The Organized Hypocrisy of the Global Nuclear Order

In one of my articles  published on Pakistan’s rationale against a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty I had commented on the inconsistencies displayed by the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the wake of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal. I maintained that, “the international non-proliferation regime can best be categorized as ‘organized hypocrisy’. Stephen Krasner defines organized hypocrisy as an inherent part of the complex international system where a state’s behavior is inconsistent with the norms and principles it rhetorically endorses. The international system is unpredictable and complex, and the rules and norms of the system constantly clash with a state’s national interests, making it difficult to remain consistent in its behavior. One could argue that if there are inconsistencies in behavior, then as a matter of principle, new rules and norms should be established. But we have observed that in the case of a non-proliferation regime, no new norms have been established over the past several decades to deal with the inconsistencies in behavior; instead, existing norms have been selectively observed.” And that “a critical part of organized hypocrisy has been the development of popular narratives about selective norms of non-proliferation and their inconsistent application in certain cases.”

There are two recent cases in addition to the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal that reaffirm my belief in the organized hypocrisy of the global nuclear order: P5+1 (U.S., Russia, France, U.K., China and Germany) nuclear deal with Iran and the recent U.S.-Vietnam civilian nuclear cooperation accord.

P5+Germany reached an agreement with Iran in November 2013 to temporarily suspend uranium enrichment (above 5%) and neutralize its higher enriched uranium stocks for a six-month relief in “limited, targeted and reversible sanctions” under intrusive monitoring while a more permanent arrangement is worked out to deal with the threats associated with Iran’s nuclear program. While many hailed the interim deal as a diplomatic success, there remain some reservations about the long-term Iranian intentions and the fate of the interim agreement itself as enshrined in the Joint Action Plan which buys the Iranians time to assess the situation and consequences of the interim halt.

While the entire world is waiting to see whether the Iranians will hold their end of the bargain, the USG signs a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Vietnam to sell nuclear fuel for Vietnamese reactors, pending the Congressional ratification. Vietnam initially agreed not to enrich or reprocess spent nuclear fuel domestically however the U.S.-Vietnam agreement does not stop Vietnam from developing its ENR technologies if it wishes to do so later at any given point in time. For now, U.S. finds Vietnam’s ‘political’ commitment to not seek nuclear weapons as a sufficient condition to set aside its ‘gold standard’ for forbidding countries to produce their own nuclear fuel (as it did in the case of a similar agreement with the UAE) and the same it is demanding from Iran if any diplomatic successes are to be achieved post-interim deal. This double standard does not bode well for any anticipated successes with Iran, if the Iranians have their eyes and ears open.

According to Michael Lipson, nuclear non-proliferation regime derives its legitimacy from this organized hypocrisy whereby “actors satisfy contradictory demands from their social and political environment through inconsistent rhetoric and behavior.”

In the absence of such contradiction between rhetoric and action, the regime would collapse and anarchy would prevail. It is in the interest of USG to pick and choose the countries that should benefit from selective proliferation. It is in the interest of USG to develop self-serving narratives so as to benefit from the fruits of nuclear commerce sacrificing non-proliferation norms that it so rhetorically preaches to the rest of the world.

I have got nothing against Vietnam. If the U.S. is willing to ignore Vietnam’s dismal human rights record and the proximity of their planned nuclear power plants to the fault lines and recognize that Vietnam’s energy needs require such cooperation even in the absence of proper infrastructure then yes, by all means, cooperate. But then at the same time also recognize that Pakistan has similar energy needs that need to be fulfilled on urgent basis and Sino-Pak civilian nuclear cooperation in that regard should be accorded the same courtesy and acceptance. I am OK with Pakistan not making it to the flexible ‘case-by-case approach’ that U.S. has adopted. And I would want Pakistan to stop so desperately seeking NSG waiver for nuclear technology trade since it shifts the focus from Pakistan’s legitimate need for nuclear energy electricity generation to making it appear needy for ‘equality’ and ‘status’ especially post Indo-U.S. deal.

In part II of this essay, I will look at how important the two new nuclear power plants (KANUPP II and KANUPP III) will be for Pakistan’s future electricity needs and why it is important to steer clear of self serving narratives generated against Sino-Pak nuclear cooperation.


Image: IIP Photo Archive, Flickr

Posted in , China, Cooperation, Iran, Nonproliferation, NPT, NSG, Nuclear, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, US, Vietnam

Rabia Akhtar

Rabia Akhtar is Director, Centre for Security, Strategy and Policy Research and heads the School of Integrated Social Sciences at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. She is a member of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs. She is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council South Asia Center. Dr. Akhtar holds a PhD in Security Studies from Kansas State University. She has written extensively on South Asian nuclear security and deterrence dynamics. She is the author of the book ‘The Blind Eye: U.S. Non-proliferation Policy Towards Pakistan from Ford to Clinton’. Dr. Akhtar is also the Editor of Pakistan Politico, Pakistan’s first strategic and foreign affairs magazine. She received her Masters in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and her Masters in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University, USA. She is also a Fulbright alumna (2010-2015).

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4 thoughts on “The Organized Hypocrisy of the Global Nuclear Order

  1. Ms. Rabia, Thank you for the insights. I think the whole house of global non-proliferation regime is based on hypocrisy. Ironically, the very first brick to construct this house was warped in hypocrisy (Baruch Plan). Subsequently, different rooms within that house also reflected that hypocrisy one way or another.

    But, as a matter of fact, international politics works on realism where every state only cares about its own interests even at the expense of others. So, if I am not wrong you are talking through the lens of moralistic philosophy and I believe this philosophy has no or a very little role in international power politics.

    Looking forward to read your next post on KANUPP-II and KANUPP-III.

    Best Wishes

  2. Dear Sadiq
    Thank you for your comment. If you have read my writings by now, you would know that I am a hardcore realist. Organized Hypocrisy is just another term used to describe realism and how states operate in the international system. If today Pakistan had the power that U.S. enjoys for example, it probably would act exactly in the same manner to protect its own interests and devise mechanisms whereby only those states would benefit from the system who in turn can benefit Pakistan. The nuclear non-proliferation regime can only survive due to this organized hypocrisy, in the absence of which it will wither away. Therefore I don’t see organized hypocrisy from the lens of moralistic philosophy but believe that it is a true template for realism. It is time for Pakistan to understand the rules of the games. Pakistan is not Katrina Kaif, China is not Aamir Khan and India or the U.S. are not Shakti Kapoor. International politics is devoid of emotions, friendships, villains or love triangles and the sooner we realize it the better off we will be.

  3. Ms. Rabia: thanks very much for correcting me. I am a big fan of your writings, may be this time I misunderstood your piece.

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