Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thought Experiment - Geopolitics vs acting locally

I'd like to contrast Nuclear proliferation (NP) and Anthropogenic global warming(AGW). For the sake of argument, I am going to assume that AGW (and NP) are bad and they are problems in which one has to think globally. How far can we really get by relying on individual good-will and diplomacy. Like with property crime within a country, it certainly helps if strong religious values exist which reduces theft and that people are well educated on the negative results of crime. However, where moral hazard exists, a system of deterrence is also required to prevent cheating. With both NP and AGW, surely it is not education that is the weakness. The NP Treaty is an excellent tool for reducing NP, but surely the weakness is a lack of a Global system to deter the cheaters. Pretty much any treaty done under the UN has this weakness. Talking about global emmissions targets is like talking about nuclear weapons targets. Without a robust global system of deterrence, we are putting the cart before the horse. Honest countries will be held hostage by cheating ones with nuclear weapons, and selfless carbon misers will mean more resources to exploit for the cheaters. What is happening in Iran is way more urgent than Global Warming :- If we can't keep countries to their promises with Nuclear weapons, what hope do we have for carbon emmission targets.

11 comments:

Dr. Clam said...

I agree completely, and feel a bit cheered up. If we can't create an effective global bureaucracy to enfore the NPT, why should I be afraid of a ruthless global bureaucracy enforcing Son of Kyoto?

Dr. Clam said...

By the way, I've given up Accidental Blogging for Lent, which of course has led me to obey the letter and not the spirit of my resolution by creating a non-anonymous blog elsewhere. :)

Marco said...

Where? I think you're just making that up.

Anonymous said...

Hehe! I've got to leave *something* up to your own initiative, surely...

Klaus Rohde said...

"What is happening in Iran is way more urgent than Global Warming :- If we can't keep countries to their promises with Nuclear weapons, what hope do we have for carbon emmission targets."

Haven't you forgotten the U.S., among others. If we can't keep it to its promises (to reduce and finally get rid of nuclear weapons), what hope do we have.....? Israel of course never has promised anything.Iran: what really is the hard evidence that it intends to develop nuclear weapons? And if it does, highly dangerous but perhaps understandable since it was put on the Axis of Evil and might feel itself threatened like Iraq was earlier. (President Chirac is on record of having said that a few atomic weapons in Iran's hands would not be the end, or something along those lines). There is nothing in any treaty that does not allow the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The way out of the abyss is to apply the treaty to all and stop exploiting and bullying weaker countries.

Marco said...

I am not sure of your point. The US has made no such promises with regard to the NPT. All treaties that the US has signed with regards to nuclear weapons have been applied honourably by them (Other treaties like the UN charter, have not been followed to the letter). Treaties can only be applied to countries that have signed promises to them. For instance, the US cannot be forced to honour a certain level of Carbon emissions because they haven't promised anything. Due to the implausibility of enforcing UN treaties (eg. Iran) Germany nor Canada (for instance) cannot be forced to honour their Kyoto (or son of Kyoto) promises. Who is going to make them?

Klaus Rohde said...

According to the original treaty signed by the Soviet Union, U.S., Britain, France etc., all countries should reduce and finally abolish nuclear weapons. The U.S. has announced that it is developing tactical nuclear weapons for use on the battle field, and it is replacing old nuclear weapons with new ones. On top of this, a so-called nuclear deterrent system involving, among other things, putting up intercontinental missiles around Russia's borders, is established, rightly or wrongly conceived as a threat by Russia with the possibility of starting another arms race. Fairly ominous developments!

If some countries are allowed not to stick to an important treaty such as the NPT because they have not signed it, why does Iran not simply withdraw from it. It seems to me that a treaty like this must be binding to all, whether signatories or not. If mechanisms to enforce this do not exist, they must be established, and they can only be established if the leading powers play a leading role by showing how it is done. Wishful thinking, of course!

Marco said...

re: If some countries are allowed not to stick to an important treaty such as the NPT because they have not signed it, why does Iran not simply withdraw from it.(?)

