Sunday, March 28, 2010

A US nuclear deal with Pakistan?

Some in the State Department probably believe that by signing a nuclear deal with Pakistan (à la 123), would help to contain the rise of India, like giving the bomb to India would have helped containing China in the 1960'.
Doubtful reasoning!

Document Friday: “Reducing the Psychological Impact of the First Chinese Communist Nuclear Explosion”
National Security Archives
February 5, 2010
by Nate Jones
Despite denials and tepid gestures towards a UN-brokered nuclear compromise, American officials remain concerned that the Islamic of Republic Iran is on the cusp of creating an atomic weapon.  But as this week’s hot doc shows, the United States has been in a similarly precarious situation before.  In 1956 – after years of developing nuclear technology under the guise of peaceful research – the People’s Republic of China announced its intention to develop a nuclear weapon.  According to this declassified State Department doc, “Anticipatory Action Pending Chinese Communist Demonstration of a Nuclear Capability,” US policy makers anticipated a Chinese nuclear detonation as early as 1961.  This explosion, they feared, would “contribute to feeling that communism is the wave of the future and that Communist China is, or soon will become, too powerful to resist.”
While the unease that US policymakers felt towards a nuclear China is not surprising, one “advance action” that high level State Department officials recommended was certainly eyebrow-raising.  State officials considered a plan to encourage nuclear proliferation in Asia so that the “psychological effect” of the imminent Chinese nuclear explosion would be undercut by an earlier, non-communist nuclear test.
Officials as high as the Deputy Secretary suggested that the US should carefully “sound[] out” India on the possibility of a preemptive nuclear test since, “it would be desirable if a friendly Asian power beat Communist China to the punch.”  The memo does pay lip service to such concerns as India’s previous anti-nuclear pronunciations; the dangers and legality of supplying US nuclear intelligence and materials to other countries; adverse international reaction if US actions became know; and that “Pakistan could be expected to react most adversely to an Indian Explosion.”  But despite these concerns, the memo recommended that quiet consultations with the chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission take place.
Secretary of State Dean Rusk vetoed his subordinates’ recommendation.  He wrote that he was “not convinced we should depart from our stated policy that we are opposed to the further extension of national nuc. weapons capability.”  Rusk’s was probably a wise decision, considering the dangers of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. China did test a nuclear bomb in 1964 (US estimates were premature) and did reap substantial psychological gains.  But despite the  psychological power of the A-bomb, we can only hope that no one in today’s State Department is kicking around any ideas about undercutting Iran’s likely nuclear test by preempting it with, say, a Saudi, Syrian, or Iraqi nuclear weapon.  We’ll have to submit the FOIA requests to know for sure.

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