Posted on 09-11-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Daniel Larison’s column discussing Barack Obama’s endorsement of India’s dreams of permanent security council membership notes the following:

The more interesting question is whether the U.S. is able to acknowledge that major and rising powers do not share its preoccupations and to adjust expectations of their cooperation with U.S. policy accordingly. Washington isn’t likely to abandon its fixation on Iran’s nuclear program, but it should give the administration some pause that it has just publicly endorsed permanent Security Council status for what is, in fact, one of the chief “rogue” nuclear states in the world. This is not a criticism of the administration’s engagement of India. On the contrary, the administration’s correct dealing with India stands as a rebuke to the administration’s Iran policy. Further, the favorable treatment shown to nuclear-armed India confirms that states that never join and flatly ignore the requirements of the NPT and go on to build and test nuclear weapons are not censured or isolated in the least. Instead, they are rewarded with good relations and high status.

The assignment of “rogue” status to India and Iran based on pursuit of nuclear weapons is a false equivalency.  For one major reason – India refused to sign the NPT because of its arbitrary limitation of nuclear powers to the five who got there first.  Iran (and North Korea – which has since withdrawn from the treaty) signed the NPT and by pursuing nuclear weapons violated its treaty obligations.  Larison fails to explain why a country falls into rogue status for not abiding by the requirements of a treaty it never accepted in developing its own nuclear weapons.  I make the distinction because non-signatory Pakistan earned its rogue status not for testing its own nukes, but for selling them to North Korea and Libya.  The stark contrast to Pakistan along with Indian assurances that they would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in any conflict (a commitment not offered by the United States which during the Cold War felt itself to be at a conventional weapons disadvantage) is among the factors contributing to India’s special treatment (a booming economy does not hurt).

Left unsaid is the fact that the third non-signatory to the NPT, Israel appears to have been developed its own nuclear arsenal through NPT violations by Western Powers and apartheid South Africa (which renounced the bomb shortly before the transfer of power to Nelson Mandela).

That said Larison has a point in noting an element of hypocrisy in the wailing about Iran’s nuclear program.  However that does not stem from the treatment of India.  It is ultimately rooted in the NPT’s arbitrary designation of permitted nuclear weapon states that has miserably failed to stop the domino effect of countries seeking the bomb.

Larison closes out his column with the following:

More to the point, if the administration had what it wanted and India were on the Security Council as a permanent member with veto powers, how much weaker would U.N. sanctions against Iran have had to be to satisfy India? Put another way, if India is ready to be considered such an acceptable and responsible power, what does Indian indifference to Iran’s nuclear program tell us about the rationality of our government’s obsessive hostility towards the same?

The Indian posture is not very different from that of the Russians and the Chinese.  None of the three shares America’s hostile relationship with Tehran.  While none is eager to see an Iranian nuke they are not hyperventilating about it like the United States or Israel.  It is not clear that India would have diluted the sanctions against Iran even further than the Russians and the Chinese.  Most likely and in the finest traditions of modern Indian diplomacy, it would have abstained  – a posture that will have to gradually change if India wants to be taken seriously as a great power.

It is about time Washington appreciated that countries have different interests and policies – something that was lost in the first George W. Bush term as the Cheney/Rumsfeld duo went out of the way to alienate anybody who did not kowtow to American policy.  If the United States wants a puppet in the Security Council, it already has the United Kingdom.  It is also important to note that while Obama endorsed India’s permanent membership of the Security Council, he did not say anything about the veto power.  Frankly granting another 4 members (Japan, India, Brazil and probably South Africa) the veto power would make the Security Council even more irrelevant than it already is.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 09-11-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

After bloviating all summer that a supposed White House offer to Joe Sestak to drop out from his primary challenge to Arlen Specter was bribery and corruption, Congressman Darrell Issa has decided to drop the matter.  Perhaps not so coincidentally his Republican colleagues in the Senate are offering goodies to Senator elect Joe Manchin to switch parties.

For the record I am not sure either of these overtures are actually illegal.  The job supposedly offered to Sestak was no sinecure and was one he was perfectly qualified for.  Likewise the goodies offered to Manchin seem unsavory but are hardly unusual.  Yet Fox News and Issa used this as a club to spread the meme this summer of the Obama administration’s corrupt shenanigans.  We will not hear a peep from them about the “bribes” to Manchin.

Manchin himself is now fighting off these rumors, after initially flirting with them.  I have never seen a newly elected Senator switch parties before he was sworn in.  Hopefully this is not a harbinger of Manchin turning into another Zell Miller.  If so, the Democrats are better off without the distraction in their caucus.

UPDATE:  While Republicans (not surprisingly) are denying the offer to Manchin, it is interesting to note that it is evidently OK to blow a billion dollars to get a Senator to switch parties but not for other economic stimulus or unemployment benefits.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More   
Posted on 09-11-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

The last year saw increasing numbers of Republicans embrace the tea party’s cause of repealing “Obamacare.”  Feelings towards the law are mixed.  However, just as many people remain woefully ignorant that Barack Obama actually cut taxes or that almost 40% of the $700 billion dollar stimulus bill was larded with useless tax cuts in a futile attempt to get Republican support, public awareness of what actually constitutes Obamacare is low.  As Ezra Klein notes, when you get to the individual components of the bill most of them enjoy broad public support.  It is a pattern similar to the cause of cutting government expenses, where the devil is in the details and deficit peacocks continue to tie themselves in knots in identifying meaningful cuts.

The most unpopular component of the bill is the individual mandate.  Interestingly enough it was the one major policy disagreement between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.  Clinton wanted one, Obama did not.  However, faced with the free rider problem he changed his mind after assuming office.  With insurance companies forbidden to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions they supported the mandate.  Keeping that restriction in place without a mandate could also lead to an explosion of health care costs.

For a total repeal of Obamacare to happen, Republicans will have to make the pre-existing coverage requirement unpopular.  Not surprisingly windbags like Rush Limbaugh have started equating the rule to welfare.  It will be interesting to see if the dittoheads follow the corpulent pied piper like lemmings to support such a cause near and dear to health insurance companies.  David Frum exiled to conservative Siberia for daring to suggest that the passage of Obamacare was a disaster for Republicans expects a lot of posturing with little action from the Republicans.  Meanwhile Richard Cohen notes that Republicans continue to further the delusion that our bloated and inefficient healthcare system is the best in the world – American exceptionalism run amuck.

Ultimately the likeliest avenue for the repeal of Obamacare will come from the conservative majority on the Supreme Court (needless to say the right wing and the Federalist Society will not treat such an action overruling Congress as “activist”) not the Republicans in Congress.

Subscribe to Rashtrakut by Email

Follow Rashtrakut on Twitter

Share
(0) Comments    Read More