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The Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times Paperback – June 5, 2012
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âMohammed ElBaradei is one of the genuinely great leaders of his generation.ââGraham T. Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
As the director of the UNâs International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei played a key role in the most high-stakes conflicts of our time. Contending with the Bush administrationâs assault on Iraq, the nuclear aspirations of North Korea, and the Westâs standoff with Iran, he emerged as a lone independent voice, uniquely credible in the Arab world and the West alike. As questions over Iranâs nuclear capacity continue to fill the media, ElBaradeiâs account is both enlightening and fascinating.
ElBaradei takes us inside the nuclear fray, from behind-the-scenes exchanges in Washington and Baghdad to the streets of Pyongyang and the trail of Pakistani nuclear smugglers. He decries an us-versus-them approach and insists on the necessity of relentless diplomacy. âWe have no other choice,â ElBaradei says. âThe other option is unthinkable.â
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By treaty, every country is entitled to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Assuring the peaceful use of nuclear energy is the IAEA’s specific job. In clear language, ElBaradei simplifies two complex topics: the nuclear fuel cycle itself and the problem of distinguishing between the nuclear energy for peaceful versus non-peaceful purposes. While the processes of conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication are common to both uses, only tedious work by skilled neutral inspectors can differentiate the two.
His title “Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times” signals one of his over-arching themes: There is little to distinguish the ethical behavior of the Nuclear Haves from the Nuclear Wanna-Haves. Neither group can claim the moral high ground. Despite being signatories to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Wanna-Haves (such as Iraq, North Korea, and Iran) have procured illicit materials and engaged in technological development far outside the boundaries of the treaty they have willingly signed. Only when blatantly caught in the act have they admitted their transgressions and promised to mend their ways by allowing IAEA inspection. Sometimes, like North Korea, they just bow out of the NPT entirely, or, like Israel, they never sign it in the first place.
For their part, the Haves (such as the US, UK and Russia) have covertly uncovered these transgressions and intentionally failed to notify the IAEA of their findings. This, too, is far outside the boundaries of the treaty in which they voluntarily participate. Moreover, the Haves often overlook the transgressions of some countries and go berserk over the transgressions of others. And the Haves seem to conveniently forget that the treaty requires their own disarmament.
ElBaradei uses these facts to underscore a second theme: Nuclear weapons grant such enormous military and strategic advantage. It is entirely expected for some small nations, submerged in insecurity and fearing the power of the Haves, to attempt to level the playing field. Even if Wanna-Haves don’t actually procure nuclear capability, their threats to do so can be converted to tangible benefits. The very presence of Haves and Wanna-Haves creates an imbalance, an unholy game of cat and mouse resulting in temporary advantage to one group or the other. Both groups then use self-righteous proclamations and self-serving actions to bolster their internal political landscape.
A third theme that ElBaradei sounds is this: A successful planetary future depends on addressing the root causes of insecurity, giving the IAEA the necessary tools to inspect and report, and holding all players to their commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Since the book was published, the threat of nuclear rouge actors has increased considerably. ElBaradei’s recommendations take on even more urgency.
Readers who dislike multinational endeavors will have little use for ElBaradei’s opinions. Those who see the interconnected nature of our nuclear future and the extraordinarily lethality of nuclear weapons run amok will find much in this book to thoughtfully consider.
My respect to IAEA, and to Dr. El Baradei, has grown orders of magnitude larger after reading the book. Sometimes too elaborate on details, but nevertheless a must read.
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