The Corner

The Big Picture

The two reports today–the nuclear deal between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and the Rumsfeld memo on problems with the war on terror–give a true picture of our current dilemma. Over the long term, nuclear proliferation is going to be next to impossible to halt, although we can slow it down. The real solution is regime change. With all these nukes floating around, and legions of terrorists ready to use them, we simply can’t afford to allow rogue regimes to exist. But even regime change can’t preclude an eventual Islamist takeover if there is no real cultural shift in the Middle East. That takes time–more time than we’ve got. The Bush administration is doing the very best it can with a very bad situation. There are lots of folks out there who want to commit mass murder on American soil, and modern technologies of destruction make it difficult to halt them entirely. What a relief that Saddam is gone. How much would he have paid Pakistan (or the North Koreans) for the same sort of nuclear arms deal now being concluded by the Saudis? The shame of it is that the Democrats are doing their best to discredit our one modest success, when the real problem is that we are barely keeping up with the tide of proliferation. Our European allies are sometimes useful go betweens, as in the new agreement with Iran. But that only happened because of the American hammer in the background–made credible by our takeover of Iraq. Ultimately, however, we can’t trust the Iranians not to develop or trade for nukes. The Europeans want stability, and fear their own growing Islamic populations. That makes them helpful mediators at times. But the Europeans know that we are the main targets, so they cannot be trusted to help us in tough situations where only we will pay a price for failure. Over the long term, our situation is very dangerous. But as the administration says, it’s better to be playing offense than defense. If the Democrats come in, expect a series of agreements which, like the Clinton-Carter agreement in Korea, simply provide a cover for a terrible round of proliferation. But no matter who’s in charge, we are in for a “long hard slog.”

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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