Jeffrey LewisProliferation Security Initiative: Less than Meets the Eye?

Michael Roston makes the case that the Bush Administration is exaggerating the impact of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an effort to encourage states to develop national capabilities to WMD-related shipments. Bush, John Bolton and David Kay have all, Michael argues, have promoted the idea that one PSI interdiction in the Mediterranean, in which a German vessel en route from Malaysia was found carrying components for a uranium enrichment centrifuge factory to Libya, played a crucial role in pressuring Tripoli into coming clean on its WMD-related programs.

Michael points out that the homily is misleading and clearly fabricated after the fact: The interdiction built on efforts that Bush described as occurring “over several years” prior to the PSI (which was about a month old at the time) and, when asked about the connection between PSI and the interdiction, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher demurred on the grounds that the PSI was “a more recent development.”

Perhaps more interesting, Michael entertains the idea “the Libyans made the order for the equipment with some knowledge that it would be intercepted, or even possibly intending such an outcome.” The implication is that a shipment linked to the A.Q. Khan network, once it was intercepted, would entice Washington to stop foot dragging and accelerate negotiations.

I have my doubts, but there is clearly more to the story than the simple morality tale about peace through strength coming out of the White House.