Mushrooming Sin

  Last week, in response to India’s actions two week earlier, Pakistan became the seventh nation to publicly join the world's most exclusive—and dangerous—club: those nations that have tested nuclear weapons. Events on the Indian subcontinent provoked handwringing and condemnation from around the world, and rightly so. The danger of nuclear war is greater today than at any other time since the Cold War ended. But while we're condemning India and Pakistan, I think we also ought to look at how our own policy—and the response of the American people—may have contributed to this crisis. The South Asian arms race, you see, has its origin in more than regional politics. Part of the blame can be traced to the failure of Americans to demand moral excellence from our leaders. Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, Pakistan and India have been fierce enemies, fighting three wars. Pakistan’s biggest ally since the early 1950s has been China. When I worked in the White House, we used the Pakistanis to open doors to China and to help set up Henry Kissinger's secret trip. Writing in the New Republic, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a professor of government at Harvard, characterized India’s security concerns as "acute." These concerns were highlighted when the Chinese recently transferred weapons technology to Pakistan in contravention of international agreements. These transfers led James Woolsey, Clinton’s former CIA director, to tell the Washington Times that "China had a major hand" in Pakistan’s nuclear program. India, after all, shares borders with both China and Pakistan. It's not surprising that India decided to try to defend itself. But this is where we failed. The U.S. could have taken decisive action against China’s violations of international law that so frightened the Indians, and we could have reassured India that China would not be free to arm India's most feared enemy. Instead, we looked the other way. Our policy toward China has been marked by, as Mehta put it, an "American abdication of any principles." Why have we been so unprincipled? Part of it, sad to say, is greed: the desire to sell to the huge Chinese market. And then there’s a more troubling possibility: China and its agents may have illegally influenced American policy. Democratic fund raiser Johnny Chung has now confessed to giving $100,000 in Chinese military money to President Clinton's reelection campaign. Congress has put together a select committee to investigate a possible connection between campaign contributions and the transfer of sophisticated missile technology to China—technology that also gets to Pakistan. The sad part is that we've heard these allegations for more than a year. Yet, the public—wearing blinders provided by Dow-Jones—seems to think it doesn't make any difference if our foreign policy is being purchased by Beijing. Clearly, this failure to demand accountability didn’t go unnoticed in India. Well, moral indifference has consequences. Those explosions in Asia are reminders of what happens when people don’t hold their leaders accountable for ethical lapses. Private immorality, contrary to what the press and the public seem to think, does have public consequences, and dangerous ones at that. We are learning the hard way that that if we insist on sticking our heads in the sand, both sin—and nuclear clouds—will eventually mushroom.


Chuck Colson


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