Foreign Policy Naifs

Where the analysis suffers from amateurishness, the headline makes up with sensationalism

It would be one thing if it came from the America’s non-proliferation establishment, which dogmatically insists on believing that a fatally flawed document will prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Even if this means of having to rely heavily on conditional forms of verbs to reach pre-determined conclusions.

But you would expect something of a higher intellectual quality from a leading voice of the American foreign policy firmament. Instead you have this from Foreign Policy magazine (linkthanks Patrix): the biggest story you missed this year, it says, was that “India Helps Iran Build the Bomb, While the White House Looks the Other Way”. That canard of India “helping” Iran build a bomb that it does not even have, and is (like everyone else) is four or more years away from having, has been exposed far too many times to warrant repetition.

Simply regurgitating the allegations thrown about by the non-proliferation establishment is bad enough. What makes it worse is the sheer lack of analytical follow-through. Let’s assume the folks at the magazine prefer to believe in those allegations. Writers of a magazine that calls itself Foreign Policy miss the point that without the deal there would have been absolutely nothing the United States could do to stop India from extending nuclear assistance to Iran. It is only because of the deal that the United States has acquired an instrument to influence India’s nuclear policy: the NPT stick didn’t work on India, perhaps the carrots of the Hyde act will.

FP’s readers may have missed the story, but its writers certainly missed the point.

13 thoughts on “Foreign Policy Naifs”

  1. Foregin Policy Magazine is not taken seriously in America. It has the same reputation as the CNN. It is considered a mouthpiece of the extreme left.

  2. The cowards that these extreme leftwingers are, this is the e-mail Alert they sent me(an Indian email address) for this story.

    You saw the stories that dominated the headlines in 2006: the war in Iraq, North Korea’s nuclear tests, and the U.S. midterm elections. But what about the news that remained under the radar? From the Bush administration’s post-Katrina power grab to a growing arms race in Latin America to the new hackable passports, FP delivers the Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2006.

    No mention of the No 1 story on their list??!! That’s a bit weird isn’t it?

  3. Apollo/Nitin,

    There are page links at the bottom for the other 8 items. And if you glance them, those headlines also sound pretty much like the India/Iran nuclear one. Not to be taken too seriously.

    I always thought FP has some good articles – usually human rights, but not always – and it’s surely not like The Nation.

  4. Chandra & Apollo,

    FP is among the few foreign affairs magazine that is fairly accessible for most readers. It also features some good essayists which perhaps contributes to its reputation. Obviously, writing for a general readership requires some simplification, and it may have a liberal editorial slant, but still, I’m surprised how such amateurish stuff got past the editorial board.

  5. As Nitin said, FP is a popular read for the layperson on foreign policy (duh!) issues in the US hence such blatant untruths or half-truths, if you may, are surprising if not amateurish.

  6. Why is the NPT “fatally flawed”? From India’s point of view, yes — the whole have and have-not thing makes no sense, once we consider that one of the haves is our neighbor on the east. But what of the international (or rather, from the US perspective? Then it seems like the NPT has worked well — the only dissenters seem to be India, Pakistan, and Israel (which haven’t signed the treaty) on on hand, and Iran and North Korea on the other. The latter’s activities have been unearthed well before they could actually make weapons — surely that means that the NPT has been successful, no?

    Here’s a thought experiment: if tomorrow, the nuclear haves agreed to amend the treaty, and unanimously vote to make India part of the nuclear club, (and the nuclear have-nots agree) would you think the NPT is less fatally flawed?

    Btw, the FP piece is truly icky!

  7. Shreeharsh,

    Let’s say you are correct. That all the cheats have been caught. That still does not mean it has been successful. The other end of the NPT bargain was supposed to involve disarmament by the weapons states. That didn’t even begin to happen. Still a auccess?

  8. I think India’s new nuclear deal doesn’t make it seem like we’re protesting too much about the nuclear powers not reducing their stockpiles — rather we want to be one of them and not reduce ours (and that makes sense too, in a way). The point isn’t that the NPT is fatally flawed because that depends on one’s point of view, but that it is inherently discriminatory (again, that may or may not be a bad thing, depending on how responsible a nuclear weapon state is perceived to be). India’s joining the nuclear haves wouldn’t change that — it would just put us on the other side of the fence.

    Just for the record, I think, the new India-US deal is a good idea. Our excellent non-proliferation record, our energy needs and just the fact that it’ll be good to subject India’s civilian nuclear facilities to international safety standards — all of it makes a lot of sense; I can see why the US media (the NYT, etc) thinks that the US should have gotten more out of it but on the whole, I think it’s a good deal for the international community as a whole too.

  9. Shreeharsh,

    Thanks for explaining your position.

    Obviously, realism is driving India into a “if you can’t change them, join them” mode. That is the way to go.

    Why I say the treaty is fatally flawed is not because it is “discriminatory”—that it is—but because it is logically inconsistent. There are only two stable states: everyone is nuclear, or no one is nuclear. Every intermediate stage is unstable because of one or another arbitrary reason. But full disarmament is unlikely. So should the world (including India) clutch on to a failing treaty naively believing it will save us, or should we think of some other ways?

  10. Opinionated Indian,

    FP is a very different, American foreign policy oriented magazine. Comparing it to Economist, a news magazine, is like comparing apples and oranges. FP is not even a close substitute for Economist.

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