This is a tactical maneuvre from Iran designed to keep the benefits of being in the NPT (keeping up the pretence that it is not trying to make a bomb buys it time in various negotiations playing believers against non-believers). There are no prizes for being honest in the game of brinksmanship.
Until the UN develops a believable "police" arm to punish treaty-breakers, we are left with a "vigilante" style arm of the US (and others) that intervene to fill the vaccuum which is that aspect of the UN. They are also being the detectives (spy satellites etc.)
I think saying the US should lead by example and reduce arsenals is saying that (not having a functioning police force) that our vigilantes should give up their weapons even in the face of criminals still having them. When crime rates become lessened and strict gun laws are working, we can get our best police to stop carrying weapons so much.

Klaus Rohde said...

Who is the criminal here. I paste in a reply of mine to a comment made by Marco in my blog:

Let's look at the history of the situation in the Middle East and the history of the global policeman who takes it upon himself to set wrongs right, as he (or should I say she) sees them, even if it causes the death of millions. It may give a cue about what is really behind it all.

The Bath Party in Iraq was installed by a coup that overthrew a military government (in his autobiography, the then chief of the CIA considered this to be his greatest achievement). It led to the rise of Saddam Hussein, who attacked Iran with the support of the U.S. (remember the Senate hearing, in which a left-wing British MP was interrogated who had been accused of being a buddy of Saddam Hussein and having received financial support from him for his election campaign. He said that he had met Saddam Hussein three times, as often as Rumsfeld. However, whereas he was there to help the Iraqi people, Rumsfeld was there not only to supply weapons and gas to Iraq but the maps where to use them as well). Mossadeq, a democratically elected conservative prime minister of Iran was overthrown by another CIA inspired coup that led to the empowerment of the Shah and finally to the rise of the Ayatolla Komeini. His crime was that he wanted to nationalize the Iranian oil industry. The Taliban (and indirectly El Quaida) were financed by the CIA to strengthen them in their fight against the Soviets.

Negroponte, now deputy U.S. Secretary of State in charge of Middle East affairs, has a particularly bloody history. He (and others) supervised the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Central America (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala), causing 100,000s of deaths. More recently, the U.S. was involved in a coup against the democratically elected President of Venezuela.

If we go further back and further South, the CIA was directly involved in getting rid of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Chile, installing the notorious Pinochet. Etc.etc.

These are just a few examples, if you want thorough discussions and many more examples, read Noam Chomsky: Hegemony or Survival, or Failed States. If you don't know about him: he is one of the great intellects of our time, Professor at MIT, with one of the highest (if not the highest) citation rates of his work, Jewish (and even a self confessed Zionist of sorts). He is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy and of that of Israel, for that matter.

What sort of gamesmanship is this? Who is the criminal and who the victim? What are the reasons?: obviously they are not to make regimes more democratic, reasons are economic and sheer power policy, more often than not against international law. It is not without reason that the U.S. does not recognize the International Court of Justice. It has openly stated that it would send in the Marines to get out of the Netherlands any American who had been brought before the Court.

It is totally irresponsible to argue that all this is just gamesmanship. We talk here about the future of millions and finally of the world. It is the sort of arguments once fashionable to justify the politics of Hitler, Franco, Mussolini and Stalin.

Marco said...

First of all, I am not making judgements about who is the criminal, victim etc. as you are. I am not being an apologist for any of the US government or citizens future or past misdeeds either. I am only stating my opinions about what I believe is better for the World future as a whole. I am not trivialising mass deaths as a “game” but merely stating that “game theory” is just as relevant where mass deaths are concerned as when one plays chess. A “game” where all “players” are following optimal “strategies” may involve millions of deaths. The “game” has shifted markedly with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Things that made sense then are made to look self-defeating and immoral in retrospect. If “Might is right” in this case, it is just a coincidence. The only country that invests enough in military, and puts its own troops in harms way to follow through on “deterrence”, sure, is also looking after its own interests selfishly. However, I think there is no comparison in the honorability and moral values between the US and Iran, and the former Iraqi regimes etc.

Klaus Rohde said...

I have replied to this in my blog: Klaus Rohde: Science, politics and art (Iraq war casualties and Iran).