America’s nuclear policy needs new vision

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Over the years, the nuclear disarmament process has gained great momentum, with the two Cold War powers — the United States and Russia — showing strong resolve to reduce their vast nuclear stockpiles. On April 14, world leaders concluded a two-day summit on international nuclear security. While President Obama was quick to deem it a step forward, his argument is anything but convincing.

Though Russia and the United States renewed their vows at the summit, Obama has had great difficulty in bringing nations such as China, India, and Pakistan to the negotiating table. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was afraid that there would be demands for Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so he just stayed home. Iran was not invited and held its own International Conference on Disarmament and Non-Proliferation in protest.

While it is important that Russia, the country with the world’s largest stockpile, is continuing the disarmament process, without support from every nation it will be impossible to achieve the lofty goal of complete disarmament. And the problem that we face today is not of legality but of mixed messages and poor diplomacy. The Iran issue serves as a great example of the hypocrisy of America’s approach to the problem.

Israel has maintained a (not-so-)secret nuclear program for about 30 years now and, while there have been whimpers of complaint, America has generally accepted it and moved on. Never do we hear of American politicians berating Israel for flouting international regulations or breaking IAEA rules.

Another country with nuclear ambitions is India. After years of mistrust and burdensome sanctions, George W. Bush finally accepted that India was not going to abandon its nascent nuclear program. Amid much controversy, a civilian nuclear deal was finally signed in 2008, despite India’s being a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. International rules were bent to make way for common sense.

And now it looks like Obama is getting drawn into another pointless legal battle, using sanctions when they make no logical sense. Just because Iran is a theocratic and unstable country does not mean they do not have the right to possess nuclear weapons. No amount of legal maneuvering and international condemnation will change Iran’s mind. Nuclear development has become a matter of national pride, and all the taunting is only serving to strengthen their resolve, allowing leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to keep their public emotionally charged.

While the summit was a good way for Obama to display his commitment to world peace, until the focus of nuclear disarmament policy is shifted from enforcing legal requirements to understanding international motivations, we will remain years away from a nuclear-arms-free world.