Commentary Magazine


Topic: Joseph Cirincione

Foreign Policy Alternatives

Foreign Policy has a symposium on “Plan B” for Obama’s foreign policy. The assumption is, of course, that what he’s tried hasn’t worked very well.

Elliott Abrams suggests:

Forget the peace talks. A lasting, final Israeli-Palestinian agreement is nowhere in sight. With the negotiations as background music, Barack Obama should get serious. The rest of his term should be spent building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — not chasing a dream.

That’s one of the smartest entries. From the left we also get Bob Shrum (yes, that Bob Shrum), who actually is on to something:

On critical issues like Afghanistan and Iran, Obama will need to take his case to the people directly, as he did so convincingly as a candidate. This means a continuing conversation in town halls and speeches that connect both emotionally and logically with a majority of Americans. … Obama needs to become the diplomat-in-chief — not just for U.S. allies overseas, but for his own citizenry at home.

But then again, Obama is not convincing Americans of much of anything, so it’s not clear that this would prove a productive exercise. And of course Obama first would have to decide what he wants to do about Iran.

Another helpful contribution comes from Ellen Laipson, who recommends:

Barack Obama needs to rethink his approach to engaging the Muslim world. After the promise of his seminal June 2009 Cairo speech, his administration has not focused on any serious initiatives and has fallen into the trap of fawning over Muslims in ways that are contrary to America’s core values. … The case of Egypt and its upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. The White House must try to ensure that the 2011 contest be fair and legitimate, for Egypt’s sake and ours. But America’s good work with grassroots activists needs to be complemented by a bolder public stance and even tough measures when governments fail to advance the most basic democratic reforms.

One of the more horrid suggestions come from Will Marshall, who wants a new Geneva Convention. One can only imagine what rules they would come up with to further impede America’s and Israel’s security. Nearly as bad is Christopher Preble (demonstrating the danger of the “austerity trap“), who wants massive defense cuts. But don’t worry, he says: “The hawks will scream, but America will be just fine.”

It’s a hard choice, but my vote for the dopiest recommendation comes from Joseph Cirincione:

Obama should unilaterally reduce the active U.S. arsenal to 1,000 weapons (which is still three times more than U.S. Air Force experts judge are necessary) and remove the 200 U.S. nuclear bombs that remain in Europe. Such cuts won’t hurt U.S. or global security in the least — and Obama has plenty of bipartisan, expert support for cuts of this size. They would put him on the road to fulfilling his compelling promise of a truly nuclear-free world.

Except for all the other countries that have nukes.

Get the sense that the left isn’t very serious about foreign policy? Me too. And it’s not just the left. As we correctly turn our attention to our massive deficits, the pressure will be on from the right and the left to bring troops home, cut defense spending, and return to Fortress America. But there is no return. Our enemies are real, and we need to rise to meet the challenges they pose to the U.S. and our allies.

Foreign Policy has a symposium on “Plan B” for Obama’s foreign policy. The assumption is, of course, that what he’s tried hasn’t worked very well.

Elliott Abrams suggests:

Forget the peace talks. A lasting, final Israeli-Palestinian agreement is nowhere in sight. With the negotiations as background music, Barack Obama should get serious. The rest of his term should be spent building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — not chasing a dream.

That’s one of the smartest entries. From the left we also get Bob Shrum (yes, that Bob Shrum), who actually is on to something:

On critical issues like Afghanistan and Iran, Obama will need to take his case to the people directly, as he did so convincingly as a candidate. This means a continuing conversation in town halls and speeches that connect both emotionally and logically with a majority of Americans. … Obama needs to become the diplomat-in-chief — not just for U.S. allies overseas, but for his own citizenry at home.

But then again, Obama is not convincing Americans of much of anything, so it’s not clear that this would prove a productive exercise. And of course Obama first would have to decide what he wants to do about Iran.

