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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Preventing Catastrophe is written by two authors who are experienced "Washington hands" and who understand the interplay between intelligence and policymaking. Both have been personally involved, in the United States and overseas, in pursuing national and international measures to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Their extensive experience is evident in this book, which puts the Iraqi WMD issue in proper perspective, explains the challenge of monitoring small clandestine programs, and explains how the effort to prevent terrorist acquisition and use of WMD differs from preventing their acquisition and use by nation states. At the same time, the authors are able to make a complex subject understandable to non-technical experts, making this book a useful teaching tool, especially for those who have little or no knowledge or experience in US national security decision making.

"National intelligence and international inspections are necessary to create confidence that violations of non-proliferation commitments are detected in time to permit appropriate action. Both must be pursued with professionalism and critical minds avoiding poor intelligence or cosmetic inspections. The issues studied thoroughly and with good judgment in this welcome volume by Graham and Hansen were intensely controversial in the case of Iraq but remain central to international counter-proliferation efforts."- Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission

Excerpt

Four and a half decades ago, President John F. Kennedy publicly mused about the possibility that fifteen to twenty-five countries would have nuclear weapons by the 1970s. This did not materialize, and it still has not. That such a worrisome scenario has not yet come to pass, however, provides no assurance that it will not still occur. The proliferation of nuclear or other unconventional weapons is a prime example of a security issue in which the seeds of threatening developments are always present, even though the circumstances that would cause some of those seeds to sprout are unpredictable.

Kennedy's comment should be remembered chiefly for underscoring three truths. First, proliferation of weapons capable of causing mass destruction has long been a matter of high concern and a priority of public policy. For the same reason, it is likely to continue to be a high-profile issue. Second, uncertainty in this subject abounds, and prediction is foolhardy. Kennedy wisely was not venturing a prediction but instead speaking about possibilities. And third, the future, predicted or not, can be shaped through policies, wise or not. The darker possibilities of unchecked nuclear proliferation did not materialize in the 1970s partly because of international efforts at arms control in the 1960s. These included a treaty to ban nuclear testing in the atmosphere, completed during Kennedy's presidency, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed later in the decade.

Public concern and policy deliberations will continue to be focused not only on weapons proliferation itself but also on efforts to reduce the inevitable uncertainty to a minimum and to form more accurate images of foreign programs to develop nuclear and other unconventional weapons. This inevitably will mean a focus on intelligence. Large—often unrealistically large—expectations get placed on intelligence to produce precise pictures of foreign programs. Such pictures are typically difficult to draw, partly because the programs are . . .

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