Thursday, May 12, 2005

Nuclear Illogic

The Bush administration has thrust us into a scenario of nuclear illogic. As shown by the re-emergence of the nuclear programs of Iran and Korea, the pre-emptive action doctrine, used as a deterrence, does not work. For and foreign policy doctrine to work, you must view the problem not only from your our security standpoint, but also the standpoint of your adversary. In this manner, Bush's neo-con pre-emptive doctrine has had several fatal flaws.

First, intelligence must be right. For this doctrine to work as a deterrent against rogue nations, our invasion of Iraq would have had to have produced verifiable WMDs and WMD programs. Our claims of Saddam's programs of WMD have turned out to be a conglomeration of poor intelligence, misleading evidence, and possibly out right lies. From Kim Il Sung's view, even if he does not have WMDs or programs to develop them, the survival of his regime is subject to inept intelligence reports and the whims of Washington policy makers who 'selectively' present evidence. And the susequent rational of 'Saddam was a bad guy,' while true, doesn't affect Pyongyang or Terran's view of the matter. From North Korea's standpoint, there is no incentive to actually remain WMD free. Regardless of actual actions, their survival is in peril.

Second, the pre-emptive doctrine becomes moot once one of these rouge nations is able to produce enough nuclear weapons to actually provide a deterrent of their own. If Pyongyang can develop enough nuclear weapons, the US is no longer able to attack North Korea pre-emptively. We, once again, enter an age of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) d├ętente. The US is unable to invade a country that can hit the US with its nuclear arsenal.

Third, because US forces are tied up in Iraq, the US is not able to pose a substantial threat to Iran or North Korea for the foreseeable future. This, has in turn, given the two rogue nations a window of opportunity to develop nuclear weapons without fear of military intervention. Thus, this speeds up the incentive to develop WMDs while the US is unable to act. From the standpoint of Iran and North Korea, the window of opportunity is open as long as the US is tied up in Iraq. Once the US is able to disengage our forces from Iraq, we will once again become a threat to Iran and North Korea, so they had better develop their arsenals as quickly as possible before pre-emptive action is once again a viable action for the US.

Those who believe in the pre-emptive doctrine argue that it is negligent to wait for someone else to attack us before we attack them (reactive instead of pre-emptive). This is a very meritorious argument. Do we have to wait for Americans to die before we should act? This is not an easy question to answer, either morally or policy wise. Afghanistan was a reactive action after 9/11. Few can argue that our actions there were not merited. The question becomes, would our actions in Afghanistan have been a deterrent to others who may have wished to also inflict harm against us? My argument is that our actions in Afghanistan would have had more of a deterrent affect on the spread of WMDs than our pre-emptive actions in Iraq. We had shown the world that, regardless of direct or indirect involvement, a nation would be held responsible for their actions. If Kim Il Sung knows that if his direct or indirect actions lead to the deaths of Americans, that his regimes destruction is assured, he will be less likely to act then if he has got a 50/50 chance that we will invade regardless of his actions.

In my opinion, the pre-emptive doctrine has made us less safe that a reactive doctrine.

North Koreans Claim to Extract Fuel for Nuclear Weapons

Iran Poised to End Nuclear Activity Freeze

P.S. this is also why Bolton is such a bad choice for the UN. He is already seen as someone who's own world view can lead to skewed fact presentation.

John R. Bolton has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a policy maker should maintain the right to "state his own reading of the intelligence" even when it differs from that of intelligence agencies.

Senate Panel Is Set to Vote on Bolton Nomination Today


Anonymous said...

I'll have a response up for you later this evening. Good post. I agree w/parts, not with others.

Chris P/M

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on this post, per your request. You say that pre-emptive action does not work. I disagree and would point to Saddam, who will never possess nukes. You may not remember, but we discovered after the conclusion of the first Gulf War that he was less than a year away, much closer than anyone suspected at the time. While he was much farther away the second time around, it is hard to argue that the lifting of sanctions was seen by Saddam as vital to his acquisition of said weapons.

As for NoKo, Little Kim has stated that his regime is going forward with its program on numerous ocassions. His ace in the hole is the threat of a ground invasion of South Korea. It is estimated that should the North invade, their army would wipe out one million people easily. This threat exists whether he is in possession of nukes or not. He plays the nuke card hoping to gain favorable treatment when it comes to food and fuel from the US. It worked for him during the 90's, when they promised to suspend their nuke program in exchange for food, fuel and reactors. We gave it to them and they proceeded with their program at a different facility anyway. I guess my main point is that he doesn't fear that our intel might be wrong, otherwise why woul he proclaim to the entire world that he is proceeding with the program?

The other worry is what would prevent these regimes (Iran and NoKo) from passing these weapons to terrorists? Not much in my estimation. That is why the threat of pre-emptive action should never be taken off the table. For another benefit of the policy, I'd point you to Qaddaffi. Why did he suddenly change his ways and give up everything? Saddam was the catalyst for that.

While I agree that preemption should never be the first resort, it has got to be in play. Otherwise, we will be in the untenable position, post 9-11, of pretending that these regimes are complying while they continue on with development and possibly proliferation.

Chris P/M

Anonymous said...

The "was" in the first paragraph should have been "wasn't".

While he was much farther away the second time around, it is hard to argue that the lifting of sanctions wasn't seen by Saddam as vital to his acquisition of said weapons.


Dingo said...

Yes, it is true that Saddam will never have nukes. But what I am trying to explore the doctrine of pre-emption as a deterrent or a catalyst to other rouge nations. True, we have rid ourselves of a threat. I don't disagree that the world is better with Saddam. But, since there were no actual programs to develop WMDs the second go around, what message does that send to Iran/NoKo and how does that affect out national security. Is it a better or worse message to send than the reactive Afghanistan model especially if we don't have the capability to launch a pre-emptive campeign for several years to come?

On your NoKo comments - "We gave it to them and they proceeded with their program at a different facility anyway." This is actually in dispute now as to whether they had restarted the program or not. It turns out quite a bit of the intelligence was suspect (and pointed out by our own expert as such). NoKo could have been in compliance when Bush ended the Clinton treaty. We will probably never know. That is the problem with the Iraq model. Our claims are all now suspect.

"The other worry is what would prevent these regimes (Iran and NoKo) from passing these weapons to terrorists?" - This is a legitimate concern. As for nuclear weapons, I can only say this. Fissile material is extremely traceable. It is like a finger print. If a nuclear or dirty bomb was used on US soil, and it was traced to Iran/NoKo, that would only ensure their destruction with immediate nuclear retaliation.

As for Qaddaffii. Those negotiations started during the Clinton administration. He had later admitted that he said that for brownie points.