Today's Papers

Shakti Waves

Nuclear proliferation is the story of the day. Pakistan’s possible imminent test of a nuclear bomb leads at USA Today, and the Washington Post, and is also the subject of a Wall Street Journal piece tipped high in the paper’s front-page news box. The confirmation by experts that last week India detonated a hydrogen bomb leads at the New York Times. And the Los Angeles Times goes with the Group of Eight’s struggle to devise a nuclear strategy.

Pakistan’s foreign minister said Sunday that despite appeals from President Clinton and other world leaders, his government has decided to conduct a nuclear test, reports USAT, the NYT and the WSJ. And this is what the USAT and WSJ headlines say. But the papers also report that others in the government say the decision has not been made yet. WP quotes Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who had just left Pakistan, as saying that his delegation left believing the Pakistanis were still undecided. The LAT sums up the situation with its off-lead headline “Pakistan Sends Mixed Signals.” President Clinton is quoted by USAT saying that a Pakistan test is “a nutty way to go.” The G-8 summit refused to follow Clinton’s lead and impose sanctions against India, reports USAT, instead issuing a resolution condemning its nuclear testing. The LAT calls this a “toothless statement.”

Meanwhile, according to USAT and the NYT, India ratcheted the situation with its announcement that its nuclear missile program is all but ready. The Times explains this means the country now has a nuke that can be delivered from a plane, or launched from the ground or the sea. According to Indian scientists, says the NYT, the hydrogen bomb (code-named Shakti-1, from the Hindi word for “power”) they set off is considerably smaller than the largest hydrogen bombs tested by the U.S., Russia and the other established nuclear powers. The Indians say they kept their bomb “small” to avoid damage to nearby populated villages. One Indian scientist quoted by the Times says of larger bombs, “If there is a demand, we will do it.” An American expert tells the paper that Indian claims about having exploded a hydrogen bomb and being able to explode bigger ones is quite believable. The Times says Western experts have known that Pakistan could build an atomic bomb, but aren’t sure about a hydrogen bomb.

As with its reporting on the original Indian announcement of the tests last week, the Times captures the national pride they have inspired, a feeling the paper likens to the way we felt about our original astronauts. Cheers were heard, for instance, on the videotape of last Monday’s blasts.

Sunday’s NYT front ran a Jeff Gerth/David Sanger piece reporting at length on what was suggested in Friday’s Gerth piece on the Chinese/DNC connection: that the Chinese monies paved the way for President Clinton’s approval of the export of satellite technology to China. In today’s Times, USAT and the WP, Clinton is quoted, “All the foreign policy decisions we made were based on what we believed…were in the best interests of the American people.” In his column today, William Safire calls Clinton the “Proliferation President,” arguing that his willingness to export the technology strengthened China’s satellite and missile technology, which scared India into joining the nuclear club, which scared Pakistan, which China can now aid with advanced missile weaponry.

In a WP op-ed, budget analyst Scott Hodge takes a look at the $200 billion highway bill, which, critics claim, is full of gold-plated projects. Actually, argues Hodge, it’s worse than that: it would be far cheaper–less than half the cost–if the entire Interstate Highway System was just gold-plated.

According to information in Sunday’s NYT “Week in Review,” there’s one respect in which India has no peer in the nuclear club: Almost half a billion of its citizens don’t have toilets.