that the requirements infringed on Indias sovereignty.
Under the deal, which was described on Thursday by senior American officials, Mr. Bush has agreed to go beyond the terms of the deal that Congress approved, promising to help India build a nuclear fuel repository and find alternative sources of nuclear fuel in the event of an American cutoff, skirting some of the provisions of the law.
This is the president violating U.S. law in an a manner so overt that it would be shocking if it were anybody else. Somehow, though, the controversy isn't presented as one about the pitfalls of arming an extremely unstable part of the world--a part which also happens to contain about half the world's population. Instead this is supposedly all about optics. We're, after all, on the brink of war with Iran over their Non-Proliferation Treaty violations:
The problem is a delicate one for the administration, because this month American officials are working at the United Nations Security Council to win approval of harsher economic sanctions against Iran for trying to enrich uranium. India is already a nuclear weapons state and has refused to sign the treaty; Iran, a signer of the treaty, does not yet have nuclear weapons.
But in an interview Thursday, R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, who negotiated the deal, said, “Iran in no way, shape or form would merit similar treatment because Iran is a nuclear outlaw state.”
This is sort of unbelievable. The fact is, both India and Iran are nuclear outlaw states. The difference is that Iran is a signatory to the NPT, and India is not... which means that at the very least Iran is subject to IAEA inspections. We conceive of Iran as a nuclear outlaw state, though, not because they're violating the IAEA, but because we really, really don't like them. If they formally dropped out of the IAEA they'd be in the same legally ambiguous territory as India is, except that we wouldn't be lunging at the chance to help them advance their nuclear capabilities.
This is in some ways business as usual for George Bush. The difference, though, between this and other administration crimes is that most of their other crimes haven't resulted in the very high possibility that millions of people will die*. And what's even more unusual is that we don't have to do any of this if we don't want to--ine of the reasons it should be easy to strengthen ties with India is that they are absolutely dependent upon us for their security. No other country on the planet can possibly help India check both China and Pakistan at the same time. Neither China nor India like India very much but both happen to be very close by. This was our leverage, and we don't have it any longer.
It should be noted, too, that Hillary Clinton--who was once referred to by the Obama campaign as (D-Punjab)--has been a huge advocate of this policy. Obama, who we're supposed to believe is some sort of foreign policy neophyte, voted for the original bill but now has an exceptionally good anti-proliferation platform.
Update: Last paragraph modified to more accurately reflect the differences between Clinton and Obama.