Commentary Magazine


Topic: General Electric

Apologize, Ms. Kagan

That’s what Peter Beinart says Elena Kagan should do to put the military-recruiting issue behind her. Beinart thinks “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is immoral. (Well, Kagan’s boss Bill Clinton put the policy in effect, so maybe Kagan should be asked what input she gave on that decision.) Still, he writes that banning recruiters from campus was wrong:

The military, like Congress, the courts, and the presidency, is one of our defining public institutions. To question its moral legitimacy is not like questioning the moral legitimacy of General Electric. And that’s exactly what banning the military from campus does. It suggests that Harvard thinks not just that the military’s anti-gay policy is immoral (which it emphatically is) but that the institution itself is immoral. It’s like refusing to sing the national anthem because you’re upset at the Bush administration’s torture policies or refusing to salute the flag because of the way Washington responded to Hurricane Katrina. It’s a statement of profound alienation from your country, and will be received by other Americans as such. I hope Elena Kagan gets confirmed. She’s smart, young, and liberal, and the court could use another woman. It’s all quite logical. But when it comes to military recruitment, I hope she apologizes. Nothing would send a better message to liberals on campus, and to the men and women in uniform who defend them. It would be a terrific way to start her career on the highest court in the land.

But is apologizing enough? Consider that the decision was not simply an administrative matter but also a revelation of her legal mindset.

It was not only wrong, as Beinart argued, to ban recruiters; it defied a federal statute that required the law schools to allow recruiters on campus. What does this say about her respect for congressional policy-making? And her constitutional analysis? Remember, she was not simply advocating on behalf of a client, as she has done for the administration. Here, she was advocating what she fervently believed was correct constitutional law. She and her law-school mates came up with a cockamamie argument that her hero, Justice John Paul Stevens, didn’t even buy.

An apology would be smart. But not sufficient.

That’s what Peter Beinart says Elena Kagan should do to put the military-recruiting issue behind her. Beinart thinks “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is immoral. (Well, Kagan’s boss Bill Clinton put the policy in effect, so maybe Kagan should be asked what input she gave on that decision.) Still, he writes that banning recruiters from campus was wrong:

The military, like Congress, the courts, and the presidency, is one of our defining public institutions. To question its moral legitimacy is not like questioning the moral legitimacy of General Electric. And that’s exactly what banning the military from campus does. It suggests that Harvard thinks not just that the military’s anti-gay policy is immoral (which it emphatically is) but that the institution itself is immoral. It’s like refusing to sing the national anthem because you’re upset at the Bush administration’s torture policies or refusing to salute the flag because of the way Washington responded to Hurricane Katrina. It’s a statement of profound alienation from your country, and will be received by other Americans as such. I hope Elena Kagan gets confirmed. She’s smart, young, and liberal, and the court could use another woman. It’s all quite logical. But when it comes to military recruitment, I hope she apologizes. Nothing would send a better message to liberals on campus, and to the men and women in uniform who defend them. It would be a terrific way to start her career on the highest court in the land.

But is apologizing enough? Consider that the decision was not simply an administrative matter but also a revelation of her legal mindset.

It was not only wrong, as Beinart argued, to ban recruiters; it defied a federal statute that required the law schools to allow recruiters on campus. What does this say about her respect for congressional policy-making? And her constitutional analysis? Remember, she was not simply advocating on behalf of a client, as she has done for the administration. Here, she was advocating what she fervently believed was correct constitutional law. She and her law-school mates came up with a cockamamie argument that her hero, Justice John Paul Stevens, didn’t even buy.

An apology would be smart. But not sufficient.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

How to kill a senate candidacy: Alex Giannoulias has his bank seized by the Feds. “Whether the issue remains a central one in the race is yet to be seen, but today is surely not a happy day in the Giannoulias camp. GOPers will have a reason to celebrate this weekend.” I think that seat is gone for the Democrats, unless they can pull a Torrecelli.

How to kill cap-and-trade: “The bipartisan climate bill to be unveiled Monday isn’t dead on arrival but it’s not likely to be taken up this year — and not before an immigration bill comes to the Senate floor, according to Democratic aides.”

