Saturday, October 28, 2006

Let's ALL Run With Nuclear Scissors

Graham Allison, an assistant secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, has an op-ed in today's Washington Post. He's trying to get to the right of the Republicans on nuking North Korea.
Having stiffed Bush -- and the world -- in building a nuclear arsenal, testing a long-range missile and testing a nuclear weapon, might Kim now imagine that he could also sell nuclear weapons?

America's challenge is to prevent this act by convincing Kim that he will be held accountable for every nuclear weapon that originates in North Korea. This requires clarity, credibility about our capacity to identify the source of a bomb that explodes in one of our cities (however it is delivered by whomever) and a believable threat to respond.

Kim must be convinced that American nuclear forensics will be able to identify the molecular fingerprint of nuclear material from his Yongbyon reactor. He must feel in his gut the threat that if a nuclear weapon of North Korean origin explodes on American soil or that of a U.S. ally, the United States will retaliate precisely as if North Korea had attacked the United States with a nuclear-armed missile: with an overwhelming response that guarantees this will never happen again.
Within the last two weeks, you could have read essentially the same plan from David Idnatius, Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hanson and George W. Bush. (Although now that a Clintonista has said it, the moderate right realise how dumb it is!)

It’s a new meme. It’s dumb. It is either meaningless red meat for domestic political purposes ("look how Marlboro Man tough we are") or running with nuclear scissors.

Everything I said about the Ignatius version applies to the Allison version. Every variant of what is being called "expanded deterence" perpetuates an uber-right myth that has spread to become “what everyone knows”: that the “axis of evil” - the very countries being watched closest - are the most likely sources for a terrorist nuke, rather than, say, a Pakistan that has successfully played the neocons for every dime and weapon they could while supporting Islamist terror, or the vast and unsecured nuclear resources of the former Soviet Union.

These are where the real threats of a terrorist nuke come from.

So suppose the LeK set off a nuke in Mumbai which is found to contain Pakistani uranium. The Indian government already maintains that Pakistan’s intelligence agency aids islamic terror groups in any case. Pakistan might claim a “rogue element” or deny all knowledge just as it did with the Khan network. If India claimed it’s right to “expanded deterrence” even so and nuked Pakistan’s four biggest cities do you think the Bush administration or any conceivable Republican successor would stand by and say “Fair enough by us, we did warn everyone”? Of course not. That’s just one possible counterexample to prove that the principle of expanded deterrence as put forward by the hawks would not be universal, but instead be claimed as the sole right of the U.S. Its pretty easy to construct more.

If expanded deterrence is the sole preserve of America…well, that’s the huge can of foreign policy worms opened again. Back to PNAC’s American Hegemony with several vengeances. None of the other big nuclear powers will be at all happy, for starters. Russia will undoubtably get very nervous…

Now, suppose an Islamic terror group gets a hold of fissile material for a bomb, or even a complete weapon, from some Russian Mafia blackmarket dealer in Uzbeckistan. They then set it off in Manhattan and a forensic examination determines that the bomb came from…the former Soviet Union. Probably produced in Minsk, Kiev or somesuch. Is the U.S. going to launch a retaliatory strike “with devastating force” on Russia or the Ukraine? Somehow I don’t think so and again its simple to think up other counterexamples.

So just like “for us or against us” and “no distinction between terrorists and the nations that shelter them”, (think Pakistan again), it cannot be a sensible universal policy for even America.

And if you stop to think for a moment, the actual idea behind this plan is idiotic. It is tantamount to saying that if you manufacture a gun that eventually ends up in the hands of a murderer, no matter how that happens, we will come round to your house and machinegun your whole family. Try getting that “expanded deterrence” past the NRA!

Such a policy would make the U.S. a "rogue state" all on its lonesome, and would ensure the rest of the world would begin to wonder exactly what it should do about the madmen in charge of the sole superpower.

No comments: