Competing Western Strategies against the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Comparing the United States to a Close Ally

By David A. Copper | Go to book overview

Introduction

In a hasty bid to retaliate for the American bombing of Tripoli in 1986, Libya launched a missile strike against a remote U.S. Coast Guard station on the Italian island of Lampedusa. This attack remains the first and only case of outside aggression against the military forces of a NATO country on NATO territory. Fortunately, because Libya only had obsolete, early-generation SCUDs (limited in range, inaccurate, and armed solely with conventional munitions), the missiles fell harmlessly into the sea, leaving the incident as a largely forgotten footnote to the last chapter of the Cold War epoch. Almost farcical in itself, Libya's hapless attack nonetheless was a harbinger of what would soon emerge as a dominant Western security concern: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery.

Today the catastrophic potential for such attacks is becoming increasingly grave. A burgeoning number of hostile states are currently striving to acquire the capacity to deliver mass destruction. The botched Libyan retaliation occurred in a world that was preoccupied by East-West tensions. In this context relatively little attention at the time was given to proliferation threats. The marginal energies expended on the problem tended to focus narrowly on nuclear weapons, with scant thought directed toward chemical and biological weapons (CBW) and

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