How to kill the recovery: “Vast tax increases will be inevitable under President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, the nation’s largest business groups complained on Friday.The groups blasted tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals and families in the budget in a letter to members of the House and Senate, while warning that escalating public debt threatened the underlying economy.”

Kill the slams on the tea partiers! “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a mistake when they called anti-health care protests ‘un-American’ last year.” Maybe he figured out these people are voters.

Naturally the Iranian Lobby — NIAC and Peace Now — want to kill sanctions against the mullahs.

Obama is doing more to kill off civility in public debate than any president since Richard Nixon. Charles Krauthammer on his Wall Street speech: “The way — and he‘s done this before — he tries to denigrate, cast out, and to delegitimize any argument against his. And here he’s talking about that it’s not legitimate even to suggest that the bill he’s supporting might encourage a bailout. It’s certainly possible [to] argue [that] because of the provisions in the ball, and one in particular, where the Treasury has the right to designate any entity — private entity – as a systemic risk, and then to immediately, even without Congress approving and appropriating money, to guarantee all the bad loans. That is an invitation to a bailout. Now, the president could argue otherwise, but to say that to raise this issue is illegitimate is simply appalling.”

Obama continues to kill off the freedom agenda and democracy promotion: “Just this week word came that the administration cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt by half. Programs in countries like Jordan and Iran have also faced cuts. Then there are the symbolic gestures: letting the Dalai Lama out the back door, paltry statements of support for Iranian demonstrators, smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Chávez, and so on. Daniel Baer, a representative from the State Department who participated in the [George W. Bush] conference [on dissidents' use of new media tools], dismissed the notion that the White House has distanced itself from human-rights promotion as a baseless ‘meme’ when I raised the issue. But in fact all of this is of a piece of Mr. Obama’s overarching strategy to make it abundantly clear that he is not his predecessor.”

Making some progress in killing off business with Iran: “Two giant American accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young, disclosed this week that they no longer had any affiliation with Iranian firms, becoming the latest in a string of companies to publicly shun the Islamic republic. Following a similar decision by KPMG earlier this month, that leaves none of the Big Four audit firms with any ties to Iran. In recent months, other companies have announced that they would stop sales, cut back business or end affiliations with Iranian firms, including General Electric, Huntsman, Siemens, Caterpillar and Ingersoll Rand. Daimler said it would sell a minority share in an Iranian engine maker. An Italian firm said it would pull out after its current gas contracts ended. And the Malaysian state oil company cut off gasoline shipments to Iran, following similar moves by Royal Dutch Shell and trading giants like Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura.”

How to kill a senate candidacy: Alex Giannoulias has his bank seized by the Feds. “Whether the issue remains a central one in the race is yet to be seen, but today is surely not a happy day in the Giannoulias camp. GOPers will have a reason to celebrate this weekend.” I think that seat is gone for the Democrats, unless they can pull a Torrecelli.

How to kill cap-and-trade: “The bipartisan climate bill to be unveiled Monday isn’t dead on arrival but it’s not likely to be taken up this year — and not before an immigration bill comes to the Senate floor, according to Democratic aides.”

How to kill the recovery: “Vast tax increases will be inevitable under President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, the nation’s largest business groups complained on Friday.The groups blasted tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals and families in the budget in a letter to members of the House and Senate, while warning that escalating public debt threatened the underlying economy.”

Kill the slams on the tea partiers! “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a mistake when they called anti-health care protests ‘un-American’ last year.” Maybe he figured out these people are voters.

Naturally the Iranian Lobby — NIAC and Peace Now — want to kill sanctions against the mullahs.

Obama is doing more to kill off civility in public debate than any president since Richard Nixon. Charles Krauthammer on his Wall Street speech: “The way — and he‘s done this before — he tries to denigrate, cast out, and to delegitimize any argument against his. And here he’s talking about that it’s not legitimate even to suggest that the bill he’s supporting might encourage a bailout. It’s certainly possible [to] argue [that] because of the provisions in the ball, and one in particular, where the Treasury has the right to designate any entity — private entity – as a systemic risk, and then to immediately, even without Congress approving and appropriating money, to guarantee all the bad loans. That is an invitation to a bailout. Now, the president could argue otherwise, but to say that to raise this issue is illegitimate is simply appalling.”

