Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for June, 2007

Advice on Iraq, From Everyone: The Real Battle on Iraq Is Local

Posted by K.E. White on June 23, 2007

Proliferation Press Editorial

The public, contrary to the image of many polls, is still lost on Iraq. And, predictably, the presidential candidates will mould the ’08 public consensus on Iraq. But it will be the micro-politics on think tanks, advocacy groups and veterans who will hand the White House aspirants their choices, and most likely determine the winner.

Progress is building on reconstituting the Iraq Study Group (ISG). The proposal, emerging as a thought on the House floor on June 7th, now has funding. The House approved a measure Friday to transfer $1 million from other State Department funding to the ISG. (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in undoubtedly thrilled.)

But, as WaPo notes, will this ever-increasing volume of advice drown out any definitive Iraq assessment?

Probably. But such a concern presumes the following: 1) The White House will change policy, 2) Congress can dictate that change, and 3) Congress would want to take the reins on Iraq.

The first assumption has some substance. The White House, while incredibly resolute or stubborn—depending on your view—on Iraq policy, cannot have Republican support for the executive collapse on Iraq. Such a collapse would destroy any momentum on other foreign policy fonts—India nuclear deal or North Korea nuclear crisis are two examples. And Bush would be an utterly empty suit on the world stage.

But such a collapse will unlikely. Americans, while favoring a pull-out, still support the White House making the final call on Iraq. Why this dissonance, illustrated so strongly by the staunch report for U.S. troops in Iraq by Republican contenders for the White House.

Increasingly the public feels the war is lost, but they also know—in the age of international terrorism—that leaving Iraq could cause problems at home or aboard. And most critically, the public has yet to find a national leader on Iraq.

This leaves Congress in a bind. Congressional Democrats lose whenever they try to ‘own’ Iraq, as Reid’s disastrous attempt to cut funding for Iraq. Not only do the Democrats lose on opinion polls, Democratic unity is shattered. Bush owning Iraq, which he can continue to do for the near-term, is the best path for Democratic success in 2008.

So drowning the public in Iraq advice meets everyone’s interest. Republicans can cover themselves, but continue support for a lingering surge. Democrats can increasingly choke the White House, without stinging ‘cut and run’ labels bandied about.

But 2008 looms large. The two-major party candidates will have to lead on Iraq—something that has yet to fully materialize.

Priming the now wandering public is paramount. Advocacy groups, politicians and other invested parties on both sides of Iraq policy will work hard to influence public opinion.

This frenzied, grass-roots battle to mesh the ‘silent majority’ on Iraq will set the 2008 Iraq debate.

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Posted in 2008 Election, Bush administration, Iraq | Leave a Comment »

Killing Yucca Mountain, One Cartoon Character at a Time

Posted by K.E. White on June 22, 2007

 

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Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) is trying to kill Yucca Mountain Johnny.

While less known than Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, or even the Planeteer Ma-Ti, Johnny had a profound mission: teaching America about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site.

Rep. Berkley, failing to slash Yucca Mountain funding by $200 million, set her sights on the Department of Energy’s Yucca Mountain educational website.

‘‘Regardless of how you feel about Yucca Mountain,” Rep. Berkley penned in a letter to colleagues, “we should all agree that the Department of Energy’s use of a Joe Camel look-alike to influence children is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money.”

Last year the same motion failed. But in a fortuitous turn, it seems few legislators wanted to revisit this bruising political battle: her motion passed by a voice vote, without any debate.

Does Yucca Mountain Johnny look like Joe Camel, or does nuclear energy have the same addictive power as nicotine?

No. (Okay, okay—perhaps the French do suffer from a nuclear addiction)

Is Yucca Mountain Johnny (since 2005, he’s gone by J. Mo Jay) a bit biased?

Well, let’s look at the site’s “solution” for nuclear waste:

The scientists’ studies show that deep down in Yucca Mountain’s dry rock, the waste packages and drip shields will protect the waste for more than 80,000 years! (To give an idea of how long that is, the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids about 5,000 years ago.)

So did we solve the problem of storing nuclear waste?

