Kissinger speaks

Like him or not, Henry Kissinger is still one of the sharpest knives in the US foreign policy drawers. Today's article in the Washington Post shows he has not lost his edge. Called "A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy," in it Kissinger calls for a "Reagan—Brezhnev" approach to the spread of nukes to Iran, North Korea, and soon, others:

"The world is faced with the nightmarish prospect that nuclear weapons will become a standard part of national armament and wind up in terrorist hands. The negotiations on Korean and Iranian nuclear proliferation mark a watershed. A failed diplomacy would leave us with a choice between the use of force or a world where restraint has been eroded by the inability or unwillingness of countries that have the most to lose to restrain defiant fanatics."

But both North Korea and Iran are stalemated. Kissinger puts this in a larger context:

"An indefinite continuation of the stalemate would amount to a de facto acquiescence by the international community in letting new entrants into the nuclear club. In Asia, it would spell the near—certain addition of South Korea and Japan; in the Middle East, countries such as Turkey, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia could enter the field. In such a world, all significant industrial countries would consider nuclear weapons an indispensable status symbol. Radical elements throughout the Islamic world and elsewhere would gain strength from the successful defiance of the major nuclear powers." ...

"Diplomacy needs a new impetus. As a first step, the United States and its negotiating partners need to agree on how much time is available for negotiations. There seems to be general agreement that Pyongyang is producing enough plutonium for several weapons a year; there is some disagreement about progress in producing actual operational weapons in the absence of testing. Estimates on how close Tehran is to producing its first nuclear weapon range from two to 10 years."

"There are no governments in the world whose replacement by responsible regimes would contribute more to international peace and security than those governing Pyongyang and Tehran. But none of the participants in the existing or foreseeable forums will support a policy explicitly aiming for regime change. Inevitably, a negotiation on nuclear disarmament will involve compensation in security and economic benefits in return for abandonment of nuclear weapons capabilities and is, in that sense, incompatible with regime change.

....The diplomacy appropriate to denuclearization is comparable to the containment policy that helped win the Cold War: no preemptive challenge to the external security of the adversary, but firm resistance to attempts to project its power abroad and reliance on domestic forces to bring about internal change. It was precisely such a nuanced policy that caused President Ronald Reagan to invite Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to a dialogue within weeks of labeling the Soviet Union as the evil empire."

Kissinger does not recommend a directed US opening to the regime in Tehran. That would let the Europeans off the hook, and allow them to stand by sniping at the US while making their own arrangements with Ahmadinejad. Instead, Henry the K recommends a multiparty forum, but unlike the North Korean six—party talks, which are going nowhere, a forum that should have sticks, carrots, and deadlines.

"This could be set up after the passage of the Security Council resolution now under discussion. It would permit elaboration of the one hopeful scheme that has emerged in Iranian diplomacy. Put forward by Russia, it is to move certain enrichment operations out of Iran into Russia, thereby preventing clandestine weaponization. The new, broader forum could be used to establish an international enrichment program applicable to future nuclear technologies to curb the looming specter of unchecked proliferation."

Kissinger's article will be read all over the world. It is worth reading. But it is important to remember that Kissinger presided over the US defeat in Vietnam. His Paris negotiations with North Vietnam only gave the US a temporary face—saving out. It allowed the enemy to draw out endless talks until they were strong enough to take over the South, aided by the US Congress pulling the plug.

But the world was not about to go nuclear in the case of Vietnam. The stakes today are higher, but the enemy is as tough as it was in Vietnam.  My guess is that negotiations will fail, and that they pose the danger of enabling Iran and North Korea to arm themselves as talks drag on.

James Lewis   5 18 06


 

Like him or not, Henry Kissinger is still one of the sharpest knives in the US foreign policy drawers. Today's article in the Washington Post shows he has not lost his edge. Called "A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy," in it Kissinger calls for a "Reagan—Brezhnev" approach to the spread of nukes to Iran, North Korea, and soon, others:

"The world is faced with the nightmarish prospect that nuclear weapons will become a standard part of national armament and wind up in terrorist hands. The negotiations on Korean and Iranian nuclear proliferation mark a watershed. A failed diplomacy would leave us with a choice between the use of force or a world where restraint has been eroded by the inability or unwillingness of countries that have the most to lose to restrain defiant fanatics."

But both North Korea and Iran are stalemated. Kissinger puts this in a larger context:

"An indefinite continuation of the stalemate would amount to a de facto acquiescence by the international community in letting new entrants into the nuclear club. In Asia, it would spell the near—certain addition of South Korea and Japan; in the Middle East, countries such as Turkey, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia could enter the field. In such a world, all significant industrial countries would consider nuclear weapons an indispensable status symbol. Radical elements throughout the Islamic world and elsewhere would gain strength from the successful defiance of the major nuclear powers." ...

"Diplomacy needs a new impetus. As a first step, the United States and its negotiating partners need to agree on how much time is available for negotiations. There seems to be general agreement that Pyongyang is producing enough plutonium for several weapons a year; there is some disagreement about progress in producing actual operational weapons in the absence of testing. Estimates on how close Tehran is to producing its first nuclear weapon range from two to 10 years."

"There are no governments in the world whose replacement by responsible regimes would contribute more to international peace and security than those governing Pyongyang and Tehran. But none of the participants in the existing or foreseeable forums will support a policy explicitly aiming for regime change. Inevitably, a negotiation on nuclear disarmament will involve compensation in security and economic benefits in return for abandonment of nuclear weapons capabilities and is, in that sense, incompatible with regime change.

....The diplomacy appropriate to denuclearization is comparable to the containment policy that helped win the Cold War: no preemptive challenge to the external security of the adversary, but firm resistance to attempts to project its power abroad and reliance on domestic forces to bring about internal change. It was precisely such a nuanced policy that caused President Ronald Reagan to invite Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev to a dialogue within weeks of labeling the Soviet Union as the evil empire."

Kissinger does not recommend a directed US opening to the regime in Tehran. That would let the Europeans off the hook, and allow them to stand by sniping at the US while making their own arrangements with Ahmadinejad. Instead, Henry the K recommends a multiparty forum, but unlike the North Korean six—party talks, which are going nowhere, a forum that should have sticks, carrots, and deadlines.

"This could be set up after the passage of the Security Council resolution now under discussion. It would permit elaboration of the one hopeful scheme that has emerged in Iranian diplomacy. Put forward by Russia, it is to move certain enrichment operations out of Iran into Russia, thereby preventing clandestine weaponization. The new, broader forum could be used to establish an international enrichment program applicable to future nuclear technologies to curb the looming specter of unchecked proliferation."

Kissinger's article will be read all over the world. It is worth reading. But it is important to remember that Kissinger presided over the US defeat in Vietnam. His Paris negotiations with North Vietnam only gave the US a temporary face—saving out. It allowed the enemy to draw out endless talks until they were strong enough to take over the South, aided by the US Congress pulling the plug.

But the world was not about to go nuclear in the case of Vietnam. The stakes today are higher, but the enemy is as tough as it was in Vietnam.  My guess is that negotiations will fail, and that they pose the danger of enabling Iran and North Korea to arm themselves as talks drag on.

James Lewis   5 18 06