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The Illogic of START

Disarmament for us, proliferation for them.

2:17 PM, Apr 1, 2010 • By GABRIEL SCHOENFELD
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This is a formidable record and it raises a question of cardinal importance: Has the rest of the world kept its side of the NPT bargain? The answer is a resounding no. We stand today on the edge of the abyss of a new round of nuclear proliferation.  In defiance of the NPT, North Korea has already tested nuclear devices. In defiance of the NPT, Iran is racing forward in the same direction. In permitting this to occur, the signatory states of the NPT have demonstrated a complete and total abdication of their basic responsibilities.  

But none of this is enough to change minds. What we find instead is continued calls for the U.S. to disarm, as if the only thing driving nuclear proliferation is our failure to set an example. Here, for instance, is Strobe Talbott, Bill Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, explaining why Obama’s new START treaty is so important: “By demonstrating U.S. commitment to reduce its nuclear forces, it bolsters Washington’s credibility as it seeks to strengthen the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime at the NPT review conference in May.” A successful conference, continues Mr. Talbott, “puts greater impediments on the proliferation path that other nuclear aspirants might seek to follow.”

Hillary Clinton had drunk deeply from this particular gourd. The START treaty, she says, "shows the world—particularly states like Iran and North Korea—that one of our top priorities is to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime and keep nuclear materials out of the wrong hands."

“Words must mean something,” Barack Obama said memorably last year in Prague.  Lewis Carroll has offered a far more memorable variation of that phrase:

When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said . . . it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

The real “impediment” to nuclear proliferation is not the existence of U.S. forces. And a “successful conference” is not going to block tyrants who seek the most destructive weapons known to man—except, of course, by Humpty Dumpty’s definition of “successful.” Arms control is a looking-glass world in which words mean nothing at all, and neither do facts, especially when they are disturbing.

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