Yesterday, Condoleezza Rice said the Bush administration’s record on the proliferation of nuclear weapons “is very strong.” In response to a reporter’s question while in Morocco, she had this to say: “We have left this situation, or this issue, in far better shape than we found it.”
Is that a fact? It is true the United States killed what was left of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program, but, as we subsequently learned, the effort had been abandoned before American troops crossed into Iraq in 2003. The invasion, it seems, did persuade Muammar Qaddafi to give up his half-hearted nuke program. So score Libya as a success. And the White House gets high marks for establishing the Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict dangerous cargoes in the air and on the high seas and for continuing the Nunn-Lugar program to secure Russia’s nuclear materials. Finally, Bush is entitled to credit for conceiving and taking steps to implement the civilian nuclear deal with India, which subjects some of that nation’s facilities to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection.
The secretary of state also thinks the United States did a good job in breaking up the nuclear black market ring run by the notorious Dr. A. Q. Khan. Yes, the ring was uncovered during President Bush’s tenure, but elements of the gang may still be operating at a reduced level of activity. Worse, by accepting every empty promise from Pervez Musharraf, then running Pakistan, Bush let Beijing off the hook. The Chinese used the Pakistanis to proliferate their bombs, and Dubya did almost nothing to stop them. The Bush administration has not imposed one significant sanction on China for continuing to disseminate information, know how, and technology that may one day be used to kill Americans by the hundreds of thousands.
Rice also thinks she’s entitled to praise on Iran and North Korea. On the Islamic Republic, she points to “an international coalition” that has produced three United Nations Security Council resolutions. Accepting lowest-common-denominator solutions that have no hope of working is now considered an accomplishment? And while Iran enriches uranium, its neighbors-Egypt, Jordan, and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council-are, with Russia’s help, starting or restarting nuclear programs of their own.
On the world’s other nuclear crisis, the secretary of state said “the management of the North Korean problem is in the hands of those who have the right sets of incentives and disincentives to get to the proper outcome.” Excuse me, but Kim Jong Il’s criminal state, during the Bush administration, detonated a nuclear device while its only formal ally, China, cheered it on from the sidelines. Pyongyang has already dishonored every agreement produced by the Beijing-sponsored six-party talks. The multilateral process is falling apart as Kim’s negotiators tell us they are restarting their reactor in Yongbyon. This is Rice’s definition of “success”?
Finally, let’s end in Georgia. President Bush’s feckless diplomacy is convincing Ukrainians that their nation must develop nuclear weapons as a defense against Russia. Even today, one month to the day after Putin’s invasion began, Mr. Bush still has not found his voice on Moscow’s aggression.
Yesterday, Secretary Rice referred to “the extraordinary number of events that have taken place on this President’s watch.” She’s right, but most of them have been adverse. The Bush administration is not responsible for every unfavorable global trend, of course, but her assessment of accomplishment is grossly inflated. Neither she nor her boss has learned the most important lesson of the past eight years: cooperation with the great-power sponsors of nuclear rogues will never solve the world’s proliferation problems.