One of the deep ironies of the Clinton years is that an administration full of “denuclearizers” ultimately lost the battle to stop nuclear proliferation. The administration thought that the United States should lead by example. So Clinton policies ensured that the U.S. forfeited the capability to produce some basic components of our nuclear arsenal. To make matters worse, it imposed a unilateral ban on nuclear testing and effectively prohibited research on new nuclear warhead concepts.
The administration also put great stock in arms control. It promoted the ill-conceived Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and worked hard to ensure the renewal of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. When arms control didn’t work, the administration resorted to bribes, as in the case of North Korea, or simply looked the other way, as in the case of China’s strategic nuclear modernization.
However, recent media reports illustrate the utter failure of those policies. While the administration was dismantling our capabilities, our potential adversaries stepped up their own efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Russia, despite all its economic woes, deployed the world’s first mobile strategic nuclear missile. And Clinton diplomats failed to stop South Asia from going nuclear in 1998. Media reports indicated that the administration was even willing to compromise some of our sensitive intelligence capabilities in a vain effort to dissuade India and Pakistan from clandestinely developing such weapons.
The Clinton administration’s failed policies on North Korea have become clear in the past two years. The North Koreans have finally admitted that they have been pursuing a clandestine uranium-enrichment program for several years. Last New Year’s Eve, they kicked U.N. inspectors out and renewed their plutonium production activities. The CIA recently told Capitol Hill that North Korea has developed workable designs for nuclear warheads without resort to “yield-producing nuclear tests.”
As part of the effort to bribe North Korea out of its nuclear program, the Clinton administration agreed to restore and preserve thousands of spent fuel rods. The North Koreans refused to allow the U.S. to move these rods out of the country. It was inevitable that they would eventually use the rods to blackmail the U.S. But now the media never mention that it was the Clinton administration that allowed North Korea to keep enough fuel to produce five nuclear warheads.
Now the media are reporting that Iran is further along in its efforts to develop a nuclear program than previously believed. The U.N. has discovered that the Iranians have successfully concealed programs to produce bomb fuel for years. Ironically, the director of that organization told reporters that this doesn’t mean that Iran is pursuing the development of nuclear weapons, although there are few, if any other uses for this type of material. One U.S. official said that Iran’s denials were “impossible to believe.” What is impossible to believe is the media’s refusal to remind readers that this too is part of the Clinton legacy.