As nuclear weapons technology has proliferated in non-western countries, Europe and the United States fulminate against authoritarian regimes viewed as a threat to peace and security. In some cases, like Pakistan, which is responsible for the spread of nuclear technology to the likes of North Korea, the Western Democracies’ policies tread a thin line between reassurance and threat. Now that Islamic fundamentalists have set their own “surge” in motion, our past policy of support for Pakistan’s military control appears to mirror our own misguided support of the Shah of Iran.
The West continues to believe that it can use sanctions and military threat to curb nuclear weapons development in other nations, this despite the complete failure of such policies. In past decades, India developed its own nuclear arsenal, violating every tenet of non-proliferation. Now that India has come under the sway of western-leaning politics, we have forgiven its trespasses and recently agreed to share nuclear technology.
Nuclear proliferation is a fact, and as long as such weapons are viewed as essential to national security, it will continue. With the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, the United States’ nuclear retaliatory capability remains the cornerstone of our ultimate defense and security strategy. Why then, one must ask, does the United States continue to profess shock that other countries with “unfavorable” and unfriendly leadership regimes assertively seek nuclear weapons development?
America has set the example and others are following it; it’s really not complicated. The possession of nuclear weapons is the ultimate “trump” card of military defense; despite the unthinkable risk of world-wide nuclear warfare due to accident or rogue state terrorism, these weapons of mass destruction are considered the greatest deterrent to war or attack. In one sense, they are, but only if the threat to use them is believed. Thus, resoluteness, bellicosity and aggression must accompany the development of nuclear weapons, or such development is not credible. North Korea amply demonstrates this approach in its official declarations, weapons testing and missile firings.
America has forsworn the first use of nuclear weapons, but has not forsworn their use when under attack. Other countries which possess nuclear weapons include England, France, Germany, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and though not publicly admitted, Israel. Nuclear weapons are stealthily housed and transported in submarines, facilitating their use globally. It’s impossible to determine if a “nuke” has fallen into the hands of those outside of national jurisdictions; we can only hope not.
At this point, non-state nuclear threats seem more serious than state threats. When there is no clear enemy to deter or enemy location to threaten, the deterrent value of our nuclear arsenal is reduced to zero. Our efforts need to be focused on maintaining absolute security over weapons and fissile materials, insuring that these materials do not end up in the hands of non-state terrorist organizations.
Ultimately, unless the nuclear powers agree to jointly dismantle and destroy their nuclear weapons, proliferation and the risk of leaked technology will continue. With such an international effort, the development of nuclear weapons technology can over time be squelched. Without such a shift in policy, efforts to curb proliferation will continue to be viewed as hypocritical, self-protective, aggressive and, most importantly, will fail. This will stimulate the very proliferation we officially decry.