The pace of developments in nuclear proliferation over the past 18 months is unprecedented, and it is hard for even dedicated experts to keep track and make sense of all the latest developments. Yet with all the developments, from Libya to Pakistan to North Korea, several questions have emerged to form the core debate over the future direction of U.S. nonproliferation policy.
If there is a substantive critique of Bush foreign policy beyond mere Bush-hatred, it is the administration's failure to win broad international support for the war and for other major policies. The emergence of a unipolar order and the nervousness these new circumstances can create even among America's friends has made gaining support a difficult task.
American nationalism today imperils America's global leadership and its success in the war against terrorism. More than any other factor, it is this nationalism which divides the US from a post-nationalist Europe. And insofar as it has become mixed up with a chauvinist strain of Israeli nationalism, it also plays a disastrous role in US relations with the Muslim world.
There has been a good deal of talk in the US about a parallel between President George W. Bush's "plan" for democratising the greater Middle East and the Helsinki process that contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire. When thinking about western policy and the Muslim world, it does indeed make sense to look for lessons from the cold war - but this is not the right one.
One way of looking at the United States today is as a European state that has avoided the catastrophes nationalism brought upon Europe in the twentieth century, and whose nationalism therefore retains some of the power, intensity, bellicosity, and self-absorption that European nationalisms have had kicked out of them by history.
Recent events in Pakistan and Libya are directly affecting the Bush Administration's approach to North Korea's nuclear program. The disclosure of A.Q. Khan's elaborate efforts to uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons technology and the decision by Col. Khadaffi to abandon his WMD programs have reinforced the Bush administration's perception that their tough approach is paying dividends.
NAFTA has produced a disappointingly small net gain in jobs in Mexico. Mexican agriculture has been a net loser in trade with the United States, and employment in the sector has declined sharply. Real wages for most Mexicans today are lower than when NAFTA took effect.
What happened to campaign-finance reform? Did the McCain-Feingold reform bill—and its successful defense in court—accomplish anything? President Bush is set to shatter all fund-raising records this year. Next time McCain and company set their sights on reform, they should learn from countries like Mexico, Latvia and Thailand that have appointed fair, nonpartisan oversight boards.
In a February 23 speech, President Bush asserted what has become a common defense of his decision to go to war with Iraq. All nations saw the danger, he said, but only he had the courage to act. It is true that many nations believed that Iraq likely retained some undeclared chemical or biological weapons. But few thought the danger so grave and immediate as to require war over containment and intrusive inspections. In the UN Security Council, France was the most outspoken opponent of the rush to war. For their opposition, the French were ridiculed and reviled by many Americans, with the Congressional leadership going so far as to remove "French" from the fries and toast on Capitol Hill menus. One year later, rereading the French position, even the most ardent Franco-hater should admit they owe France an apology.
Beijing would ultimately rather confront the United States rather than permit Taiwanese independence; an expression of democratic self-determination is insufficient to establish territorial sovereignty; and it is not necessarily immoral, or fundamentally contrary to U.S. interests, to oppose any manifestation of democracy in Taiwan. Accordingly, it is prudent to maintain the status quo.
With all the turmoil surrounding the failure to find stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq, it is time to return to first principles, and to ask the question: Was it right to go to war?
On Friday, there was a coup d'etat in Iran. By preventing thousands of democratic candidates from participating in the parliamentary elections, the clerics eliminated yet another relatively independent institution of political power. Their next target is the presidency.
There are lessons in Haiti's collapse that seem starkly relevant to the "larger" foreign-policy issues of our day, particularly postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. These lessons should reduce partisan finger-pointing and remind us that the secret to success in U.S. overseas interventions is mustering the will to stay until the job is done right.
In the past few weeks we have witnessed remarkable changes in some of the most difficult and dangerous global nuclear proliferation threats. Rather than heading toward military conflicts, the United States seems to be moving toward negotiated solutions that could end the nascent nuclear weapons programs in Iran, Libya and possibly also North Korea.
Like an investor watching his returns plummet, President Bush is rebalancing his proliferation portfolio. The huge cost of the Iraq war and his sinking poll ratings seem to have convinced the president that he has invested too heavily in military operations and unilateral initiatives and that it is time to move some political capital to international organizations and cooperative ventures.
On Wednesday, February 18, senior foreign ministry officials from India and Pakistan concluded their first round of renewed talks amidst a remarkable spirit of bonhomie: India's Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistan's President Musharraf are getting along, transportation links have been re-established, cross-border terrorism in Kashmir has diminished significantly, and, arguably most important to the people, the Indian cricket team will soon play in Pakistan after a thirteen-year hiatus. The process is genuinely amicable. Genuine peace will be the hard part.