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

Conclusion: Is It Possible
to Prevent Future Proliferation?

This book has attempted to show that efforts to monitor and limit the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapon programs pose unique challenges not only to the United States but also to the international community. While proliferation (and an intelligence focus on it) is not a new, twentyfirst century phenomenon, the urgency of detecting and correctly understanding clandestine weapon programs, especially nuclear, has increased with the possibility of international terrorists obtaining and using nuclear, chemical, or biological agents or weapons. Consequently, the Intelligence Community and policymakers have had to adjust their thinking about the nature of the threat, the approach that needs to be taken to deal with it, and the likelihood of achieving positive results.

As we have explained in this book, over the past fifty years the United States and international community have had considerable success in slowing down the proliferation of nuclear weapons by nation-states through measures such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, although the cases of India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, and possibly Syria demonstrate that clandestine programs are often not easy to detect and stop. And the challenge posed in understanding the extent of the A. Q. Khan black market nuclear proliferation network demonstrated that the supply of technology and equipment is difficult to track, especially when in the hands of non-state actors. The chemical and biological weapons conventions have undoubtedly contributed to the international effort to harness the proliferation of those weapons, but as we have discussed, the clandestine production of such agents is much less problematic for nation-states than is the clandestine production of nuclear weapons.

However, past accomplishments in identifying and preventing proliferation are no guarantee of future success. Good intelligence, wise policymaking, good cooperation among federal and local law enforcement and intelligence orga-

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