The announcement by the North Koreans that they have successfully completed an underground nuclear test is merely the latest chapter in the proliferation of nuclear technology around the globe. Unfortunately, it appears that this trend will continue in the forseeable future.
It is interesting to note that the media has been quick to focus on North Korea as a "rogue" state in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, yet nations such as India, Pakistan, and Israel - all armed with nuclear devices and all non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - seem to get a free pass.
The "rogue" state of Iran, on the other hand, is a signatory to the NPT, and argues that its uranium enrichment program is permitted under the "peaceful uses" clause of the NPT. We may have our doubts about Iran's sincerity, but that nation is at least paying lip service to the NPT.
If the President was serious about nuclear non-proliferation, he would not have given India the nuclear green light last year in his surprising joint agreement with India. It seems to this writer that a "rogue" state is one that operates outside of international law; surely India, Pakistan, and Israel thus qualify for "rogue" status.
Instead, the President seems to be saying that the United States should be the final arbiter on the question of which nations should possess nuclear technology. In addition, the unspoken message to would-be nuclear powers is this:
"Don't worry about the NPT - once you attain nuclear status, you will be among an elite group of world powers who hold an atomic trump card, and you will be able to negotiate from strength."The North Koreans - whether they actually detonated a nuclear device on Sunday or not - realize how the game is now played, and know that they are in a position to command much more respect with nukes than without. Unless all nations are held accountable to the NPT, the document is meaningless.
The net result of the undermining of the NPT by President Bush - and to a lesser extent some of his predecessors - will be that more states acquire nuclear weapons, increasing the likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used.
Of course, perhaps some of the President's advisors actually favor the unbottling of the nuclear genie, and look forward to the day when the American nuclear arsenal can be a legitimate - and not theoretical - component of military strategy.
That, my friends, would be a frightening scenario.