Not exactly. Since we’re dealing with people’s safety, we must question whether the scientists’ studies and conclusions are correct and what would happen if they’re wrong. In addition, scientists must study things like what are the chances of earthquakes and volcanoes, and what would happen if something like this were to occur in the future.

s8603256_4662Nuclear waste is a problem—even for the French who uncharacteristically rioted upon discovering their prized nuclear program who require waste sites.

Johnny may look like a nuisance, but he doesn’t seem to be a liar.

Then again, what child would be caught dead on this dilapidated website?

But, let me close, by sending Johnny a personal message, inspired by Planeteer Ma-Ti. Don’t lose heart Johnny, don’t ever lose heart.

(original post from Campus Progress)

Posted in nuclear waste, Shelley Berkley, Yucca Mountain, Yucca Mountain Johnny | 4 Comments »

Bloomberg For President? Not Likely.

Posted by K.E. White on June 20, 2007

Why not have two New York City mayors run for President?

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New City, announced he’s leaving the Republican Party. This, along with his massive fortune, has led to presidential buzz.

Is Bloomberg another, smarter Ross Perot?

No.

Running for President might be an ego boast, but will relegate any politician to jeers or cocktail jokes for life–just ask Ross Perot or Ralph Nader. Now if Bloomberg had nothing better to, it might make sense for him to run.

But Bloomberg is a very successful politician, and seems to enjoy the political world.

Unfortunately his liberal record in New York City blocks any hope for state-wide office through the Republican Party. And his former registration cuts him off from the Democratic party in the near term.

But running for Senate may just be possible. With Hillary Clinton winning the White House, who will take her Senate seat? Could Bloomberg mount a successful independent candidacy–a la Joe Lieberman? Tough but possible.
Far more likely than unseating an incumbent governor.

Seems Bloomberg is stuck in New York City. His hope for office rests in Hillary’s victory, or in the long-term returning to the Democratic fold.

But let’s assume Bloomberg wants a new job right after his second term ends. What would any political consultant recommend?

1) Puff up your national profile as an independent.

2) Talk tough to both parties. Earn some popularity.

3) After the 2008 race–and endorsing the clear winner–gracefully accept a role in his or her administration.

Suddenly Bloomberg’s move makes perfect sense.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Proliferation Press: New Republic Gives Notes on Being a Successful Opposition Party

Posted by K.E. White on June 20, 2007

President Bush’s approval ratings have hit the high twenties. Fortunately his Democratic opponents aren’t fairer any better. Are Senate leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi to blame?

While Bush is on the defensive after vetoing a bill allowing increased stem cell research, John B. Judis offers some thoughtful advice to Democratic leaders in Congress:

(full text can be accessed by registering free at the New Republic)

Congress’s approval rating is even lower than President Bush’s–it’s at 23 percent according to the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. And, in another poll, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s favorability rating is down there with Scooter Libby–at 19 percent. Some Democrats blame their low standing with the public on the difficulties inherent in controlling Congress when the opposition party controls the White House. The fact is that the Democrats, with only a 50-49 majority, do not have enough votes to override White House vetoes or even to stop a Republican filibuster. But Democrats have been in this situation before, and, while they were unable to get their bills signed, they were able to place the onus of failure on the White House and on the Republicans.

If Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi want guidance, they should look back at what the Democrats did during the presidential term of George H.W. Bush. The Democrats had a brilliant Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, and a competent House speaker, Tom Foley, who generally deferred to Mitchell. Mitchell and Foley forced Bush to veto popular bills that also enjoyed some Republican support in Congress. They showed up Bush as a heartless extremist and split his own party. And they handed Democrat Bill Clinton a platform on which to run in the fall of 1992.

Pelosi has fared somewhat better than Reid, but that is probably because she has managed so far to avoid the spotlight on Iraq and immigration. But neither Reid nor Pelosi have yet devised the kind of measures that Mitchell and Foley used in 1991 and 1992 to win public support for the Democrats and to split the Republicans. Most of what they have passed from their election agenda–including minimum wage and a watered-down lobbying-reform bill–will quietly be enacted into law. Except for a measure funding stem-cell research, they haven’t come up with anything comparable to Family and Medical Leave. If they want to put the Democrats in a good position to retain Congress and win the White House, they had better start thinking. And they had better avoid initiatives that divide their own party and unite the opposition.