Obama continues to kill off the freedom agenda and democracy promotion: “Just this week word came that the administration cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt by half. Programs in countries like Jordan and Iran have also faced cuts. Then there are the symbolic gestures: letting the Dalai Lama out the back door, paltry statements of support for Iranian demonstrators, smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Chávez, and so on. Daniel Baer, a representative from the State Department who participated in the [George W. Bush] conference [on dissidents' use of new media tools], dismissed the notion that the White House has distanced itself from human-rights promotion as a baseless ‘meme’ when I raised the issue. But in fact all of this is of a piece of Mr. Obama’s overarching strategy to make it abundantly clear that he is not his predecessor.”

Making some progress in killing off business with Iran: “Two giant American accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young, disclosed this week that they no longer had any affiliation with Iranian firms, becoming the latest in a string of companies to publicly shun the Islamic republic. Following a similar decision by KPMG earlier this month, that leaves none of the Big Four audit firms with any ties to Iran. In recent months, other companies have announced that they would stop sales, cut back business or end affiliations with Iranian firms, including General Electric, Huntsman, Siemens, Caterpillar and Ingersoll Rand. Daimler said it would sell a minority share in an Iranian engine maker. An Italian firm said it would pull out after its current gas contracts ended. And the Malaysian state oil company cut off gasoline shipments to Iran, following similar moves by Royal Dutch Shell and trading giants like Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura.”

Read Less

Tax Day

“Can I deduct the cost of marijuana if it’s for medical use?”

“Only if you’re filing a joint return.”

The Cato Institute has an excellent short film on all that is wrong with the federal tax system. In short, that system violates all four principles of taxation described by Adam Smith:

1. The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.

As Warren Buffett complained, his effective tax rate is half that of his secretary.

2. The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary.

The system is so complex that not even professionals can be sure what people owe. Send out the tax information of a middle-class couple with children to six tax accountants and they will come up with six different sums owed. That experiment has been run numerous times. The advice the IRS itself gives out is frequently wrong.

3. Every tax ought to be levied at the time, or in the manner, in which it is most likely to be convenient for the contributor to pay it.

Most people never see the money, as it never gets into their paychecks. Those with incomes not subject to withholding must estimate in January, April, July, and October, regardless of whether those months are convenient.

4. Every tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and to keep out of the pockets of the people as little as possible over and above what it brings into the public treasury of the state.

Well over 50 percent of filers hire people to fill out the forms because they can’t understand them. The corporate income tax is even worse. As the Wall Street Journal explains today, the cost of complying with the corporate income tax this year will equal 89 percent of the revenues received by the government. General Electric’s tax return, filed electronically, will be the equivalent of 24,000 pages long.

The current tax system benefits two groups: the rich and powerful, who are able to lobby Congress for loopholes, subsidies, tax credits, etc. etc., and the 535 members of Congress, who sell those loopholes, subsidies, tax credits, etc. etc. Yes, sell. They are traded for campaign contributions. It’s as legal as it is disgraceful.

There is no reforming the current system, as it is permeated with corruption. But Congress is utterly unable to write a new tax code from scratch. If this country is to ever get out from under a tax code that has become a clear and present danger to American prosperity and power, it will have to be done using a means similar to the military base closings after the Cold War: in secret, with Congress voting up or down, no amendments.

Only overwhelming pressure will make that happen. That’s another reason why the 2010 election might turn out to be the most consequential midterm election in American history.

“Can I deduct the cost of marijuana if it’s for medical use?”

“Only if you’re filing a joint return.”

The Cato Institute has an excellent short film on all that is wrong with the federal tax system. In short, that system violates all four principles of taxation described by Adam Smith:

1. The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.

As Warren Buffett complained, his effective tax rate is half that of his secretary.

2. The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary.

The system is so complex that not even professionals can be sure what people owe. Send out the tax information of a middle-class couple with children to six tax accountants and they will come up with six different sums owed. That experiment has been run numerous times. The advice the IRS itself gives out is frequently wrong.

3. Every tax ought to be levied at the time, or in the manner, in which it is most likely to be convenient for the contributor to pay it.

Most people never see the money, as it never gets into their paychecks. Those with incomes not subject to withholding must estimate in January, April, July, and October, regardless of whether those months are convenient.

