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Jonathan Power: There Are Many Irans

Let’s exaggerate. Iran has been singled out for persecution over its alleged nuclear bomb making program because in 1979 its Revolutionary Guards took the staff of the U.S. embassy hostage, causing outrage in America with even the esteemed Walter Cronkite ratcheting up the tension, putting up on the screen, as he read the nightly news, the number of days they had been incarcerated. The sitting president, Jimmy Carter, was deposed, tarred with the brush of utter failure. Something of an exaggeration that this was the sole or even the most important factor in building a pro bomb lobby in Iran. Still it has a grain of truth: Iran has been singled out unfairly. The West and Russia are engaged in discriminating against it. Brazil has had a nuclear enrichment program for decades (including a large ultracentrifuge enrichment plant, several laboratory-scale facilities, a reprocessing facility to make plutonium, and a missile program). In the 1980s it built two nuclear devices. Three years ago I asked the chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Brasilia if Washington was worried about Brazil. “Not at all,” he replied. “In the early 1990s Brazil dismantled its nuclear weapons program, and Argentina, its supposed enemy, has done the same.” “But,” I insisted, “Brazil still has its enrichment program and a reprocessing facility”. “We have no worries about Brazil,” he answered. “We see eye to eye.” However, Brazil still resists, in part, the probing eye of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world’s nuclear watchdog. In 1979 the attitude of the Carter administration toward Pakistan, then attempting to build its own bomb, was almost as harsh as is the attitude of the United States toward Iran today. All American military aid was suspended, even though the Taliban were a lurking potential threat. However, when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in December of that year, Carter persuaded Congress to restart a large-scale arms program. For the next decade, in return for Pakistan’s help building up the anti-Soviet mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan (who later went to work for Osama bin Laden), Washington turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s effort to build nuclear weapons.

Frank Spring: National Innovation for a Globalized World

The White House’s National Strategy for Innovation, a white-paper from the National Economic Council and the Office of Science and Technology, was accompanied in September by a speech on innovation from President Obama in Troy, New York. Together, these efforts represent the Obama administration’s first attempt at a unified national innovation policy. This is not the first time an administration has unveiled an innovation policy. President Bush released a more limited plan in April 2004, but the latest effort is unquestionably the most comprehensive. This in itself is encouraging; globally, economic innovation policy is a sprawling issue deserving of thorough treatment. More immediately, though, the new American strategy is grounded in an understanding that innovation is not just a business phenomenon to be encouraged—it is central to the nation’s economic survival in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. If the United States is to compete in the twenty-first century economy, its national innovation policy must be internationally competitive. The administration’s strategy can certainly help the United States gain on its competitors. It focuses on increasing government funding for research and development, making the research and experimentation tax credit permanent, improving the country’s technical infrastructure, and producing a better-educated workforce. It also takes a page from President Bush’s 2004 plan, singling out alternative energy and healthcare information technology for special government attention while placing a new emphasis on advanced vehicle technology. Though its recognition of the importance of the issues is commendable, much of the National Innovation Strategy is simply a retroactive reclassification of existing policies.

THE INDEX—October 2, 2009

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