But his advice highlights an acute Congressional deficit: action on foreign policy. While Judis’s advice may be right (Congress should never flirt with cutting war funding while troops are deployed), where does this leave America’s federal system of checks and balances?

Proliferation Press tackled Congress’s wartime roll in this earlier article.

The apparent conclusion from merging this article with Judis’s advice: Congressional influence is greatest before the deployment of troops.

Posted in Congress, Iraq, Pelosi, Reid, Wartime Powers | Leave a Comment »

Pakistan Update: Economic Growth, Extreme Heat, and Musharraf’s Durability

Posted by K.E. White on June 12, 2007

Seems like Pakistani President Musharraf is safe, at least according to his chief political ally, Prime Minister Skaukat Aziz. But could he team up with a former rival?

Pakistan also joins a nuclear terrorism initiative, and suffers from severe heat.

It’s also raking in incredible economic growth.

From the International Herald Tribune:

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party now in exile in Dubai and London, is emerging as Musharraf’s chief political rival.

Aziz said she was free to return to the country before elections, but will face ongoing legal cases against her — a reference to corruption allegations dating back to her two terms in office in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“That question is better put to her,” he said when asked about her possible return. “But she has some legal issues in this country and others and perhaps she will seek legal advice from legal counsel. She has to decide what her future is.”

Bhutto’s supporters would like to return to mount a challenge to Musharraf’s rule, while some have speculated she could form an alliance with Musharraf in order to counter the growing influence of Islamist parties, some of which are believed to have thinly veiled ties to militants.

Aziz said the government has a “comfortable majority” in parliament and he therefore sees no obstacle to Musharraf, one of the United States’ allies in the war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, winning re-election in a vote scheduled to take place between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.

Musharraf seems to be playing-up his value to the United States. From Kashmir Watch:

Pakistan will join an international initiative aimed at keeping nuclear materials from the hands of terrorists, but the country’s military nuclear programme and facilities will not be covered, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Pakistan’s participation in the joint US-Russian initiative shows international recognition of Pakistan’s nuclear control measures, the ministry said in a statement late on Saturday. The initiative only applies to civilian “facilities and activities,” the ministry claimed. “Pakistan has declared that the global initiative does not cover Pakistan’s military nuclear facilities or activities,” the statement added.

“Pakistan’s participation in the global initiative is a manifestation of the fact that nuclear security and export control measures in Pakistan are at par with the latest international standards, and recognition of the important role being played by Pakistan as a partner in the global efforts against nuclear proliferation and possible nuclear terrorism,” the statement added.

For more on the Nuclear Terrorism Imitative, check out these sites:

White House Fact Sheet

US State Department Fact Sheet and Speech from Robert G. Joseph, Former Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security

Arms Control Association

Stimson Center

Meanwhile, temperatures soaring past 120 degrees Fahrenheit have killed over hundred people.

Posted in Benazir Bhutto, Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, Pakistan, Perez Musharraf, Skaukat Aziz | Leave a Comment »

Even More North Korea Buzz: Campus Progress Interview with Charles Pritchard & Stimson Center Chimes In

Posted by K.E. White on June 11, 2007

Campus Progress is carrying an interview with former Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks Charles Pritchard. Ambassador Pritchard discusses the current North Korean nuclear crisis, how it got their, and shines light onto the Bush administration’s evolving approach to this profound diplomatic challenge.

(Full disclosure: Proliferation Press contributor K. Edmund White conducted the interview)

Update: And for even more coverage of the North Korea issue, read this Stimson Center article by Alan D. Romberg.

From Romberg’s piece:

Finally, as everyone acknowledges, the 13 February “Initial Actions” agreement is just that, an initial set of steps that still leave one short of implementing the heart of the 19 September 2005 Joint Statement: the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. At a minimum, success in that endeavor is viewed skeptically by many people as inconsistent with the North’s conception of its nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantee of the DPRK regime’s survival. At a very minimum, it would require a total transformation of the relationship with the United States to a degree that would convince the North Korean leadership it no longer faced a threat from America (and hence did not need a nuclear deterrent). For the military leaders who now feel they have a “proven” nuclear deterrent, it will be a hard sell to trade such a physical capability for the ephemeral benefits of normalization of relations with Washington. Especially if “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il is incapacitated, as some Western media are reporting, the role of the military—already extremely strong—will be decisive.