Another helpful contribution comes from Ellen Laipson, who recommends:

Barack Obama needs to rethink his approach to engaging the Muslim world. After the promise of his seminal June 2009 Cairo speech, his administration has not focused on any serious initiatives and has fallen into the trap of fawning over Muslims in ways that are contrary to America’s core values. … The case of Egypt and its upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. The White House must try to ensure that the 2011 contest be fair and legitimate, for Egypt’s sake and ours. But America’s good work with grassroots activists needs to be complemented by a bolder public stance and even tough measures when governments fail to advance the most basic democratic reforms.

One of the more horrid suggestions come from Will Marshall, who wants a new Geneva Convention. One can only imagine what rules they would come up with to further impede America’s and Israel’s security. Nearly as bad is Christopher Preble (demonstrating the danger of the “austerity trap“), who wants massive defense cuts. But don’t worry, he says: “The hawks will scream, but America will be just fine.”

It’s a hard choice, but my vote for the dopiest recommendation comes from Joseph Cirincione:

Obama should unilaterally reduce the active U.S. arsenal to 1,000 weapons (which is still three times more than U.S. Air Force experts judge are necessary) and remove the 200 U.S. nuclear bombs that remain in Europe. Such cuts won’t hurt U.S. or global security in the least — and Obama has plenty of bipartisan, expert support for cuts of this size. They would put him on the road to fulfilling his compelling promise of a truly nuclear-free world.

Except for all the other countries that have nukes.

Get the sense that the left isn’t very serious about foreign policy? Me too. And it’s not just the left. As we correctly turn our attention to our massive deficits, the pressure will be on from the right and the left to bring troops home, cut defense spending, and return to Fortress America. But there is no return. Our enemies are real, and we need to rise to meet the challenges they pose to the U.S. and our allies.

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Loose Nuclear Advisers

I have recently written here about Barack Obama’s nuclear adviser, Joseph Cirincione here on Connecting the Dots. Today I do so also in the Los Angeles Times under the title: The Failed Theology of Arms Control.

I have recently written here about Barack Obama’s nuclear adviser, Joseph Cirincione here on Connecting the Dots. Today I do so also in the Los Angeles Times under the title: The Failed Theology of Arms Control.

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Fool Me Once…

On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor at al Kibar. Writing about the raid in the New Yorker on February 11, 2008, Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the contention that it was in fact a nuclear facility:

in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

One of Hersh’s sources was Barack Obama’s non-proliferation adviser, Joseph Cirincione, who told Hersh flatly that

Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing.

In the face of unequivocal evidence, Cirincione has acknowledged his error, saying “no one bats 1000.” That of course is true. And the difficulty of assessing what Syria was up to was certainly compounded by Syrian deception. David Albright’s outfit, the Institute for Science and International Security, has put out an important study (complete with photographs) of the “extraordinary camouflage” methods the Syrians employed to disguise the facility.

In assessing the track record of an expert like Cirincione, let’s also keep in mind that tight secrecy, camouflage, and deception in nuclear affairs are nothing new. On the eve of the first Gulf war, thanks to secrecy, the United States was almost completely in the dark about the far-reaching scope of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

In the run-up to the second Gulf war, the problem was reversed. The intelligence community persuaded itself that Saddam had an active nuclear program when in fact he had none.

One would expect experts to draw appropriate lessons from both experiences. First among them is that humility and a measure of self-doubt are important when trying to penetrate other countries’ secrets.

Such qualities were conspicuously absent in Cirincione’s analysis of al Kibar: “There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political,” is what he categorically told Hersh.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

On September 6, 2007, Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor at al Kibar. Writing about the raid in the New Yorker on February 11, 2008, Seymour Hersh cast doubt on the contention that it was in fact a nuclear facility:

in three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria. It is possible that Israel conveyed intelligence directly to senior members of the Bush Administration, without it being vetted by intelligence agencies. (This process, known as “stovepiping,” overwhelmed U.S. intelligence before the war in Iraq.) But Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said, “Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.”

