Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Answer to Nuclear Terror is Not Torture

If you want to be frightened, read this article, which outlines quite succinctly the danger of nuclear terrorism. The good news is it can be stopped. Securing the sites where nuclear weapons are held and where bomb-capable uranium and plutonium is found is a project within our grasp. The bad news is our president is George W. Bush, leader of the Republicans. The plan that Graham Allison outlines is doable. It involves a fair amount of spending on security upgrades, heavy lifting on diplomacy with the states that already have nuclear weapons, and even more difficult diplomatic work on the questions of Korea and Iran. Of course, this is not an issue that the Republicans and Bush have taken very seriously since Bush came to the White House. The very first budget proposal Bush sent to Congress requested a deep cut in the Nunn-Lugar program, which mainly spends money to help Russia secure its nuclear programs from theft and terrorism, and to dismantle facilities and weapons. The Bush Administration also immediately upon coming to power adopted a confrontational stance with Korea that has gone absolutely nowhere – indeed, North Korea is a far more serious nuclear threat now than it was six years ago. And to top it off, Bush’ preposterously mismanaged war in Iraq has left Iran more powerful, emboldened, and a whole lot harder to deal with. The fact that it is swimming in oil money, something helped along by Bush’s lack of commitment to reducing our dependence on oil, is icing on the cake.

And diplomacy? Bush is depending on our ability to torture enough terror suspects so that if someone out there is planning an attack, we can stop them before they push the button. I suppose he imagines himself as George Clooney romping around with Nicole Kidman in The Peacemaker. I’d rather not wait on just-in-time heroics. Diplomacy and high tech security measures are not sexy. They don’t let you swagger around like John Wayne and don’t make much for heroic sound bites. But the best path to preventing terrorists from setting off a nuclear bomb in the United States is to make sure that every weapon and every pound of fissile material is accounted for and secure. That takes a lot of very difficult diplomacy, and I don’t trust this Bush to do it.

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