03/07/2007 11:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What I Learned at the Nonproliferation Conference

For the past 36 hours I've been

The following is a short list of what I learned:

Former SecDef William Perry believes that if Iran and North Korea
manage to develop/keep their nukes, "the dam has burst" on the
nonproliferation regime.

2) In April 2006, when Iran announced that they had managed to enrich
uranium at Natanz, there were female dancers at the announcement
holding up vials of the stuff.

3) There was a general consensus that the best way to ensure the
continued tenure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iran's president would be to
bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

4) The best way to induce a lunch coma is to have someone rattle off
the Bush administration's accomplishments on nonproliferation for 45

5) The general consensus was that on nonprolferation, the Bush
administration deserved credit for Libya and for the

6) Despite this assessment, Wesley Clark said someone complained to
him that there was "not enough Bush bashing" at the conference. Of
course, this was before

7) The Clinton people, by the way, count North Korea and the former
Soviet states as successes -- but they also acknowledge that Pakistan
and India were big failures on their watch.

8) At a conference that is open to the public, never, under
any circumstances, call on someone wearing a hat to ask a question.

A final point. Mark Kleiman asks:

What I've heard about Iranian politics, from people that I believe know what they're talking about, is that the Guardian Council is somewhat hostile to Ahmadinejad, who isn't very controllable, and that various important power players within the country are nervous about provoking a confrontation with us and the Israelis. I've also heard that the Guardian Council is both faction-ridden and corrupt. How much would it cost for the anti-Ahmadinejad, non-anti-US politicians in Iran to bribe enough Guardians to get their candidates through the next selection round? I don't know, but I doubt it's any substantial fraction of the cost of keeping a CBG on station for a month.

The problem with this analysis is the assumption that a Rafsanjani is a better option than Ahmadinejad. At this point, I'm not so sure. Most of the conservative clerics want the nuclear program as well -- they're just craftier about it. Paradoxically, Ahmadinejad is such a loon that he makes it easier for the U.S. to organize multilateral action against Iran. If the mullahs replaced him with someone who was cagier, it will be next to impossible to get Russia and China to buy into any further action.