May 04, 2003

Classical Arms Controllers versus Counter-Proliferators

Classical Arms Controllers versus Counter-Proliferators

Bill Keller on the debate regarding how best to pursue non (or counter) proliferation efforts.

He makes the point that nuclear pre-emption did not begin with Iraq:

"The idea of nuclear pre-emption did not begin with the Iraq war. Robert Litwak, director of international studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has found five earlier instances when states seriously considered using military force to prevent the spread of unconventional weapons. President Kennedy contemplated a preemptive strike on China's nuclear facilities before its first test explosion in 1964, but decided America could cope with a nuclear China. Israel in 1981 bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, enduring much criticism but setting back Saddam's nuclear program significantly. The 1991 gulf war plan targeted Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs, although it was a secondary motive for the war. President Clinton thought hard about taking out North Korea's nuclear facilities in 1994, but instead managed to negotiate his way out of what advisers feared would be a new Korean war. And U.S. cruise missiles destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in 1998, ostensibly linked to production of nerve gas -- a claim that has been disputed."

And a good description of the two main camps in the debate:

"Opposing the arms controllers is a new and ascendant camp, which asserts that the old constraints have broken down. Against the ineffectual diplomacy of traditional arms control, they offer a relatively coldblooded self-interest and confrontation most fulsomely demonstrated by the invasion of Iraq, although the menu of options includes surgical intervention, blockades, economic sanctions and the purely political muscle of public exposure and brutal candor.

In the nuclear world, traditionalists talk about ''nonproliferation.'' The new school prefers the more muscular term ''counterproliferation,'' which refers to a subset of activities involving the military. It should not surprise you to learn that under President Bush, the White House office responsible for these issues has renamed itself to incorporate the word ''counterproliferation.'' Iraq was the first ''counterproliferation'' war."

The article is worth reading in its entirety.

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