One of Hersh’s sources was Barack Obama’s non-proliferation adviser, Joseph Cirincione, who told Hersh flatly that

Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear-weapons program. I’ve been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there’s nothing.

In the face of unequivocal evidence, Cirincione has acknowledged his error, saying “no one bats 1000.” That of course is true. And the difficulty of assessing what Syria was up to was certainly compounded by Syrian deception. David Albright’s outfit, the Institute for Science and International Security, has put out an important study (complete with photographs) of the “extraordinary camouflage” methods the Syrians employed to disguise the facility.

In assessing the track record of an expert like Cirincione, let’s also keep in mind that tight secrecy, camouflage, and deception in nuclear affairs are nothing new. On the eve of the first Gulf war, thanks to secrecy, the United States was almost completely in the dark about the far-reaching scope of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program.

In the run-up to the second Gulf war, the problem was reversed. The intelligence community persuaded itself that Saddam had an active nuclear program when in fact he had none.

One would expect experts to draw appropriate lessons from both experiences. First among them is that humility and a measure of self-doubt are important when trying to penetrate other countries’ secrets.

Such qualities were conspicuously absent in Cirincione’s analysis of al Kibar: “There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political,” is what he categorically told Hersh.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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Obama’s Missile Gap

Is Joseph Cirincione Barack Obama’s “top advisor” on nuclear affairs, as I stated here last week? He has denied it adamantly (scroll down to the comments section of my post), and even though I could not identify any other nuclear experts closer to the candidate, I am happy to take him at his word. It would be better to call him an Obama nuclear advisor rather than his top nuclear advisor.

Whatever his precise status in the campaign, there is no question about his views. Cirincione has backed away from his assertion that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel last September was not a nuclear reactor. But does he stand by his views on missile defense?

Writing in the Globalist back in October, Cirincione compared the Bush administration’s effort to defend against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles to “the Israeli settler movement,” saying that both “want to create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for successors to reverse course.”

On the one hand, he argues, spending billions to build radar stations and interceptor sites in Poland and the Czech republic is pouring money down the drain: “All evidence indicates that this U.S. anti-missile system is incapable of intercepting any long-range missiles.”

On the other hand, he argues, we are terrifying the Kremlin through our recklessness. “Russian military planners cannot count” on the fact that the system won’t work.  Indeed “the U.S. bases would have a real, though limited, capability against Russia’s nuclear deterrent force.”

Will it or won’t it work? Or will it only work against Russian missiles and let Iranian ones fly through? I confess to being confused.

Either way, what does Cirincione propose instead? “If the administration had any sense,” he writes, “it would ditch this technologically weak and strategically unnecessary plan — and instead seize the Russian proposal to use the radar at its Azerbaijan base bordering Iran.”

True, “that radar is not as powerful as the American radar” slated for deployment in the Czech republic. But never mind, even if the Russian proposal won’t work, it will work. The Azerbaijan radar would serve to “provide real military capabilities against any future Iranian threat.”

Am I alone thinking that this line of argument is a remarkably brazen attempt to have things both ways?

Memo to Barack Obama: when the time comes this fall to debate John McCain on defense issues, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another adviser rather than two contradictory ones from Joseph Cirincione.

Is Joseph Cirincione Barack Obama’s “top advisor” on nuclear affairs, as I stated here last week? He has denied it adamantly (scroll down to the comments section of my post), and even though I could not identify any other nuclear experts closer to the candidate, I am happy to take him at his word. It would be better to call him an Obama nuclear advisor rather than his top nuclear advisor.

Whatever his precise status in the campaign, there is no question about his views. Cirincione has backed away from his assertion that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel last September was not a nuclear reactor. But does he stand by his views on missile defense?

Writing in the Globalist back in October, Cirincione compared the Bush administration’s effort to defend against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles to “the Israeli settler movement,” saying that both “want to create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for successors to reverse course.”

On the one hand, he argues, spending billions to build radar stations and interceptor sites in Poland and the Czech republic is pouring money down the drain: “All evidence indicates that this U.S. anti-missile system is incapable of intercepting any long-range missiles.”