4. Every tax ought to be so contrived as both to take out and to keep out of the pockets of the people as little as possible over and above what it brings into the public treasury of the state.

Well over 50 percent of filers hire people to fill out the forms because they can’t understand them. The corporate income tax is even worse. As the Wall Street Journal explains today, the cost of complying with the corporate income tax this year will equal 89 percent of the revenues received by the government. General Electric’s tax return, filed electronically, will be the equivalent of 24,000 pages long.

The current tax system benefits two groups: the rich and powerful, who are able to lobby Congress for loopholes, subsidies, tax credits, etc. etc., and the 535 members of Congress, who sell those loopholes, subsidies, tax credits, etc. etc. Yes, sell. They are traded for campaign contributions. It’s as legal as it is disgraceful.

There is no reforming the current system, as it is permeated with corruption. But Congress is utterly unable to write a new tax code from scratch. If this country is to ever get out from under a tax code that has become a clear and present danger to American prosperity and power, it will have to be done using a means similar to the military base closings after the Cold War: in secret, with Congress voting up or down, no amendments.

Only overwhelming pressure will make that happen. That’s another reason why the 2010 election might turn out to be the most consequential midterm election in American history.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s misstatements and gaffe-prone performance in front of Congress earlier this year lead the administration to … fire him? No! Delay the next round of testimony.

Even before ObamaCare, the Democrats were in trouble in Indiana: “Two of the three top Republican hopefuls for the U.S. Senate in Indiana continue to hold double-digit leads over Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth supported President Obama’s health care plan in a state where opposition to the legislation is higher than it is nationally.” But post-ObamaCare, it may get worse: “Just 35% of Indiana voters favor the plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats, while 63% oppose it.”

Republicans in a number of key Senate races are running on their pro-Israel credentials, while Democrats “must straddle” the divide in their own party between pro- and anti-Israel voters. Tevi Troy: “Support for Israel is one of those issues, like anti-communism used to be, that holds together a number of pieces of the conservative movement, including evangelicals but also neocons, economic conservatives and foreign policy hawks.”

So it begins: “Attorneys general from 13 states are suing the federal government to stop the massive health care overhaul, claiming it’s unconstitutional.”

Not deficit neutral? “The newly passed overhaul of the nation’s health care system is expected to push expenses ‘out of sight’ and cost the country ‘a couple trillion dollars,’ Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, told CNBC.”

And the chattering class was convinced Sarah Palin was the uncouth, vulgar VP candidate in 2008. Well, they also said Obama was a moderate.

Jeffrey Anderson reminds us that ObamaCare won’t really take hold “unless President Obama wins reelection, or unless enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats remain in Congress to thwart the following five-word agenda: Repeal, and then real reform. Based on CBO projections over the next decade, only 1 percent of the legislation’s costs will have kicked in over the next three years. The CBO projections cover the 2010 to 2019 stretch of Obamacare, with most entitlements not kicking in until 2014. So, most of Obamacare will not be implemented out until after the next two elections. We’ll see if the American people freely choose to send enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats — including President Obama — back to Washington, to complete their perhaps unprecedented project of ignoring the people’s will.”

John McCain or Chuck Schumer on Obama’s Iran engagement policy? “Diplomatic efforts have clearly failed. I believe that when it comes to Iran, we should never take the military option off the table. But I have long argued that economic sanctions are arguably the most effective way to choke Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

From Democratic Public Policy Polling: “It’s really looking like a brutal year for Democrats in the Big Ten states. … If the election was today Democrats would likely lose something they currently hold in every state where they have something to lose- Pennsylvania Governor and perhaps Senate, Michigan Governor, Ohio Governor, Indiana Senate, Iowa Governor, Wisconsin Governor and perhaps Senate, and Illinois Senate and/or Governor. Only Minnesota doesn’t join the party because Democrats have nothing to lose there. What all this really makes me wonder is just how many House seats Democrats are going to lose in the region this year.”

Eric Holder’s misstatements and gaffe-prone performance in front of Congress earlier this year lead the administration to … fire him? No! Delay the next round of testimony.

