Why Not Build a Bomb?

James Traub in the New York Times Magazine:

29wwlnThe problem with the N.P.T. is that it legitimates the wrong thing – not just the peaceful use of nuclear energy but the “inalienable right” to produce your own nuclear fuel. The solution, then, is to eliminate, or at least circumscribe, that right. And this is what Washington has spurned. Last year, Kofi Annan’s “high-level panel” on U.N. reform endorsed the Proliferation Security Initiative and suggested that more nations join. It also proposed that the International Atomic Energy Agency would act as “guarantor for the supply of fissile material to civilian nuclear users.” Nations would no longer be able to argue, as Iran now does, that they need to produce their own enriched fuel in order to ensure a steady supply for peaceful purposes. The proposal wouldn’t have stopped the rogue states, but it would have delegitimated them.

The Bush administration apparently accepts the idea; it just doesn’t want to see an international agency empowered to execute it. The White House has proposed that the countries that currently produce nuclear fuel – led, presumably, by the U.S. – band together to guarantee a steady and low-cost supply of uranium enriched for civilian purposes. Neither the Iranians nor other recipients are likely to accept such an arrangement. But maybe there’s something halfway, or a quarter of the way, between the two systems. So far, however, the administration won’t even try.

More here.