Monday, November 16, 2009

T family values

Undersecretary of State for International Security and Arms Control Ellen O. Tauscher shared her perspectives on her current tasks and her career with students and faculty of the Elliott School of International Affairs on November 10 as part of the Elliott School's Distinguished Women in International Affairs event series.

Observing that organizational units in the State Department have "code" letters -- "we even have an M, although he's not a secret agent" -- and that her bureau is known as "T," Undersecretary Tauscher related that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked her to "resurrect the T family."

“T” could do with some resurrection. Under the leadership of John Bolton, famously hostile not only to arms control but also to the United Nations to which he later represented the United States, the bureau was "reorganized." These reorganizations appear to this outside observer to have significantly degraded the U.S. Government's capacity to lead and sustain international cooperation to prevent the spread or use of nuclear weapons.

Secretary Clinton's direction to Undersecretary Tauscher is thus much needed and reflective of the deep engagement and effective leadership both have shown over time on the challenge of nuclear weapons proliferation.

"Resurrection" is an important and complicated word in this context. Then Undersecretary Bolton's "reorganization" was structural -- it continues to constrain the function of the Bureau after his departure. So Undersecretary Tauscher's resurrection should be structural as well, creating new enduring capacity. A very welcome project to those who believe international law can be used to protect national and global security.

There is, however, an asterisk to this formulation in the mind of longtime observers of the organization of the U.S. Government for proliferation prevention. As the head of the "T family,” Undersecretary Tauscher is one of six undersecretaries. In contrast to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs, she has no foreign government “clients” – she represents only the U.S. Government’s commitment to promote international security through diplomacy.

Sometimes the requirements of effective global nonproliferation align with the requirements of strong bilateral relations with U.S. friends and allies. Sometimes this alignment is more difficult to achieve. In this latter class of cases, it is crucial that the requirements of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons have a strong champion, like Undersecretary Tauscher, to ensure that they are not drowned out by a host of bilateral diplomatic concerns, sometimes with significant economic implications.

This is a major challenge, worthy of the talents of a proven leader like Undersecretary Tauscher. But it used to be a little easier.

From 1961 until 1997, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) was legislatively established as independent of the State Department. This meant that whenever conflicts arose among the various Undersecretaries of State, the requirements of prevention of proliferation or use of weapons of mass destruction could be raised by the ACDA director one-on-one with the Secretary and, if necessary, the President. The ACDA director had his (sadly, the ACDA directorship no longer exist for Ellen Tauscher to break the male monopoly) own seat on the National Security Council reflecting the extraordinary danger weapons of mass destruction pose to U.S. national security. In observing that these dangers persist, we should think carefully about the future structure of the U.S. Government to effectively face them.

No comments:

Post a Comment