Even before ObamaCare, the Democrats were in trouble in Indiana: “Two of the three top Republican hopefuls for the U.S. Senate in Indiana continue to hold double-digit leads over Democratic Congressman Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth supported President Obama’s health care plan in a state where opposition to the legislation is higher than it is nationally.” But post-ObamaCare, it may get worse: “Just 35% of Indiana voters favor the plan proposed by the president and congressional Democrats, while 63% oppose it.”

Republicans in a number of key Senate races are running on their pro-Israel credentials, while Democrats “must straddle” the divide in their own party between pro- and anti-Israel voters. Tevi Troy: “Support for Israel is one of those issues, like anti-communism used to be, that holds together a number of pieces of the conservative movement, including evangelicals but also neocons, economic conservatives and foreign policy hawks.”

So it begins: “Attorneys general from 13 states are suing the federal government to stop the massive health care overhaul, claiming it’s unconstitutional.”

Not deficit neutral? “The newly passed overhaul of the nation’s health care system is expected to push expenses ‘out of sight’ and cost the country ‘a couple trillion dollars,’ Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, told CNBC.”

And the chattering class was convinced Sarah Palin was the uncouth, vulgar VP candidate in 2008. Well, they also said Obama was a moderate.

Jeffrey Anderson reminds us that ObamaCare won’t really take hold “unless President Obama wins reelection, or unless enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats remain in Congress to thwart the following five-word agenda: Repeal, and then real reform. Based on CBO projections over the next decade, only 1 percent of the legislation’s costs will have kicked in over the next three years. The CBO projections cover the 2010 to 2019 stretch of Obamacare, with most entitlements not kicking in until 2014. So, most of Obamacare will not be implemented out until after the next two elections. We’ll see if the American people freely choose to send enough Obamacare-supporting Democrats — including President Obama — back to Washington, to complete their perhaps unprecedented project of ignoring the people’s will.”

John McCain or Chuck Schumer on Obama’s Iran engagement policy? “Diplomatic efforts have clearly failed. I believe that when it comes to Iran, we should never take the military option off the table. But I have long argued that economic sanctions are arguably the most effective way to choke Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

From Democratic Public Policy Polling: “It’s really looking like a brutal year for Democrats in the Big Ten states. … If the election was today Democrats would likely lose something they currently hold in every state where they have something to lose- Pennsylvania Governor and perhaps Senate, Michigan Governor, Ohio Governor, Indiana Senate, Iowa Governor, Wisconsin Governor and perhaps Senate, and Illinois Senate and/or Governor. Only Minnesota doesn’t join the party because Democrats have nothing to lose there. What all this really makes me wonder is just how many House seats Democrats are going to lose in the region this year.”

Read Less

How Obama Can Win in Copenhagen

Barack Obama has a golden opportunity next week at Copenhagen in the form of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. If by the end of the conference Obama settles with New Delhi the details to implement the agreement, he will win on three crucial issues: (1) he will please business, (2) he will substantively contribute to international environmentalist efforts, and (3) he will reinforce American friendship with India at a time when the relationship has been strained.

Both India and the United States have applauded the agreement since its passage by both countries’ lawmakers last year, but details to address security, nonproliferation, and liability concerns have kept anything from actually happening on the ground.

The climate-change debate has often pitted economic interests against environmental ones, as the upset in Australia this week has shown. Here’s a chance for Obama to show that the two can be reconciled. The U.S.-India Business Council has said that the agreement will create a $150 billion business for civilian nuclear technologies over the next 30 years. The council’s president predicted the agreement will create up to 27,000 “high-quality” jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Obama has acknowledged that the agreement increases American exports to India. And the CEO of General Electric has noted that the agreement “opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India.”

Not only does the agreement please business; it also allows India a way to cut carbon emissions. Nuclear power, vastly underused in India, does not let off carbon dioxide, which has long been seen as the leading culprit in global warming. Worst for carbon emissions is coal — which now accounts for more than half of India’s energy. Some estimates even say India could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by switching from coal power to nuclear power — a substantial savings. “For comparison, the full range of emission cuts planned by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol will total just 200 million tons per year,” wrote David G. Victor in 2006. Demand for energy in India will only grow as it develops. By simply implementing an agreement already approved, Obama can take credit for a significant role in India’s energy future.

