by Martin Schram
Scripps Howard News Service
March 08, 2005
Yet every time we look, they just seem to be marching in place - while wilder and crazier people are getting the bomb or getting closer to that doomful day.
So when a team of think-tankers goes tens of thousands of extra miles to develop an urgent action plan that can work in the real world, attention must be paid. If for no other reason than the think tank just paid for the sort of international roadwork that governments ought to do.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace began where most think tanks end up - with a series of bracing proposals thought up and written up in Washington. But then the think-tank experts spent a couple of years traveling the planet, visiting the world's nuclear powers and nuclear wannabes.
They collected praise and criticism for their initial approaches, then returned home for some rewrite and rethink and produced what may be the most urgent and impressive action plan yet to halt nuclear proliferation in time to safeguard our planet.
Which is why attention must be paid - by the Bush administration, other governments and international agencies - to the new book, "Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security," by George Perkovich, Jessica T. Mathews, Joseph Cirincione, Rose Gottemoeller and Jon B. Wolfsthal.
This much is certain: No government will like everything in it. But every government will know its concerns were heard and weighed.
Non-nuclear wannabes will not like that the strategy requires them to abandon all efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon. But they will like the requirement that the world's nuclear nations must provide them with the fuel and technology for nuclear energy that cannot be converted into nuclear weaponry - not by them, not by their enemies.
President Bush and his Pentagon thinkers will not like the requirement that the United States must abandon plans for a new generation of nuclear weapons - the so-called bunker busters. Bush officials want a new, lower-yield nuclear weapon for busting into bunkers where terrorist may be hiding their weapons of mass destruction or themselves.
But most of the world sees America as being two-faced because America is telling non-nuclear nations to just say no to nukes, but then saying for itself not just yes but yes, more! Also for wanting more nukes that would clearly be intended for use not in response to a nuclear attack, but as a first use.
"Moreover," the authors wrote, "if the United States pursues new types of nuclear weapons, then others - Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, for example - are likely to do the same, to the extent that they can."
The Carnegie report also echoed, with urgent emphasis, themes that faithful readers of this column now surely know by heart (having read them here for years and, for the truly dedicated, in my recent book, "Avoiding Armageddon: Our Future. Our Choice"). The Carnegie experts wrote:
"Secure what exists now" - all nuclear weapons everywhere, those loose nukes in Russia and, importantly, all weapons-usable nuclear materials in research reactors and elsewhere. Everywhere.
"End production of weapon-usable materials" - that means all highly enriched uranium. Convert all civilian reactors to non-weapons-grade fuels or shut them down. While there are just eight nuclear nations (nine if you count North Korea), 46 nations have facilities with weapons-usable uranium. Many are poorly secured and vulnerable to terrorists.
We interrupt this gloom 'n' doom for a dollop of good news: Attention is being paid. When the Carnegie experts released their report at a briefing the other day, the room was overflowing - and not just with the usual suspects from the other think tanks and the media. Attendees included officials from the departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Energy and Homeland Security; plus 21 countries.
We await the real, safeguarding good news about whether action will be taken, soon enough. My guess is that will not happen until Bush appoints a person with true global stature to lead the world to nonproliferation. Better yet, America's new Dynamic Duo.
George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton - call your offices!
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