Tuesday, September 20, 2005

North Korea Nuclear Agreement Redux

The much touted nuclear agreement with North Korea is very similar to the one that the Clinton Administration reached about ten years ago. The issue that caused the US to break off the earlier agreement, uranium enrichment, is not mentioned explicitly in the new agreement, but according to the US is captured because the new agreement refers to all North Korean nuclear activities.

What appears to have happened is that sometime after the Clinton agreement and the tantrum by the Bush administration, Pakistan's A.Q. Khan dropped by North Korea and offered to sell them uranium enrichment technology, because he wanted a little (or a lot of) extra money. The North Koreans thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and jumped at it. It turned out to be somewhat of a once in a lifetime opportunity, because once the US learned what Khan was up to, they got Pakistan to rein him in, although they closed the barn door after the horse had escaped.

When the Bush administration learned that North Korea had gotten access to enrichment technology they threw a hissy fit, which is not very helpful in diplomacy. They managed to:
-- cancel the agreement, which provided some restraint on North Korea's activities,
--provoke North Korea to withdraw from the NPT, and
--get the IAEA inspectors thrown out.
All of which left us less secure and more in the dark about what the DPRK was doing.

Now we have a proposal, in principle, to get us more or less back where we were several years ago. At least this administration has more or less come to its senses. The DPRK probably never will, but it's better to have one of the parties at the table to be sane. Probably a lot of the progress on the US side been made possible by getting John Bolton out of the State Department, where he managed to sabotage any similar attempt by Colin Powell. Also, I tend to believe the reports that the Chinese threatened to embarrass Bush and blame the US publicly for the failure of the negotiations if we didn't sign on.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another Encounter with Richard Perle

I began working on Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) issues while I was in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), about the same time I began working on Soviet high technology issues. There was no non-proliferation regime for controlling delivery systems of weapons of mass destruction, and Reagan decided to follow up on Carter's first steps towards developing one.

One of the first things we needed was a list of items to be controlled by a missile control regime, and one of the State Department experts on controlling high technology was Bill Root, who was the director of the office in the Economic Bureau that handled COCOM issues, the Coordinating Committee that allowed Western countries to coordinate their exports of high technology items to the Soviet Union. Root's assistant, the deputy director, was Vic Comras. Richard Perle took a strong interest in COCOM issues from his Pentagon roost. He and his staff frequently fought with Root and his staff on COCOM issues, just as he and his staff fought with me and my associates (I was too junior to have a staff) on MTCR issues.

One day I was going over a draft list of controlled items for the MTCR with Bill Root. I think that I had left INR and had been reassigned to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), where I continued to work on MTCR issues. (ACDA was then headed by the Ken Adelman, now an outspoken neo-con. It has since been abolished as a separate agency and folded into the State Department.)

Root was explaining how to make the most effective use of technical specifications, so that manufacturers could understand them, and so that the list actually did what we wanted it to do. While we were talking, he got a phone call from Richard Perle. He suggested that we break for lunch and continue after lunch. When I came back to his office after lunch, his staff told me that he had retired from the State Department. I guess he had had it with Perle. Unfortunately, I continued to cross swords with Perle, his minions and successors for years. I believe that one reason the MTCR is so weak is because Perle wanted it so strong. The Western countries would not accept a regime that was as restrictive as Perle wanted, but because of Perle's pressure within the government, it was impossible for the US Government to reach a reasonable compromise with the Europeans and the Japanese.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

First Encounter with Richard Perle

My first encounter with Richard Perle occurred when he decided to stop cooperation with a little known Austrian institute that promoted US-Soviet cooperation -- the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

I had started working in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) on Latin American nuclear proliferation issues because I had served a tour in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and then returned to work on the Brazil desk in the Department. While I was there, the INR analyst who had handled Soviet scientific and technological matters for years retired, and nobody wanted the portfolio. So, I volunteered to take it. According to the article on IIASA, this must have been around 1983, during the Reagan administration.

Not long after that, Richard Perle, who was then Assistant Secretary of Defense, decided to end US cooperation with IIASA. I can't remember why, but presumably because he saw it as a one way flow of technology to the old Soviet Union. I found out about Perle's move through Bill Salmon, who had been Science Counselor at the American Embassy in Paris, and had returned to Washington to work as a scientific advisor to the 7th floor, where the Secretary of State and the Under Secretaries work. He and I both tried to preserve a US role in IIASA on the basis that it was harmless (which it was) and that the scientific cooperation was useful. However, Perle was too well connected politically within the Reagan Administration for a couple of non-political State Department types to defeat. So, soon the official US connection to IIASA was broken. As far as I remember, there were no interagency meetings about the decision. Nobody at a policy level wanted to take on Perle.

I was disappointed because there was no debate on the merits of the decision. Was there really any technology leaking? Probably a little, but probably technology that did not matter and was of no military assistance to the Soviet Union. But it was something that Perle could show his fellow conservative hard-liners that he had done to be tough on the Soviet Union.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Is Khalilzad the Best US Ambassador for Iraq?

As an American who was in the Foreign Service and whose ancestors lived in the US for several generations, I am usually skeptical of immigrants or first generation Americans who become American foreign affairs officials. Zalmay Khalilzad, the current US Ambassador to Iraq, fits that description. He was born in Afghanistan and has spent much of his career working on Afghan matters, including serving as US Ambassador to Afghanistan before he was Ambassador to Iraq.

There were a number of Soviet emigres who worked on US-Soviet relations in the bad old days of the Cold War. In most cases they were virulently anti-Soviet, which is understandable, since they had hated their native country strongly enough to leave it and come to America. Over the years, a number of wealthy businessmen have paid large political contributions to get an ambassadorial appointment back to the "old country" they came from. That's fine, but can people who leave their own country be objective about the best policies toward it for the US? They should get to know America first, and let their grandchildren work on foreign policy. It's probably okay for them to work in some second-tier role, in academia perhaps, writing articles about foreign policy, or working at the RAND Corporation (as Khalilzad did early on) or some other think tank in a consulting capacity much like at a university. But actually formulating US policy should be left with people who grew up in the US -- for whom there should be no doubt where their loyalties lie. In the old days such newcomers had trouble getting security clearances necessary to work on foreign policy, but it doesn't seem to be a problem today.

Secondly, there are some problems with sending people back to their home countries (or nearby) as representatives of the United States. People there either love them or hate them, but their opinions are often formed not because of the policies they pursue, but because of opinions about them personally in their native lands. Do the Iraqis see Khalilzad as an American or an Afghan? Certainly he speaks for the US, they probably do not see him exactly as they saw John Negroponte, who is of recent Greek ancestry, but at least not an immigrant.

What about Khalilzad's policy recommendations? He had a lot of input on the new Iraqi constitution, but seems to have caved on issues such as the role of Islamic law in the new Iraq and the way women are treated. Is that because it's the best course of action for the US, or is he just used to Islamic law and a subordinate role for women?