March 03, 2006

India Visit: A World Without Law

When the rest of the world looks at Bush's recent visit to India, what they will see is the international version of It's OK If You're A Republican, or at least a good/convenient friend of a Republican.

India hasn't signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and Bush has said that he has no problem with their secret military research facilities as long as they allow inspection of the civilian sites, in fact, they will get access to US nuclear technology and expertise, as well as permission to shop from the US' world-famous weapons catalog. It virtually goes without saying that the over 200,000 Indian protestors, or the unpopularity of this deal with the Indian public, doesn't even enter into the equation.

Iran has signed the NPT, along with additional protocols. They started research on nuclear technology in the 1970's at US urging and have continued it in secret because in spite of following the law, they were restricted by US sanctions (which have extensive reach via chains of corporate ownership) from performing that research which is supposed to be explicitly permitted to all signatories to the NPT. They are now being held to that contract, which they weren't the first to break, with the US government hoping to beat them liberally about the head and shoulders with it. Or possibly start a civil war there.

Now, when I think about countries whose possession of nuclear technology I'm comfortable about, Iran doesn't make the list. OTOH, neither does India, Pakistan, North Korea, China, Israel, Russia or America. I include this country because not only is the US the only government to have ever used a nuclear weapon or to liberally pepper foreign battlefields with depleted uranium, but the US' civilian nuclear program is managed in a criminally negligent, piecemeal and haphazard way, with spent fuel handling merely being the most blatant of grievances.

You could also reasonably point out that Iran doesn't like us. Well, duh. What have they done about it? Anything a) recent or b) official? Exactly. While Dubai, Al Qaida's bankers and a country that recognized the Taliban, gets a pass to run US ports. Can you imagine any version of reality that includes a US administration in this day and age that would allow such a deal to go through if it involved an Iranian state-owned company? Not if you've been awake on and off for the last couple decades.

Though this isn't about liking people. No, I take that back, it's definitely about liking people, even if perhaps it's a toxic way to run things. It's about the way that countries America likes get to do whatever they want with barely a raised eyebrow and the way countries that America doesn't like just can't win. The feelings it generates towards America and the injustices perpetuated many times thereby are exactly the same problems that this country's founders intended to bypass in creating a government of laws, not men.

It creates resentment, hostility, mistrust of authority, disrespect for the law, and sits as an open invitation to those in positions of power to abuse that power.

At some point, participants in the social contract (whether we're talking about countries or individuals) realize that the only big rewards are for currying favor. Some select participants have access to channels of approval, the majority realize that if they keep an appearance of respectability (which establishes legitimacy for the system as a whole) they can get away with minor infractions, and those singled out for active dislike are just screwed. This is no longer a system of law, it's the Elizabethan court (or a high school cafeteria) on a grand scale. It hasn't ever really operated any other way, but philosophically, it's deeply un-American.

Obviously, no one who's powerful in America really gives a damn about any of this. Arguments suggesting that People We're Mad At should be treated by the same standards as people we like are non-starters. Which is too bad. It will not escape the notice of the rest of the world, though we probably won't join the discussion until our own favor loses its primacy. Only the people on the top rung can ignore the ladder.

Posted by natasha at March 3, 2006 03:11 AM | International | Technorati links |

Add France to the not-comfortable list, as well as all the former Soviet satellites, which no doubt have leftover nukes, whether or not they can manufacture more.

Posted by: Scorpio at March 4, 2006 08:40 AM