Jeffrey LewisThe Economist

Is it just me, or is The Economist suffering some serious cognitive dissonance about the Bush Administration?

A recent editorial–“Don/’t trust, don/’t verify,” (September 2, 2004)–demonstrates the debilitating effect of this ambivalence. Talking about a ban on the production of fissile material (fissban), the editors repeat competing claims with the enthusiasm (and critical analysis) of a elementary school student giving a book report on the Louisana Purchase.

One bit of Bush Administration claptrap is repeated verbatim: A ban on the production of fissile material could not be verified because “the only difference between production of highly-enriched uranium for civilian purposes and for making bombs is one of intent. That is something inspectors cannot be expected to verify–as the current wrangle over Iran/’s true nuclear ambitions shows.”

Silly, Tories. Hence, the phrase fissban. Everybody aggress that non-nuclear weapons states shouldn/’t be allowed to produce fissile material. The President recently made this clear:

I propose a way to close the loophole. The world must create a safe, orderly
system to field civilian nuclear plants without adding to the danger of weapons
proliferation. The world/’s leading nuclear exporters should ensure that states
have reliable access at reasonable cost to fuel for civilian reactors, so long
as those states renounce enrichment and reprocessing
. Enrichment and
reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for
peaceful purposes.
[Emphasis added]

The Economist also notes that the ban would have to exempt enrichment for nuclear submarine propulsion, “something more navies than America/’s have been counting on.” The Economist should have noted that each of those navies (China, France, Russia US, and UK) is also a nuclear weapons state under the NPT, making the problem of intent moot.

In fact, the only other countries remotely interested in someday building nuclear submarines, India and Brazil, are precisely the states we/’d like to accept a verifiable ban on enrichment and reprocessing. Such a ban would enhance international security much more than letting either sail around a couple of rusty of SSNs.