A Matter of Interpretation

A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION….This is ridiculous. This week’s issue of the Economist quotes Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association about the reasons that the Bush administration has suddenly decided to oppose the verification provisions of the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Kimball says that one of the Bush administration’s reasons is:

  • the worries of Israel and Pakistan, two allies that want to keep the option of adding to their stockpiles….

Matt Yglesias was appropriate appalled: “We scuttled a treaty that will keep bombs out of the hands of terrorists so that Israel and Pakistan (!) can build bigger arsenals?”

But Tom Maguire says the Economist blew it. Here’s how Kimball phrased the administration’s thinking in a column written earlier this month:

  • It also reflects the Bush administration?s insufficient regard for the effect of Israel?s and Pakistan?s unregulated nuclear weapons programs on regional security and nonproliferation objectives.

That looks bad for the Economist. “Insufficient regard” may be a bad thing, but it’s a far cry from opposing verification because you’re actively abetting the desires of Israel and Pakistan to surreptitiously continue building larger nuclear arsenals.

Of course, it’s possible that the Economist wasn’t relying on the piece that Tom quotes. Maybe they actually talked to Kimball and got a further clarification from him. So Matt called Kimball himself, who said the correct interpretation was somewhere between Matt’s and Tom’s ? whatever that means ? and then made matters worse by pointing to yet another article as the “official” ACA take:

  • The concern is that negotiating a verification regime would prolong the talks by years, allowing countries currently producing fissile material without any restraints to continue to do so until a final agreement is reached.

    India and Pakistan are believed still to be churning out fissile material for arms, while the status of Israel?s production activities is unclear.

This is now a third interpretation: the Bush administration’s real concern is that verification would prolong negotiations, and far from torpedoing the treaty, they’re trying to hurry it up. They’d rather get an imperfect treaty in place quickly so that countries like Israel and Pakistan are required to quit producing fissile material immediately.

So what do Daryl Kimball and the ACA really think? Beats me. And since Matt reports that “Kimball seemed to resent being drawn into a blogospheric back-and-forth,” I guess there’s not much point in my calling him to see if I can tease a firm answer out of him. If it were me, I guess I’d want to make sure that people knew what I really thought, but apparently the ACA feels differently. Mighty peculiar.