On the other hand, he argues, we are terrifying the Kremlin through our recklessness. “Russian military planners cannot count” on the fact that the system won’t work.  Indeed “the U.S. bases would have a real, though limited, capability against Russia’s nuclear deterrent force.”

Will it or won’t it work? Or will it only work against Russian missiles and let Iranian ones fly through? I confess to being confused.

Either way, what does Cirincione propose instead? “If the administration had any sense,” he writes, “it would ditch this technologically weak and strategically unnecessary plan — and instead seize the Russian proposal to use the radar at its Azerbaijan base bordering Iran.”

True, “that radar is not as powerful as the American radar” slated for deployment in the Czech republic. But never mind, even if the Russian proposal won’t work, it will work. The Azerbaijan radar would serve to “provide real military capabilities against any future Iranian threat.”

Am I alone thinking that this line of argument is a remarkably brazen attempt to have things both ways?

Memo to Barack Obama: when the time comes this fall to debate John McCain on defense issues, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another adviser rather than two contradictory ones from Joseph Cirincione.

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Denial of A Denial

Joseph Cirincione, the subject of my post yesterday, Obama’s Radioactive Potato, writes that “I am not a top advisor to Senator Obama. I have never met the Senator. I have written occasional memos to his campaign and publicly endorsed his candidacy, but I am afraid there is no way I could be considered ‘Barack Obama’s top expert on matters nuclear.'”

“No way”?

With all due respect to Joseph Cirincione, I stand by my claim that he serves as Senator Obama’s top adviser on matters nuclear and I am astonished that he would deny it.

In a March 12, 2008 article in the New Republic by Michelle Cottle in which he was extensively quoted, Cottle wrote that Cirincione “agreed last spring to advise the candidate on non-proliferation.”

If that statement is true, and I see no evidence that Cirincione has disputed it, then he is their adviser on nuclear proliferation, and indeed their top adviser unless he can point to a more senior nuclear expert advising the campaign.

Cirincione has been widely identified as an Obama adviser all over the blogsphere by publications spanning the political spectrum, from National Review to the Weekly Standard to the DailyKos, where he was even given the title “Informal National Security Adviser.” I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Stephen Zunes, chairman of  the program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, described Cirincione as a “key Obama adviser.” Once again, I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Will the real top Obama nuclear advisor please stand up.

Joseph Cirincione, the subject of my post yesterday, Obama’s Radioactive Potato, writes that “I am not a top advisor to Senator Obama. I have never met the Senator. I have written occasional memos to his campaign and publicly endorsed his candidacy, but I am afraid there is no way I could be considered ‘Barack Obama’s top expert on matters nuclear.'”

“No way”?

With all due respect to Joseph Cirincione, I stand by my claim that he serves as Senator Obama’s top adviser on matters nuclear and I am astonished that he would deny it.

In a March 12, 2008 article in the New Republic by Michelle Cottle in which he was extensively quoted, Cottle wrote that Cirincione “agreed last spring to advise the candidate on non-proliferation.”

If that statement is true, and I see no evidence that Cirincione has disputed it, then he is their adviser on nuclear proliferation, and indeed their top adviser unless he can point to a more senior nuclear expert advising the campaign.

Cirincione has been widely identified as an Obama adviser all over the blogsphere by publications spanning the political spectrum, from National Review to the Weekly Standard to the DailyKos, where he was even given the title “Informal National Security Adviser.” I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Stephen Zunes, chairman of  the program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, described Cirincione as a “key Obama adviser.” Once again, I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Will the real top Obama nuclear advisor please stand up.

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Obama’s Radioactive Potato

Was North Korea helping Syria build a plutonium-producing reactor? The emerging consensus in the intelligence world is that it was. Indeed, the evidence, now including videotapes taken inside the facility before it was obliterated by Israeli jets last September 6, appears almost unequivocal.

