Dam­ag­ing na­tional se­cu­rity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The Democrats had tried sev­eral pre-emp­tive strikes against Pres­i­dent Bush’s Jan. 10 speech about how to win the war in Iraq. The pres­i­dent, in our view, is right to send ad­di­tional troops to Bagh­dad and other vi­o­lent ar­eas of Iraq to stanch the blood-let­ting and en­able the Iraqi gov­ern­ment to im­pose its author­ity over the na­tion. But in ad­di­tion to op­pos­ing mea­sures to end the war, the House would now un­der­mine na­tional se­cu­rity.

Buried inside the leg­is­la­tion hur­ried through the House on Jan. 9, as part of the Democrats’ goal of im­ple­ment­ing Septem­ber 11 com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions, is a pro­vi­sion that would dam­age a suc­cess­ful mul­ti­lat­eral pro­gram to com­bat the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass de­struc­tion: the Pro­lif­er­a­tion Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive (PSI). The PSI was largely re­spon­si­ble for per­suad­ing Libyan leader Moam­mar Gad­hafi to ter­mi­nate his search for atomic weapons and for un­rav­el­ling the nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion net­work run by the no­to­ri­ous A.Q. Khan of Pak­istan. Un­for­tu­nately, this leg­is­la­tion has the po­ten­tial to wreak dam­age by bring­ing the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil into the process.

The leg­is­la­tion, pushed by prom­i­nent mem­bers of the House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship, in­clud­ing For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Lan­tos and Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ike Skel­ton, urges “with a par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis” that the pres­i­dent work with the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil (where Rus­sia and China, se­rial pro­lif­er­a­tors of weapons of mass de­struc­tion, have a veto) to “au­tho­rize the PSI un­der in­ter­na­tional law.” Dur­ing the Jan. 9 de­bate, Rep. Ileana Ros-Le­hti­nen, Florida Repub­li­can, of­fered an amend­ment to strike the pro­vi­sion, but it was de­feated on a party-line 230-198 vote.

Given its ex­tra­or­di­nary record of achieve­ment, it is dif­fi­cult to see how the ini­tia­tive, largely the work of John Bolton as un­der­sec­re­tary of state in 2003, could be strength­ened by the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. The United States over­sees the pro­gram, which sets out prin­ci­ples and steps for in­ter­dict­ing ship­ments of weapons of mass de­struc­tion. More than 70 na­tions have com­mit­ted to PSI’s an­tipro­lif­er­a­tion prin­ci­ples. In Oc­to­ber 2003, op­er­at­ing un­der the aus­pices of the ini­tia­tive, U.S. war­ships seized ura­ni­u­men­rich­ment gas cen­trifuge com­po­nents bound for Libya’s covert pro­gram aboard the BBC China, a Ger­man-owned ves­sel. Libya sub­se­quently re­nounced nu­clear weapons, and its rev­e­la­tions led to the un­rav­el­ing of the Khan net­work — which had played a key role in help­ing Iran de­velop the abil­ity to use gas cen­trifuges to en­rich ura­nium. If the Pro­lif­er­a­tion Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive had been in place through­out the 1980s and 1990s, Iran might not be on the brink of de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons to­day.

Al­though the in­for­mal, vol­un­tary struc­ture of the ini­tia­tive has been es­sen­tial to its suc­cess, this would likely be jeop­ar­dized by the Democrats’ in­sis­tence that the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil and the U.N. bu­reau­cracy be brought into play. This would em­power both China and Rus­sia, which have helped along the Ira­nian and North Korean nu­clear weapons pro­grams, with in­creased abil­ity to make mis­chief. If the Se­nate re­fuses to strip this ir­re­spon­si­ble pro­vi­sion from the bill, Mr. Bush should con­sider do­ing it him­self with a veto.

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