WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of two wrap-ups for Dec. 11.
The Institute for Policy Studies
WASHINGTON -- Bush administration walks farther away from 50 years of arms control
A new policy directive from the Bush administration all but abandons the structure of arms control agreements that have prevented nuclear war for 50 years. The United States will now attempt to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction by preemptively striking at countries and non-state actors it believes are developing them.
It also threatens to use nuclear weapons in the event of a biological or chemical attack against the United States, its troops or its allies. The following experts have commented on this new policy:
-- William D. Hartung, president's fellow at the World Policy Institute, and director of the Arms Trade Resource Center.
"The Bush administration's threat of nuclear first strikes as a way to control weapons of mass destruction is the moral equivalent of threatening to destroy the world in order to save it. If the arms lobby wanted to dream up a plan to create maximum global anxiety and spark a new arms race, they would be hard pressed to improve on the Bush administration's actual strategy.
"Even as the administration makes these dangerous and
destabilizing threats, it has either ignored or undermined the most effective tools for controlling these: strengthening enforcement of the chemical and biological weapons conventions, increasing funding to secure, destroy, or neutralize Russia's vast, poorly guarded stockpiles of nuclear weapons, and pursuing diplomacy to shut down North Korea's nuclear programs."
-- Jon B. Wolfsthal, deputy director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"North Korea's export of ballistic missiles to Yemen comes as no surprise and is part of a long pattern of such export. The export of such missiles violates no international treaties but does further complicate U.S. efforts to turn off North Korea's nuclear and other programs to develop and export weapons of mass destruction."
-- Paul F. Walker, director of the Legacy Program at Global Green USA.
"The newly announced 'preemptive strike' policy raises serious questions about the first use of nuclear weapons globally. It also directly conflicts with longstanding commitments made by nuclear weapons-capable signatories under the Non-Proliferation Treaty not to attack other non-nuclear signatories."
The Reason Foundation
LOS ANGELES -- Floundering Fathers: All F's on nation-building report cards
by Nick Gillespie
It may well be that Saddam Hussein's massive weekend data dump -- the 12,000-page, multi-media "documentation" of everything related to his weapons program and, apparently, the text of the greater Baghdad telephone book -- will have the effect of slowing down the timetable for a U.N., and maybe even a U.S., invasion.
For obvious reasons, the Bush administration isn't fully comfortable with such a pause. Neither are its conservative pals in the press nor liberal supporters of preemptive war.
But it does give Americans a moment to consider the last few forays into what used to be tsk-tsked -- especially by conservatives and their favorite presidential candidate -- as "nation building."
This is of no small import, as everyone agrees that an invasion of Iraq -- or any other event that forces "regime change" ---is only the beginning of a long, sustained and intense involvement.
The most recent case of nation building is, of course, Afghanistan, where it's unclear that leader Hamid Karzai controls all the bathrooms in his presidential palace, much less the countryside outside of Kabul. As Masood Farivar wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal: "Afghanistan lies in ruins and faces a real danger of slipping back into anarchy."
A Washington Post column by Sebastian Mallaby pretty much seconds that emotion. After a late-November conversation with Maj. Gen. Akin Zorlu, commander of the international peacekeepers in Afghanistan, Mallaby noted that the Pentagon's (and NATO's) dream of building a truly national army that could police the country was "a painfully slow process." This is partly because the recruits go AWOL and head back to their old warlord leaders as soon as they gain useful skills.
Something of an optimist, Zorlu figures it will take 10 to 15 years of international peacekeepers to get the job done.
The summer issue of WorldView, the always-interesting quarterly magazine put out by the National Peace Corps Association (a non-profit made up of returned Peace Corps volunteers), has a piece about Afghanistan that suggests why the dream of a unified, pacific Afghanistan is going to be a long time coming.
"Taliban Profits" reprints one of the last stories filed by murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Pearl notes that in 2000, the Taliban helped facilitate the smuggling of more than $1 billion worth of Western consumer merchandise into neighboring countries Iran and Pakistan.
Even though the Taliban had discouraged or banned many of those same goods (e.g., televisions), the year before, they skimmed somewhere between $36 million and $75 million to let them pass through their borders.
"For decades," wrote Pearl, "whoever has run Afghanistan has exacted tolls on smugglers who ship foreign-made goods through the country and then illegally move the merchandise over the border to Pakistan (and Iran)." With that lucrative trade up for grabs, expect the domestic fight for power to be brutal and long -- and to last until there's only one warlord standing. Until his underlings start to think that they should be in control.
Then there's Serbia, where Slobodan Milosevic was deposed in 2000. "Serbia Faces Major Political Crisis" is a standing headline that could have run almost any day during the 20th century. The only question upon encountering it is: What is it this time? The latest iteration deals with the country's failure for the second time since October to elect a president.
The Serbian constitution requires at least 50 percent voter turnout for an election to count, a total that neither October's contest nor this past Sunday's managed to reach. While such low voter participation rates could be hailed as a sign that U.S.-style (not to mention Swiss-style) democracy has indeed triumphed, the reality is far darker and underscores how much work remains to be done there.
Similar tales can be told about Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, and Somalia, to name other places where nation building has been attempted over the past decade.
None of this means that nation building necessarily can't work, only that it hasn't worked particularly well to date, particularly in places with little or no recent experience with anything approaching democracy. Nor does it necessarily mean that people living in the countries listed above are worse off than they were before intervention. (For that matter, it doesn't mean the United States is better off than it was, either.)
However, it does mean that the United States needs to formulate and sell its dreams for a post-Saddam Iraq if we expect to increase support here and abroad for this latest adventure.
(Nick Gillespie is the editor-in-chief of Reason magazine.)