Michael KreponMea Culpa

Deepti Choubey has taken issue with my characterization of the 2010 NPT Rev Con as a “lowest common denominator success.” Upon reflection, and after comparing the 2010 final document with the 1995 and 2000 final documents, I think she’s right: I should have been more positive about the text, and the hard work of those who tried to make it as good as it could be. We now have a fairly comprehensive set of benchmarks for NWS and NNWS. The work program produced by the Rev Con delegates is not as complete or as demanding as those produced by the Carnegie Endowment, the Blix Commission or the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Commission. Like the aforementioned commissions, the NPT Rev Con final document couches its work program in terms of what countries ought to do. Prodding is not to be confused with enforcement. But the particulars of standard setting are necessary, and the 2010 Rev Con deserves a better review than the one I initially wrote.


  1. MKS

    “the 2010 Rev Con deserves a better review than the one I initially wrote.”

    No it doesn’t, you were right the first time. And the outcome of NPT RevCon shows why the argument that New START was meant to get momentum for nonprolif efforts is bankrupt.

  2. shaheen

    As someone whose “hard work” in NYC you gracefully acknowledge (though my own contribution was minor), I believe that there is in fact no need for a mea culpa from you, and that your first post was spot on. Simply put: leaving aside the magic 2012 date for a (hypothetical) conference on a MEWMDFZ, is there any new, significant, concrete commitment on any of the three pillars in the final document? I do not believe so. Maybe an addition of not so new, barely significant, and hardly concrete ones…
    So far I stand by the “lowest common denominator” interpretation. The real value of the document is its structure: the mere fact that there are action plans on the three pillars amounts to a rebalancing of the regime.
    But the RevCon was another opportunity to witness the limitations of consensus diplomacy at 190.
    Tell me where I’m wrong.

  3. VS (History)

    Mr. Krepon, your integrity is commendable.

    I’m one of the delegates at the RevCon, one who didn’t have much say in things and who is not all that excited with the final outcome.

    But I agree that the Final Document is not just the lower common denominator. Through weird and convoluted twists and turns it managed to go further than “business as usual”. Some excerpts are disappointingly skewed due to diplomatic mumbo-jumbo, like the part of the action plan talking about Nuclear Testing. It could have been much simpler and factually and politically correct.

    In all, however, at a time of much greater discord and turmoil among NPT states-parties than in 2000 and 1995, getting all these 189 countries to refrain from blocking such a lengthy, triple (or quadruple if we count the Middle East part separately) action plan and also get them to live with the extensive text of the Review part was a great feat. At least it shows that people want to believe that this Treaty and its regime still have a role to play in international affairs.

    On many of the agreed actions, we can build upon. A few might create trouble rather than help in the way they were meant to, but that’s always the case with documents of this sort.

  4. Nick (History)

    The nuclear weapons free ME was rejected by Israel and General Jones said right after this latest NPT accord that we will not push countries to attend the 2012 meeting.

    So all the jostling with Jones and the rest of the WH team and the Egyptian delegates was a waste of time.

  5. FSB

    Comparison with 1995 and 2000 documents is hardly a way to get an objective assessment of success, when the entire treaty is designed to proliferate dual use nuclear technology and knowledge to NNWS. It is highly dated — why do we want to give nuclear tech to developing nations when even we can’t handle the waste, safety and security issues, not to mention the limited fuel supply? We might as well teach developing nations how to make cars with large tailfins, or landline phones.

  6. VS (History)


    I don’t think that Egyptians & Co. really thought that Israel would participate in such a Conference and then, who knows, might even be convinced by the statements delivered there to disarm. They expected that Israel would react exactly the way it does, and that such an action would further expose and isolate Israel. Big deal you might say, but what else are they to do? Wage war? They play with what they have, diplomacy, and in this case they played their cards well and they had a success. Kudos to them. They didn’t waste any time there. Others, i.e. the US, conceded this but gained other things from this RevCon. No one from the 30 so countries with vested interests in this field wasted their time there.

  7. Tosk59 (History)

    I’d tend to concur with your first assessment. Of course, whichever it was the U.S. immediately vitiated the agreement by providing a terrible example… i.e. countries countries can pick and choose which parts of the agreement they would like to pay attention to!