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Post-Afghanistan nuclear security

This is the third part of a four-part series. The first two segments can be found online at tcextra.com. Look for the fourth part next week.



Good intelligence and police work at home and abroad together with close surveillance of international trade, communications, cyberspace, airlines, shipping and money flows constitute half the battle to detect and deter illicit weapons of mass destruction.

We need to improve technology and practical methods of detection, including systematic screening of cargo containers and airmail. We must not allow our zeal for scanning of airline passengers to become so invasive that public support is lost.

We should take a look at what a far more threatened country, Israel, is doing to maintain security at their airports. They rely much more on passenger information to assess risk. Excessive invasion of person simply hands victory back to the terrorists.

The other half of the battle is essentially diplomatic. We might well start with the Hippocratic Oath: “Do no harm.†We have to watch our own behavior and reputation around the world, whether it is lust for oil, monopolistic practices, military adventurism, engaging in torture, denial of due process and human rights, unwarranted extrajudicial killings, uneven-handed foreign policies in Israel and Palestine or meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.

Nothing encourages enlistment of terrorists and incitement to use weapons of destruction against us than misbehavior on our part. The worst thing we can do is to portray our actions against terrorism as a “War of Religion†or “Good versus Evil.†That kind of stupidity plays into the hands of the ideological terrorists.

We need to promote a new Comprehensive Global Treaty on Nuclear Peace to replace, combine and upgrade the piecemeal agreements we now have and largely ignore. New rules: Every nation that wishes to join or remain in the “nuclear club†must sign and obey this new comprehensive treaty.

Those that now possess nuclear weapons, including ourselves, will have to scale back and take specific, agreed steps to prevent leakage of nuclear materials, technology and weapons. All members of the new “nuclear club†will have a right under international law to develop and maintain their own nuclear energy capacity for peaceful purpose, subject to verification.

The defining feature of the new “Nuclear Club†treaty is that every member of the club must be open at all times for continuous, in-depth inspection by the collective club members and the United Nations. No special deals for anyone. For example, it is absurd that the United States has signed a bilateral agreement with India that allows inspection only of Indian nuclear power plants, but forbids inspection of Indian military nuclear facilities. Everyone must be held to the same rules of verification.

This new rule of mandatory inspection applies first  to the existing club members, the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, Israel, China, India, Pakistan and any others already in possession of nuclear weapons capability. Only in this way can we have standing to force Iran, Iraq, the two Koreas and other countries to open themselves to continuous, in-depth inspection as the price of entry into the “nuclear club.â€

This is the only way to ensure that the misuse and leakage of nuclear weapons technology and materials are stopped internationally and at the national source. If a club member balks or fails to cooperate with inspectors, grave sanctions will immediately apply, including total shut down of airspace, shipping and travel to and from that country. Military intervention will only be a last resort, carried out by the collective action of the entire club and sanctioned by the U.N.

Thus, the comprehensive diplomatic solution has to include possible use of effective, sharp teeth. But it shouldn’t be necessary, and the United States shouldn’t have to act alone.

Sharon resident Anthony Piel is a former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization.

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