Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Postcript--Democratic alternatives?

I have just been listening to last night's Democratic debate, much of which dealt with Iran. All the candidates insisted that they wanted to resolve the issue of Iranian nuclear weapons through diplomacy, and most of them criticized Hillary Clinton--rightly, in my opinion--for supporting the resolution that declared the Republican Guard a terrorist organization. But Tim Russert, moderating, seemed to accept the idea that we had to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and he asked all the candidates to pledge that Iran would not get a nuclear weapon while they were President. Most of them did the best that they could to make such a pledge, without promising to go to war. Meanwhile, as a friend of mine pointed out a few weeks ago, Clinton took almost exactly the position on Iraq that Nixon took on Vietnam in 1968--she wants to end the war, but only responsibly.

It occurred to me, first of all, that the whole controversy about Iran reflects how insane the United States has gone since the end of the Cold War. While many of us found Cold War rhetoric frightening at various points, I do not recall any President or candidate threatening preventive war to stop a Communist state from getting nuclear weapons--not even Barry Goldwater in 1964 (when China did explode a nuclear weapon late in the campaign.) We owe some thanks to our parents' generation, apparently, for recognizing that preventive war was not a way of stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons--even though that option was discussed in Washington both in 1949-51 and in 1964. The Boom generation, of course, wants absolutely to have its way, and has apparently concluded that we have the right to attack any nation we find threatening--even if some of our politicians would prefer not to do so.

In the midst of all this, however, I was flabbergasted to hear Dennis Kucinich say exactly what I have been saying here repeatedly for three years--that the only way to argue that certain states should not have nuclear weapons is to commit to fulfilling the provisions of the existing Non-Proliferation Treaty (to which he explicitly referred) and commit to a world in which no one will have nuclear weapons. Once again we must credit our parents, who recognized that when they negotiated that treaty in the 1960s and wrote the provision in. But Kucinich, is, of course, a fringe candidate. I have checked the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the LA Times, and none of them reported that statement. Yet it is absolutely true.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've settled on Kucinich as the recipient of what will be my last Democratic primary ballot. After that, I'm changing my registration to independent, after 30 years as a registered Dem.

The primary vote might be the last vote I cast in any election, ever. I'm just about convinced that abstention is the vote that truly counts. Voting in national elections really is pretty superfluous where I am, Maryland, which will reliably fall in behind the Dem presidential candidate, and return its Dem senators year after year. Even in the Congressional races, the real action is in the primaries -- and they're only contests when the incumbent resigns. I don't think there was a lot of turnover in the Brezhnev Politburo either....

The political structures set up in the Constitution were never as great as we're routinely led to believe, but I think that they are totally outmoded now. Our political system is clinically neurotic, unable to even discuss external reality, let alone react to it effectively.

Meanwhile, the "Blog Them Out of the Stone Age" site has a very disturbing report here. However, some quick googling hasn't fetched any supporting evidence from other sources.
-- sglover

Nur-al-Cubicle said...

I believe French political scientist Bertrand Badie said that per the terms of the NPT, Iran should have been receiving a cash indemnity as incentive to keep from seeking The Bomb. It looks as if US shirked its pledge to pony up thought I haven't done any research myself on what would be due Tehran.

tap said...

I wasn't familiar with the cash incentive option, but, obviously, this would be a huge step in the right direction. If our government chooses to tell the world what to do, then it should pay for the priv.

Re: Kucinich. He's the only presidential candidate that I've ever supported financially, and I shall do again. The question is not whether he wins, but whether I can face myself at the end of the long haul. As opposed to being a "good German" who accepts the ruling paradigm, I choose to be a good American (and proud of the Enlightenment documents which established all that means)and go for the alternatives that speak most to me.
Re: the Boomer role in all of this. Yes. My generation has a lot to answer for. But tarring us all with the same brush is counterproductive and simplistic.

Anonymous said...

The scariest thing is that the candidates and a large part of Congress (not to mention the pundit class) have accepted the Bush administration's accusation that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon as the truth.

What we know about Iran's nuclear program is that it is consistent with Iran's Article IV rights under the NPT. We also know that Iran did some experimenting over the past twenty years or so that is hard to explain except in the context of nuclear weapons. Iran has agreed to explain those experiments to the IAEA. What we know of those experiments is that they appear to have been limited and to have been ended some time ago.

Iran claims that its program is peaceful.

It is not stretching credulity too far to believe that Iran would like to have a reserve capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons.

But the assumption that we know that they are going for them directly is over the top. And that seems to be what most of our government and commentators believe.

CKR

Anonymous said...

The scariest thing is that the candidates and a large part of Congress (not to mention the pundit class) have accepted the Bush administration's accusation that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon as the truth.

I take it as a given that the Iranians, or at least significant factions of Iranians, are pursuing nuclear weapons. It would be foolhardy of them to not consider it: One of the lessons of 2003 and after is, the Americans won't mess with you if you've got the bomb.

Now, Pakistan has had the bomb for some years, is riddled with influential factions sympathetic to or actively supporting bin Ladenite ideology, and has perhaps 100 million people who are illiterate and economically desparate. It is simply incomprehensible to me that a nuclear Iran is any worse than a nuclear Pakistan. So to my mind, what's really scary is how no national-level American politician dares make this simple compare-and-contrast observation.
-- sglover

Anonymous said...

About your point about preventitive war: I believe there was discussion about attacking China in the sixties to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons, or to destroy what it already had. I don't recall the National Review where this dangerous idea was supported, but Gordon Chang's Friends and Enemies (1990) has a whole chapter about JFK thinking he and the Soviets should do it.

Anonymous said...

In the early fifties, Republicans were calling for strikes against the Soviet Union to prevent it from gaining a nuclear stockpile.

Bad ideas never die.

CKR