Preventing Catastrophe: The Use and Misuse of Intelligence in Efforts to Halt the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Thomas Graham Jr.; Keith A. Hansen | Go to book overview

Postscript: What If the
International Community Fails
to Prevent Further Proliferation?

Because past achievements in preventing and reversing proliferation do not guarantee future success, especially with regard to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and terrorists, this discussion would not be complete if the serious implications of failing to monitor and limit proliferation in the future were not addressed.

The United States and the international community have not been entirely successful in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are the most obvious examples. Unfortunately, more countries likely will attempt to enter the nuclear club.

Arguably because of its history as the target of nuclear weapons, Japan has resisted the urge to become a nuclear weapon power to counter North Korea. However, an overt, unconstrained North Korean nuclear arsenal likely would cause Japan to put these inhibitions aside and proceed to develop nuclear weapons, which it is capable of doing quickly. That development would lead promptly to a nuclear-armed South Korea and conceivably to nuclear weapons in Taiwan. And Iran appears determined to join the rank of countries that possess nuclear weapons. An overt Iranian nuclear weapon capability likely would lead to similar programs in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps Syria. Such developments would deal a body blow to the international effort to restrain nuclear weapon proliferation among nation-states and would increase the risk of nuclear weapons, or at least fissile material, getting into the hands of terrorists.

In May 2008, the IAEA reported that at least forty countries, including several in the Middle East such as Egypt, Kuwait, Yemen, and Algeria, had approached the agency to signal their interest in nuclear power. Moreover, a half-dozen or so countries indicated their intention to enrich or reprocess nuclear fuel, which, as we explained, provides a latent ability to covertly develop nuclear weapons.

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