Barry Eichengreen's Economics 210b
Daniel Drezner Intervenes Intellectually Outside His Home Area of Expertise

Fareed Zakaria Gets One Wrong...

The highly intelligent and thoughtful Fareed Zakaria gets one wrong when he writes:

Time to Face Reality on Iran - Newsweek: International Editions - : American policy toward Iran... [has] a worthy goal: trying to stop Tehran from building nuclear weapons. We have gone about this in a sensible way, using allies, multilateral organizations and international agreements to pressure Tehran. But the policy simply isn't going to work. Washington and its allies need to come to grips with reality and switch course, coming up with a new set of goals and a path to attain them. Otherwise we risk not just failure, but a very public humiliation and the further erosion of our limited credibility--in Washington, the "West" and the "international community." The United States should begin the construction of an alliance to contain Iran. Our goals should be to prevent or massively slow down the weaponization of Iran's nuclear program, and to frustrate its meddling in the region, support for terrorism and opposition to a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict...

Trying to keep Iran from building nuclear weapons is a worthy goal, yes. Building an alliance to contain Iran is a good idea, yes. Zakaria is right to condemn the false belief that airstrikes on Iran's nuclear program will help matters, yes.But Fareed's declaration that the Bush administration has gone about nonproliferation policy with respect to Iran "in a sensible way"? Wrong, completely wrong.

Back in the George H.W. Bush administration the end of the Cold War broke the mold of world politics, and made new modes and orders of world affairs possible. George H. W. Bush and his advisors worked like dogs to establish two principles:

  1. Aggression and conquest across national borders would be rolled back by the world community.
  2. Superpowers would not intervene militarily outside their home regions without the blessing and support of the entire U.N. Security Council.

With these two principles in place, there was sound hope--well, some hope--that nonproliferation policy would succeed: diplomats could point out to countries thinking of developing nuclear programs that such programs (a) were expensive, (b) increased the chances that their citizens and cities would suffer thermonuclear death (are Pakistani and Indian citizens safer now that both have nuclear weapons? I do not think so), and (c) did not add to their national security--unless their government thought that it was so despicable and tyrannical that the entire Security Council would agree on its overthrow.

The George W. Bush administration broke principle number 2. It declared that there were three governments--Iraq's, Iran's, and North Korea's--that constituted an "axis of evil." North Korea's government claimed to have a nuclear deterrent and has survived. Iraq's government could not claim to have a nuclear deterrent and was overthrown. And Iran's government--and every other government--has drawn the natural conclusion: the threat of nuclear retaliation is the only protection against being overthrown by a U.S. president.

If this is going about nonproliferation policy "in a sensible way," I am Marie of Roumania.