This is not the moment to review why we never needed to get to this point with the North and how the Bush Administration drove us here by pushing things in the wrong direction during its first six years in office. But at some point it will be important to review that history in order to avoid repeating it when things get tough in the current negotiations, as they inevitably will.

Posted in Alan D. Romberg, Alan Romberg, Campus Progress, Charles Pritchard, North Korea, Stimson Center | 1 Comment »

Dealing With North North Korea: The Case for the Kaesong Industrial Complex

Posted by K.E. White on June 10, 2007

by K. Edmund White

Does the solution to menacing North Korean regime rest in a North Korean industrial complex?

No. But a large part of that solution just might.

The Kaesong Industrial Facility represents a joint North and South Korean business venture. Here’s a good, if slightly out-of-date, description of the site:

The KIC opened in June 2004 under a contract between North Korea and South Korea’s Hyundai Asan Corporation and South Korea’s state-owned Korea Land Corporation. The complex is located between the North Korean city of Kaesong and the western border between the two Koreas. The workers produce goods mostly for the South Korean market, including watches, shoes, clothes, kitchenware, plastic containers, electrical cords and car parts, among other items. As of August, more than 8,000 [note: now closer to 13,000] North Korean workers were employed by 13 South Korean companies.

In essence it’s a grand bargain. North Korea gets tax revenue it desperately needs to survive. Meanwhile, South Korea gets cheap labor that speaks the same language. And both sides can push it as proof-positive of the natural connection between the two Koreas.

But this site may also play a role within the Korean Korean nuclear crisis. It may serve, in the short term, as a carrot (that can be dangled) to force North Korea to give up their WMD program.

And, in the long term, it could yield the following outcomes:

1) The Kaesong Complex, reflecting South Korean economic standards, will show North Koreans first-hand the backwardness of their economic system

2) Any eventual reunification plan—which could see America lose influence in Korea—will come at a steep price: the disparity between the two Koreas is extreme. But joint ventures such as Kaesong can, if properly implemented, help dull the profound economic divide between North and South.

Making Kaesong a sucess reflects good policy and reaffirms America’s message to the world: dovetailing economic and political freedom (i.e. free market, liberal governing principles) not only reflect a more humane belief system, but provide all peoples greater material rewards.

Charles Pritchard, author of Failed Diplomacy, worked the North Korea problem in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations—as special assistant to the president for national security affairs and as U.S. Ambassador and special envoy for negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, respectively. We discussed Kaesong, and the Bush administration’s refusal to view these products as South Korean (thereby making them less marketable):

Pritchard: It’s a paradox. Even if the Bush administration desired the downfall of North Korea, if that were policy of the President, and he really wanted to see that, then he should then tell the South Koreans to make Kaesong bigger, better, faster now. Hire many more North Koreans. Have 100,000 workers there. Because the more North Koreans are exposed to work conditions and state of the art equipment—the welfare, the food, all of that stuff in stark contrast to what they have in North Korea—the faster there will be a public unease about the nature of their own regime.

That’s the silliness of the Bush administration. They ought to be promoting Kaesong even if they don’t like the regime, for those very reasons. And if you want to enhance US-South Korea relationship, you ought to be promoting joint ventures between the Koreas.

And in the long-term, providing larger-scale opportunities for North Koreans to see the benefits of something that’s close to market economy is a minimum to reinforcing the economic reforms of July 2002. That reform has since gone sputtering along. So Kaesong, from a negative and positive view, is a good deal and we’re just no making enough out of it.” (June 8th interview)

But critics of Kaesong point to troublesome workers’ rights record. From a October 2006 Human Rights Watch article:

Human Rights Watch also found that South Korean companies are violating the existing KIC Labor Law, which stipulates that employers should pay workers directly in cash. An employers’ representative told Human Rights Watch that the South Korean companies have been asked instead to pay workers’ wages in U.S. dollars directly to the North Korean government, which in turn pays the workers in North Korean won after deducting a mandatory 30 percent contribution to a social welfare fund.

“The fact that North Korea has already managed to get South Korean companies to violate worker’s rights on wage payments is not only an embarrassment, but also raises concerns about other violations at Kaesong,” said Richardson.

