The Perils of Proliferation: Combating WMD in an Age of Terror

By Burian, Peter | Harvard International Review, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Perils of Proliferation: Combating WMD in an Age of Terror


Burian, Peter, Harvard International Review


Not so many years ago, the international community approached the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as an issue exclusively connected with the activities of states. Non-state actors seemed to have little interest in acquiring or using nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Their capacities to acquire such weapons also appeared to be lacking, if not nonexistent. However, the appearance of well-organized, well-financed, and well-equipped terrorist groups, especially hybrid networks like Al Qaeda, began challenging that perception in the mid-1990s. The troubling revelation of Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear black market in 2004 was one event that put an end to such innocent outlooks. These revelations demonstrate that non-state actors, including terrorist organizations, have easy access to even the most sensitive WMD expertise and hardware. The likely expansion of civilian nuclear programs also provides an opportunity for criminals and terrorists to access fissile and radioactive materials, which they may use to create nuclear weapons or dirty bombs.

The threat of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction is real and growing. The terrorist attacks of the past decade--ranging from massive embassy bombings in East Africa, the indiscriminate bombings of commuter systems in Europe and Asia, the massive terrorist attacks of 9/11, and most recently the use of chlorine gas in attacks in Iraq--all clearly indicate that terrorists will not hesitate to use even the deadliest weapons if they acquire them. Considering the unprecedented growth of terrorist movements, the international community of nations should be aware that it currently finds itself in a race against time. Without further action, the current threat of nuclear proliferation among non-state actors might become a much crueler reality.

Under these circumstances, it is crucial to recognize the importance of the UN Security Council's adoption of Resolution 1540 in 2004, which affirms that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery--as well as illicit trafficking of related materials--constitute a threat to international peace and security. Nations must work toward conquering the many challenges that currently impede full implementation of this resolution through regional, national, and global cooperation.

The adoption of Resolution 1540 was a necessary step toward building a comprehensive global system of prevention and protection against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The resolution establishes binding obligations for all states regarding non-proliferation and creates a subsidiary body of the Security Council--the 1540 Committee--to review relevant measures taken by states to meet these obligations.

Since the adoption of Resolution 1540, there has been significant progress in the implementation of its provisions in various regions. At the same time, there is no room for complacency. More needs to be done, including the development of tools that states may create for themselves, in order to successfully implement all aspects of the resolution. In April 2007, the 1540 Committee submitted a comprehensive report to the Security Council on the work of its first biennium. Among other observations and conclusions, the report identified several important gaps in the implementation of Resolution 1540 in the areas of accountability, physical protection, border controls, law enforcement efforts, and national export and trans-shipment controls. Given these gaps, the report also notes that the internal administrative and technical capacities of many states must be strengthened in order to effectively address the threat of proliferation.

Even those states that have made significant progress in the implementation of Resolution 1540 need to regularly enhance national systems to license export items and control relevant activities, including transit, trans-shipment, or re-export.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Perils of Proliferation: Combating WMD in an Age of Terror
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?