AFTER IRAQ ? WHAT TO DO ABOUT WMD PROLIFERATION
WMD proliferation is being driven by several factors.
1) The current state of American superiority in all qualitative and quantitative categories is an incentive for all would-be regional hegemons - China, Franco-German EU bloc, Russia - to proliferate WMD technology to irresponsible state actors like North Korea and Iran. American resources spent containing rogue states cannot be invested in countering the agendas of regional hegemons and makes the help/cooperation of regional great powers all the more valuable to America. A card to garner concessions the way the U.S. sacrificed American interests in bilateral relationships with say France or Japan for the sake of Western unity during the Cold War
2) Technology/knowledge is fungible. The general rise in educational levels, international trade, GDP across the world made proliferation to some extent inevitable. We are often talking about weapons requiring modest educational training to make. Even where highly sophisticated training and equipment is required - as with nuke programs - the road map is clear unlike with the Manhatten project. How long could 1940's level technology been kept secret when the nuclear club has approximately a dozen members ?
3) Until recently, nonproliferation has been, at best, a tertiary concern of the National Security community garnering mostly lip service and third-rate diplomatic complaints. Few costs were imposed on proliferators in the 1990's by the United States - who in fact, were rewarded by a dismantling of COCOM, MFN status, IMF loans, bilateral aid and other goodies. We have given incentives to unfriendly states for undermining our vital interests.
What to do ? The United States cannot exercise omnipotent control over all other nations but it can sensibly elevate NP to a first tier foreign policy concern and impose real and severe costs on both the proliferators and their rogue state customers for their behavior. The certainity of these costs be they economic, diplomatic or military
must become part of the calculations of foreign statesmen. Iraq is useful in this regard as a test case because the fundamental question is - will the Americans go to war over this ? Dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 are a major reason that they have never been used since - that America would use nukes was not something the Soviets considered to be an open question during the Cold War. The Politburo acted on the premise that if they pushed matters to war nuclear weapons would be used and the peace was kept ( albeit with hair-raising close calls but unlike in 1914 we stepped back from the brink)