Any abuses to workers’ rights must be addressed. History has shown any joint-project with North Korea must be closely scrutinized.

But a successful–and well regulated–Kaesong facility helps the average North Korean. Stimultaneously it saps the opaque, illiberal and now nuclear-charged Kim Jong Il regime of legitmacy in the eyes of it’s own citizens.

Posted in Charles Pritchard, Kaesong, Kaesong Industrial Complex, Kim Jong Il, North Korea | 2 Comments »

Tim Russert’s Glaring Powell Omission: North Korea

Posted by K.E. White on June 10, 2007

Today Colin Powell appeared on a Sunday staple: ‘Meet the Press’ with Tim Russert.

Powell was queried about Iraq, his intelligence briefing to the United Nations and about potenial endorsements for 2008.

But one topic remained unspoken: North Korea, and the still on-going nuclear crisis.

Admittedly, Iraq is the topic of the day. But North Korea’s continuing nuclear program demands attention.  Furthermore, from a journalistic perspective, this line of questioning may have actually yielded what any press person would crave: Powell harshly rebuking, or pointing clear blame at the White House.

But, instead, Russert droned on about Iraq with predictable results: Powell voiced his support for more troops; he reaffirmed his belief in the war at the time; and he did not condemn anyone in the White House.

All the while Powell’s intimate knowledge of North Korea handling of North Korea, and probable understanding of how the situation so gravel deteriorated remained untapped.

Instead we heard about who he would endorse in 2008.

Shocker: Powell didn’t answer.

Posted in Colin Powell, Iraq, June 10, North Korea, Tim Russert | Leave a Comment »

North Korea: Still Unresolved, Still a Problem

Posted by K.E. White on June 7, 2007

Remember the February 13th agreement that was going to fix the North Korean nuclear crisis?

Well, it looks like putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle is proving difficult.

Talks are again stalling over financial squabbles between North Korea and the United States. Russia is publicly blaming the United States for the delay, showing cracks within the partners that brokered the February deal with North Korea (America, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea).

Naturally Japan and the United States are arm-in-arm in expecting stern action from the G-8. (Between the war of words between Russia and America, Global Warming and Global Poverty, there’s little reason to expect anything substanial from the G-8 on North Korea).

Meanwhile, Australia may install an antiballistic missile system to counter the North Korean threat. From the Sidney Morning Herald:

The Royal Australian Navy will consider installing SM-3 surface-to-air missiles as part of an Aegis ballistic missile defence system on its three destroyers, which enter service in 2013. The upgrade would bolster the Aegis anti-ballistic missile shield already used by the US and soon to be introduced by Japan.

America has already expanded this technology to Japan–bringing with it leaks of the sensitive information. From United Press International:

Data on the U.S.-made Aegis defense system may not have been the only classified material leaked by members of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Sources told the Kyodo news service it appears information on the advanced SM-3 surface-to-air missile and the Link 16 data exchange system also made their way into the hands of unauthorized military personnel.

The sources close to the military and civilian investigation into the leaks, gave no other details but “police confirmed the latest cases of information leak, based on analyses of voluntarily submitted materials, such as personal computers,” the report said.

Posted in AEGIS leak, Australia, G-8, Japan, North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, proliferation, Russia, Six Party Talks | Leave a Comment »

Rep. Christopher Shays: Reconstitute The Iraq Study Group

Posted by K.E. White on June 7, 2007

The Iraq Study Group might be back, and heading to Iraq.

Wednesday night Christopher Shays (R-CT) suggested the Iraq Study Group be reconstituted and sent back to Iraq.

Speaking at an forum on the House floor organized by Steve Israel (D-NY), Shays reccomended the Iraq Study Group prepare a report to dovetail with General Petraeus Congressional testimony slated for this September.

The discussents included the following Congressional representatives: Tim Bishop (D-NY), Christopher Dent (R-PE) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD). All supported the initiative, with Rep. Israel offering to co-sponsor any possible legislation drafted by Shays.

All are members of the Center Aisle Caucus.

(Crosslisted at Campus Progress)

Posted in Christopher Dent, Christopher Shays, Iraq, Iraq Study Group, Steve Israel, Tim Bishop, Wayne Gilchrest | 1 Comment »