September 30, 2002

WILLIAM SAFIRE WRITES that the Administration is selling out the war on terror for a mess of corporate pottage:

Bush can say that in his 2000 campaign he promised business leaders to lift export controls. But that was before Sept. 11. Now those controls — which worked well for decades against the Soviets — need strengthening, not weakening. Perhaps our National Security Council has been getting pressure from India and Pakistan, each of which wants our missile technology. By accommodating these nuclear powers, we might gain two allies but would make the world more dangerous.

America does not need this dirty business. It amounts to only a few billion dollars in sales, and its military misuse — through copycat “reverse engineering,” a Chinese specialty — costs American taxpayers far more than that to defend against.

There’s something to this — but I should point out that export controls aren’t as simple as this makes it sound. At best, they’re porous, and there’s not much point trying to control technologies that are in widespread civilian use. In a few very advanced areas the United States has a monopoly. In the others, it doesn’t, and there’s much, much less we can do there — especially when other sources of the technology, like France, Germany, and Russia, take an, ahem, more relaxed view toward such matters.

The only really successful non-proliferation effort was the Israeli raid on the Osirak reactor.