Robert Farley says that the more we understand about Israel’s recent air strikes in Syria, the more it looks like Bush and co. have succeeded in killing the Non-Proliferation Treaty:
The strike, and especially the apparent acquiesence of the United States in its planning and execution, means that the NPT is pretty much a dead letter. The treaty has always been open to charges of unfairness, since it legitimized the nuclear programs of a select number of states while delegitimizing similar programs in other states. This was a deal worth upholding, based on the principle that fewer nuclear states is better than more nuclear states. The deal also ensured that signatories would have the capability to engage in peaceful nuclear activity, some of which is indistiguishable from the opening steps of a long term weapons program. American complicity in this strike means that the deal is as good as dead, and has been replaced by a de facto arrangement in which states that the US approves of are allowed to have nuclear power, while states we dislike get airstrikes. I think this is a tragedy; the NPT has, in my view, worked to minimize the spread of nuclear weapons across the international system through a combination of moral suasion and legal inspection for the last forty years. It only works if the states involved agree that it’s legitimate and of some benefit to all; as I said before, that concept is pretty much dead now. Combine this with the recent nuclear deal with India, and I’d have to say that the Bush administration’s effort to kill a legal cornerstone of international stability have been remarkably successful.
The upshot of this is going to be more nuclear proliferation over the long run. Iraq was the neocons’ big chance to show that the approach to WMD policy they prefer — basically an ad hoc regime enforced by American military power and undergirded by nothing more principled than American whim — was workable. To make it work, they needed to show that we could successful topple a regime we didn’t like and replace it with one we liked better cheaply and easily enough to make it credible that we’d go and do it again. But it failed. The low-cost airstrike approach isn’t going to succeed against any kind of determined adversary, and the more we act like a rogue superpower the harder it will be to get our way.