Nailing down the details of the agreement accomplishes both economic and environmental goals while also reinforcing good relations with India. And relations with India under Obama have already endured one misstep. New Delhi bristled at a portion of the November U.S.-China Joint Statement that implied greater meddling from Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, especially offensive considering the recent border tensions between China and India.

But since its passage under the Bush administration, the nuclear-energy agreement has been hailed as a monumental diplomatic reset. It was the first time the U.S. engaged in nuclear cooperation with New Delhi since India’s first test of a nuclear bomb, in 1974. The former nonproliferation policies toward India did nothing to deter the pursuit of nuclear weapons or lessen Indo-Pakistani tensions. Instead, they isolated India, a crucial country in the region. Both the United States and India have recently emphasized how they are “natural partners,” not least of all because they are both democratic regimes. This agreement is crucial to India’s perception of its relations with the U.S.; in fact, in 2005, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “India has made this the central issue in the new partnership developing between our countries.” By settling the details of the agreement, Obama would show the Indians good faith and prove that they are a priority.

The negotiations over specific details have taken a long time, partly because of justifiable security concerns. But much more procrastination will send the wrong message to India. On the other hand, next week is a prime opportunity for Obama to act on an American promise and also address environmental and economic communities. If he’s wise, he won’t squander it.

Barack Obama has a golden opportunity next week at Copenhagen in the form of the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement. If by the end of the conference Obama settles with New Delhi the details to implement the agreement, he will win on three crucial issues: (1) he will please business, (2) he will substantively contribute to international environmentalist efforts, and (3) he will reinforce American friendship with India at a time when the relationship has been strained.

Both India and the United States have applauded the agreement since its passage by both countries’ lawmakers last year, but details to address security, nonproliferation, and liability concerns have kept anything from actually happening on the ground.

The climate-change debate has often pitted economic interests against environmental ones, as the upset in Australia this week has shown. Here’s a chance for Obama to show that the two can be reconciled. The U.S.-India Business Council has said that the agreement will create a $150 billion business for civilian nuclear technologies over the next 30 years. The council’s president predicted the agreement will create up to 27,000 “high-quality” jobs in the United States over the next 10 years. Obama has acknowledged that the agreement increases American exports to India. And the CEO of General Electric has noted that the agreement “opens up prospects for U.S. companies to supply potentially billions of dollars worth of reactor technology, fuel and other services to India.”

Not only does the agreement please business; it also allows India a way to cut carbon emissions. Nuclear power, vastly underused in India, does not let off carbon dioxide, which has long been seen as the leading culprit in global warming. Worst for carbon emissions is coal — which now accounts for more than half of India’s energy. Some estimates even say India could avoid 130 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by switching from coal power to nuclear power — a substantial savings. “For comparison, the full range of emission cuts planned by the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol will total just 200 million tons per year,” wrote David G. Victor in 2006. Demand for energy in India will only grow as it develops. By simply implementing an agreement already approved, Obama can take credit for a significant role in India’s energy future.

Nailing down the details of the agreement accomplishes both economic and environmental goals while also reinforcing good relations with India. And relations with India under Obama have already endured one misstep. New Delhi bristled at a portion of the November U.S.-China Joint Statement that implied greater meddling from Beijing in Indo-Pakistani relations, especially offensive considering the recent border tensions between China and India.

But since its passage under the Bush administration, the nuclear-energy agreement has been hailed as a monumental diplomatic reset. It was the first time the U.S. engaged in nuclear cooperation with New Delhi since India’s first test of a nuclear bomb, in 1974. The former nonproliferation policies toward India did nothing to deter the pursuit of nuclear weapons or lessen Indo-Pakistani tensions. Instead, they isolated India, a crucial country in the region. Both the United States and India have recently emphasized how they are “natural partners,” not least of all because they are both democratic regimes. This agreement is crucial to India’s perception of its relations with the U.S.; in fact, in 2005, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “India has made this the central issue in the new partnership developing between our countries.” By settling the details of the agreement, Obama would show the Indians good faith and prove that they are a priority.

The negotiations over specific details have taken a long time, partly because of justifiable security concerns. But much more procrastination will send the wrong message to India. On the other hand, next week is a prime opportunity for Obama to act on an American promise and also address environmental and economic communities. If he’s wise, he won’t squander it.

Read Less




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