Countering the Proliferation and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Martel, William C. | Naval War College Review, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview

Countering the Proliferation and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction


Martel, William C., Naval War College Review


Hays, Peter L., Vincent J. Jodoin, and Alan R. van Tassel, eds. Countering the Proliferation and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998. 365pp. $27.49

This book examines the general problem of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), focusing specifically on using military means to counter the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

The central theme that animates this work is the desire to "contribute to the counter proliferation dialogue," addressing what the editors argue is the "most important threat facing the Department of Defense." The term "counterproliferation" emerged in the beginning of the first Clinton administration, when Secretary of Defense Les Aspin organized the counterproliferation initiative (CPI) to create new military capabilities for dealing with WMD. Undoubtedly, the failure of coalition forces during the Persian Gulf War to find Iraqi Scud missiles (in the infamous "Scud hunts")-not to mention the extraordinary failure of international nonproliferation regimes to discern the existence of Iraq's extensive WMD facilities-signaled that the United States must be prepared to deal militarily with WMD in regional conflicts. The consensus is that the failure to produce credible and effective military options for finding and destroying such weapons will have devastating consequences for the U.S. military.

To complicate matters, there is a growing realization that the United States and the international community cannot depend on nonproliferation regimes to prevent states (notably Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Libya) from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The most dangerous scenario is that those regimes might use such weapons against U.S. troops or American cities. Facing this possibility, the Defense Department has organized a program to deal with WMD.

The editors of this volume have collected the ideas of some of the important thinkers on the subject of proliferation. With a foreword by former secretary of defense William Perry, it begins with an examination of the origins of the CPI and proceeds to consider a number of programs and policies that together constitute what is meant by counterproliferation. These descriptive chapters are useful to the extent that the reader can understand the political and bureaucratic forces that have changed how the U.S. defense establishment thinks about the proliferation of WMD, and more importantly, why the United States is developing technical means for finding and destroying such weapons.

The more analytical chapters focus on the implications of proliferation for states and military organizations. For example, the chapter by Brad Roberts examines the policies and mechanisms for preventing states from developing WMD. …

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