It is therefore fascinating — and disturbing — to recall the alacrity with which Joseph Cirincione, Barack Obama’s top expert on matters nuclear, the author of a book called the Bomb Scare, was so quick back in September to dismiss the report as “nonsense.”

To Cirincione, writing on the blog of Foreign Policy Magazine, the stories surrounding surrounding the Israeli strike, namely that North Korea was building a Yongbyong-type plutonium reactor not far from the Euphrates River, was nothing more than a lie. It was a reprise, wrote Cirincione, of the way in which administration officials “misled the press” in the run-up to the second Gulf war.

Who was behind this nefarious manipulation? It seems, wrote Circincione, “to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda.” What exactly was that political agenda? “[I]t appears aimed at derailing the U.S.-North Korean agreement that administration hardliners think is appeasement.” There was also a dose of Zionist mischief thrown in: “Some Israelis want to thwart any dialogue between the U.S. and Syria.”

Along with Israel and the American hardliners, another villain in Cirincione’s take is the American press, which treats “selective leaks” from the administration “as if they were absolute truth.” Indeed, the lazy reporters pushing the story appear not “to have done even basic investigation of the miniscule Syrian nuclear program.”

All told, the “misleading story” of North Korean nuclear proliferation “will now enter the lexicon of the far Right” and “attempts to negotiate an end to North Korea’s program are bound fail in the face of such duplicity, etc., etc.”

In writing all these things, Cirincione sounds remarkably similar to Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations. “There was no Syria-North Korea cooperation whatsoever in Syria. We deny these rumors,” Bashar Ja’afari said yesterday.

Cirincione’s instant dismissal of the Syrian-North Korean nuclear axis raises a number of interesting questions.

One of them is: has Cirincione changed his mind in light of the latest intelligence?

A second: is he going to be the official called by Obama at 3AM when an intelligence cable comes in reporting that North Korea has shipped nuclear materials somewhere else?

A third: why are so many of Obama’s advisors so prone to blame, in whole or in part, the machinations of Israel for the problems of the world? See here and here and here.

A fourth: Is Joseph Cirincione going to go the way of Samatha Power and get dropped from the campaign like a radioactive potato.

Was North Korea helping Syria build a plutonium-producing reactor? The emerging consensus in the intelligence world is that it was. Indeed, the evidence, now including videotapes taken inside the facility before it was obliterated by Israeli jets last September 6, appears almost unequivocal.

It is therefore fascinating — and disturbing — to recall the alacrity with which Joseph Cirincione, Barack Obama’s top expert on matters nuclear, the author of a book called the Bomb Scare, was so quick back in September to dismiss the report as “nonsense.”

To Cirincione, writing on the blog of Foreign Policy Magazine, the stories surrounding surrounding the Israeli strike, namely that North Korea was building a Yongbyong-type plutonium reactor not far from the Euphrates River, was nothing more than a lie. It was a reprise, wrote Cirincione, of the way in which administration officials “misled the press” in the run-up to the second Gulf war.

Who was behind this nefarious manipulation? It seems, wrote Circincione, “to be the work of a small group of officials leaking cherry-picked, unvetted ‘intelligence’ to key reporters in order to promote a preexisting political agenda.” What exactly was that political agenda? “[I]t appears aimed at derailing the U.S.-North Korean agreement that administration hardliners think is appeasement.” There was also a dose of Zionist mischief thrown in: “Some Israelis want to thwart any dialogue between the U.S. and Syria.”

Along with Israel and the American hardliners, another villain in Cirincione’s take is the American press, which treats “selective leaks” from the administration “as if they were absolute truth.” Indeed, the lazy reporters pushing the story appear not “to have done even basic investigation of the miniscule Syrian nuclear program.”

All told, the “misleading story” of North Korean nuclear proliferation “will now enter the lexicon of the far Right” and “attempts to negotiate an end to North Korea’s program are bound fail in the face of such duplicity, etc., etc.”

