Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Memo to Congress: Do your job and pass the US-India nuclear deal

July 22 may soon go down as the day the world shifted. Even if I am being overly dramatic, yesterday was a very good day; it was the day India effectively ratified the nuclear deal with the United States. Now it's up to Congress to do its part; sadly, it only seems determined to justify its abysmal approval ratings.

The reasons for the deal should be self-evident, but the editors of the Washington Post do an excellent job of spelling it out (emphasis added):
U.S. nuclear cooperation with India ceased when India, which had refused to sign the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, exploded a nuclear "device" in 1974. The sanctions were intended to show India, and the world, that there was a price to be paid for flouting the treaty. Times change, though, and the Bush administration's logic is that the benefits of a "strategic partnership" with
India outweigh the risks of waiving the old rules. If booming India uses more nuclear energy, it will emit less in greenhouse gases. Unlike Pakistan, India has developed its nuclear arsenal without leaking materials or know-how to others. Perhaps the fact that India is a democracy that shares not only values but interests -- checking China, fighting Islamist terrorism -- with the United States matters more than its signature on a treaty. It's a bet worth making, especially since the agreement creates more international supervision of India's nuclear fuel cycle than there would be without it.

The deal requires Congressional approval after being "in session continuously for 30 days." This being Congress, though, August recess, partisan politics, fear of anything supported by the Bush Administration, mindless protectionism that treats India and Communist China as identical evil twins could bring the whole thing crashing down (to say nothing of the "engagement" folly of never doing anything to upset Beijing).

I know it's far easier politically to attack this Administration than to defend it - especially on foreign policy - but it would be far better to save criticism of the President for matters where it is justified (say, North Korea - BBC and the Washington Times). On this issue, by contrast, Bush et al have shown vision, foresight, and a keen understanding of American interests.

There is no better time to make it clear to Beijing that the free world will not fall for its divide-and-conquer strategy that subdues the barbarians of old. It is easy to rail against unsafe exports (Times of London), Communist persecution (Epoch Times), or even the upcoming propaganda exercise known as the Olympic Games (BBC, CBC, and the Epoch Times). It is far harder to put American credibility and power on the line by building anti-Communist alliances and holding the free world together. For American anti-Communists, this is the acid test.

If Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are serious about building America's image around the world, they will understand that cementing a deal with one of the most pro-American nations on Earth is more important than a little extra vacation. If they're serious about the threat from Beijing, they'll realize that this deal is more important than keeping Congress out of session in supposed deference to Barack Obama.

As for the rest of us, we have to watch Congress closely. Pelosi likes to call herself a leading critic of the Communist regime - and until her ascension to Speaker, she earned that right. However, if she lets this deal go down, she and the party she leads will forfeit those claims.

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