Detecting Danger

By Park, John | Harvard International Review, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Detecting Danger


Park, John, Harvard International Review


In a prescient Foreign Affairs article published in 1961, Fred Charles Ikle succinctly asked, "After Detection--What?" In doing so, Ikle, who would soon be appointed to the directorship of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, highlighted what would become one of the fundamental and much neglected aspects of the international nonproliferation regime--that of detection. Today, that deceptively simple and direct question is more pertinent than ever before when evaluating dilemmas faced by the nonproliferation regime.

Then, as now, a disproportionate amount of attention was lavished on the technical attributes of detection, which came to dominate not only the domestic debate, but also the international one. Focusing almost solely on detecting breaches of nuclear agreements or treaties, however, is not a sufficient undertaking. As Lawrence Scheinman and William Potter emphasize ("The Nuclear Conundrum," Winter 2005) a critical factor must be "an awareness of the interrelated nature of political leadership, robust verification safeguards, and strong institutional arrangements."

To adapt to potential violators, it is important to harness the synergies derived from combining the above tools. Implicit to this task is realizing that the risk of detection by itself will not deter a potential violation. From a violator's perspective, the deterrence calculus will be conducted according to what will be gained from the breach as opposed to what will be lost.

Even in the face of severe sanctions on their vulnerable economies, India and Pakistan deemed such punitive measures to be acceptable. …

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