In writing all these things, Cirincione sounds remarkably similar to Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations. “There was no Syria-North Korea cooperation whatsoever in Syria. We deny these rumors,” Bashar Ja’afari said yesterday.

Cirincione’s instant dismissal of the Syrian-North Korean nuclear axis raises a number of interesting questions.

One of them is: has Cirincione changed his mind in light of the latest intelligence?

A second: is he going to be the official called by Obama at 3AM when an intelligence cable comes in reporting that North Korea has shipped nuclear materials somewhere else?

A third: why are so many of Obama’s advisors so prone to blame, in whole or in part, the machinations of Israel for the problems of the world? See here and here and here.

A fourth: Is Joseph Cirincione going to go the way of Samatha Power and get dropped from the campaign like a radioactive potato.

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“They Want to Destroy People”

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” said President Bush Wednesday, referring to Iran’s theocrats. The leader of the free world did not have to wait long for criticism. “That’s as uninformed as McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda,” remarked nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.”

It is true that Iranian leaders have never publicly proclaimed their desire for the ultimate weapon in history. In fact, they have said exactly the opposite. So award a point to Cirincione.

Yet make that an exceedingly technical point. On the broader issue of truth, the President scores higher. In my book, a nation has essentially declared it wants the bomb when it, like Iran, hides parts of its nuclear program, possesses plans for nuclear warheads, conducts nuclear weaponization experiments, builds ballistic missiles, and voices a desire to wipe another country off the map. If I ever have an opportunity to talk to Cirincione, I will ask this: “Is there any room in your world for common sense?”

In any event, there’s none in Kofi Annan’s universe, at least judging from his comments reported by the Associated Press on Friday. The former U.N. secretary-general, in remarks summarized by that news organization, said he “didn’t have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.” Nonetheless, the retired diplomat felt confident enough to say this: “We cannot, I’m sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it.”

Well, I hope no one is contemplating listening to Annan. As a matter of logic, one cannot comment on military action if one is too ignorant to discuss why the U.N. has demanded that Iran stop enrichment in the first place.

Until Kofi catches up on his reading, we should take our advice from Dick Cheney. On Wednesday, while visiting Oman, the Vice President said that “Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.” Why? Because Annan is correct about one thing. In his recent comments he said that all Security Council members must live up to their “responsibility to protect.” If this noble concept means anything, it means stopping militant regimes like Iran’s from getting the capability to “destroy people.”

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” said President Bush Wednesday, referring to Iran’s theocrats. The leader of the free world did not have to wait long for criticism. “That’s as uninformed as McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda,” remarked nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.”

It is true that Iranian leaders have never publicly proclaimed their desire for the ultimate weapon in history. In fact, they have said exactly the opposite. So award a point to Cirincione.

Yet make that an exceedingly technical point. On the broader issue of truth, the President scores higher. In my book, a nation has essentially declared it wants the bomb when it, like Iran, hides parts of its nuclear program, possesses plans for nuclear warheads, conducts nuclear weaponization experiments, builds ballistic missiles, and voices a desire to wipe another country off the map. If I ever have an opportunity to talk to Cirincione, I will ask this: “Is there any room in your world for common sense?”

In any event, there’s none in Kofi Annan’s universe, at least judging from his comments reported by the Associated Press on Friday. The former U.N. secretary-general, in remarks summarized by that news organization, said he “didn’t have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.” Nonetheless, the retired diplomat felt confident enough to say this: “We cannot, I’m sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it.”

Well, I hope no one is contemplating listening to Annan. As a matter of logic, one cannot comment on military action if one is too ignorant to discuss why the U.N. has demanded that Iran stop enrichment in the first place.

Until Kofi catches up on his reading, we should take our advice from Dick Cheney. On Wednesday, while visiting Oman, the Vice President said that “Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.” Why? Because Annan is correct about one thing. In his recent comments he said that all Security Council members must live up to their “responsibility to protect.” If this noble concept means anything, it means stopping militant regimes like Iran’s from getting the capability to “destroy people.”

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