September 26, 2007

Nuclear Proliferation: Warranted or Unwarranted Fear?

This week I decided to explore the web and see what bloggers were talking about in terms of international relations and peace and conflict issues. For obvious reasons, there are quite a few blogs out there dealing with the current problems in Darfur, Congo, and Iraq. However, I decided to investigate an equally important and often ignored topic of nuclear weapons proliferation. While many agree that nuclear weapons should be eradicated, many have stated the importance of nuclear power in developing states. It would provide that state with clean and reliable energy that is less damaging to the environment than coal or fossil fuels. Those strongly opposed to nuclear proliferation argue that by allowing states to build nuclear reactors it also gives them the opportunity to develop nuclear armaments. In the first blog that I encountered “A New NPT” by University of Louisville Political Science Professor, Roger A. Payne, he describes a way to close the nuclear proliferation treaty loophole and would allow states to develop nuclear power plants as long as they agreed to turn over nuclear fuel for reprocessing. This would allow states to build nuclear power plants but it would also prevent states from using the reactors for any other purpose besides peaceful energy production. The second blog I encountered was from a rather different perspective. “France Floats European Nuclear Deterrent” by Monash University PhD student, Marko Beljac, states that France has petitioned Germany to join them in a Franco German nuclear force. German Chancellor Merkel respectfully declined the offer seeing how a nuclear program is considered a bit taboo in Europe. French President Sarkozy, on the other hand, believes that a strong nuclear Europe would give European states more freedom of action in international affairs. Both of these blogs were interesting and thought provoking, which inevitably led me to ask a good deal of questions and truly examine the viability of their proposals and opinions.

I enjoyed reading your blog; I found it interesting and provocative. The NPT has always been a hot topic in the realm of international relations/global politics. As I read your post I was both excited and apprehensive of the new direction the United States is taking towards promoting and encouraging the use of nuclear energy. My positive feelings toward the topic: United States leadership is much needed on this topic and developing countries need to have a clean and reliable power source to fuel development. Especially in countries such as Kazakhstan, Ghana, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Romania, etc; minimizing ecological damage is of the utmost importance. In most developing countries such as China 10 years ago, development was detrimental to the environment and it has proved difficult breaking their oil and coal addiction. If the GNEP can be successful with providing nuclear energy to developing states, they could very well become models for other states in their region. What I find disturbing is the possible impact on geo-politics. States who’s GNP relies heavily on oil exports, may suffer an economical blow due to the dip in demand. To be honest, I was surprised that Kazakhstan, a sate whose economy is in part dependant on oil, would be willing to join the GNEP. Besides the obvious political clashes, I am also concerned with the logistical side of the issue. The fuel that is to be recycled has a potential to be used to make “atomic arms”, given that fact, are the routes for transporting this material be protected? In addition to this, which state is going to supply this security?

I found your topic to be an interesting one. Never, on any occasion, would I consider France to be a major nuclear power house. I am aware of their extensive nuclear power program and their overall condemnation of American weapons stockpiles, but I had no idea that the French would ever want to openly engage in increasing their nuclear arsenal. President Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Kouchner, claim that this increase in nuclear power would give Europe or the EU “greater freedom of action in international affairs”. I have difficulty understanding the rationale behind this theory. If the EU has failed to form a European Security Defense Force, which has been in the works for at least four years, why would they band together under a French nuclear umbrella program? In addition to that as a member of the UN Security Council and NATO, I don’t understand why the French would want to develop nuclear weapons. WWI, WWII, Vietnam, etc have all been instances in which the allies have banded together to support each other in a conflict. I suppose where most of my confusion is coming from is the fact that France has berated the United States for their lackluster disarmament program and yet have decided to proceed with their own armament program. Overall, I found your arguments intriguing and thought provoking. You supported your evidence with links and hypertexts which were added to your post in an aesthetically pleasing manner. I would, however have liked to hear more about the potentially destabilizing effect this weapons program would have on the world and whether or not it would promote neo-colonialism.

September 17, 2007

Darfur: Saving Face or Humanitarian Concern

The Darfur Conflict has been raging on since early 2003, more than 200,000 people have died (a conservative estimate), and the UN has only recently passed a resolution to authorize intervention in the region. The UN and the international community have been neglectful and lethargic at best, dragging their bureaucratic feet. This can be seen as a strong argument for those who believe that the UN is merely trying to save face after its numerous peacekeeping debacles in Somalia and Rwanda; while others are confidant that the UN and the international community are taking action under the flag of humanitarian relief and the delay was due to an antiquated bureaucratic system.

Many international organizations such as the Red Cross, World Health Organization, the World Food Program, etc. are involved in the region and have risked their lives to help the refugees, which is their mandate. However, we cannot rely on these organizations to bring order to the Sudan, that political jurisdiction rests with the international community and the UN. After the ratification of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1951, the UN has a clear mandate and mission to stop genocide. In light of this, what can explain the delay in action? The United States, has often carried most of the tactical burden in these kinds of operations, however, after Somalia, the US has become more cautious and skeptical of UN peacekeeping missions. President Clinton issued Presidential Decision Directive 25, which ultimately stated that the United States would only engage in peacekeeping or peacemaking operations when it is aligned with US national security. This nervousness about UN peacekeeping operations is evident in the Rwandan genocide and the lack of intervention on the part of the US. The Clinton administration even went so far as to not recognize the genocide, instead calling it a civil war. It wasn’t until after the dust had settled that Clinton made a public apology to the Rwandans for his lack of commitment.

While many are quick to point the finger at the UN for its lack of involvement in Darfur, it is important to note that while the UN has mandates to prevent human rights violations and war crimes, among the many international laws they are responsible for keeping, resolutions must be voted on by the Security Council, before any action can be taken. Subsequently, the UN is not outfitted with a tactical force, for that it must rely on member states. Therefore, another question should be posed, why has the Security Council taken so long to pass resolution 1769?

The Darfur conflict could easily be explained by the ongoing civil war that has been ravaging the country since the early 20th century. If this were a case of civil war than the UN would be very tentative about mounting an intervention on the grounds of respecting a state’s sovereignty. However, the US and several human rights groups have labeled the conflict in Darfur as genocide, despite the UN report that denies the occurrence of genocide while recognizing the existence of war crimes. In light of this information, it is clear that the UN has not recognized the conflict as genocide therefore, the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has been hesitant about a call to action. In addition to this, the Security Council, lacking leadership from the United States, thanks to PDD-25, has remained inactive on the issue until recently. The conflict in Darfur has escalated to a boil and has proceeded to spill over its borders into neighboring Chad and the Central African Republic; both of which were French colonies. Chad is also rich in gold and uranium, while the Central African Republic is rich in diamonds and whose trade partners happen to be members of either the Security Council members or G8 states. Given these facts, is it possible that the Security Council is merely acting out of self interest in regards to it’s relationships with Chad and the Central African Republic?

In closing, it is possible to assume that while the UN was placed in the difficult position of differentiating between civil war and genocide, the Security Council members, especially the United States, have failed to follow through with the Genocide Convention. When a state recognizes acts of genocide it is therefore responsible to take action. The United States, however, is impeded by PDD-25. Without proper leadership, the Security Council has demonstrated its ineffectiveness. Nevertheless, resolution 1769 has been passed and the hope of stopping an atrocity is on the horizon.
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