Beginning of a Dangerous Era of Nuclear Proliferation

"Real security against weapons of mass destruction requires all relevant states and individuals to enforce vigorously the treaties, rules, laws, and procedures that have been established to outlaw chemical and biological weapons and to contain, and ultimately eliminate the threats posed by nuclear arsenals. ...Yet the administration does not seem to recognize that it is easier to make others comply with their commitments if you comply with yours, both within treaties and across them. The United States does not, in fact, comply with important commitments it has made under the NPT, such as the promise to move toward giving up its weapons, and Washington clearly has no intention of doing so."

George Perkovich, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2003.

Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) can be divided into three categories - biological, chemical and nuclear. Whereas chemical and biological weapons are legally prohibited under international law, it is nuclear weapons that are of major concern in being the ultimate in terms of mass destruction.

The world community realized this, and established a regime under the United Nations Organization called Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968, extending it indefinitely in 1995. It was assumed that the world would be more secure if proliferation did not extend beyond the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, France and China, which possessed nuclear weapons at the time of NPT's creation. However, a vast majority felt that "total elimination of nuclear weapons is the only absolute guarantee against [their] use" and enshrined this conviction in Article VI of the treaty. Thus, in order to persuade the rest of the world to give up any future acquisition, the five nuclear possessors promised to give up their own, eventually.

In the meantime, five other states have acquired nuclear weapons: India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and perhaps, eventually, North Korea. The first three never signed on to the treaty and, for varied reasons, their case is now considered akin to that of the five original possessors. South Africa, however, gave up its pursuit of nuclear weapons when Nelson Mandela came to power at the end of apartheid. North Korea, which signed the NPT in 1985, has been caught twice escaping its obligations, and is now trying to cut a new deal.

Other nations suspected of possessing nuclear weapons, or creating programs include Argentina, Brazil, South Korea, and Taiwan, all of whom ceased their programs, while Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine gave theirs up upon the Soviet Union's dissolution. 

Iraq's nuclear facility was clandestinely attacked by Israel, with any remnants dismantled as a result of the first Gulf War. In recent inspections ordered by the U.N. Security Council, Mohamed El Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed Iraq's non-possession; as well as clarified the accusation that Iraq was acquiring uranium from Niger, stating that it was based on forged documents. 

Most analysts agree that the arms control regime has worked better and longer than expected. All that is needed is to strengthen it to better handle new circumstances and challenges.

But hardcore right-wing advocates within the administration of President George W. Bush have rejected this basic premise, concluding that "traditional nonproliferation has failed," and have embarked on a radically different course of dividing the world into "good guys" and "bad guys."

"Good guys" should be left free of nuclear constraints. It is only "bad guys" or "evil regimes" that, according to its definition, should be preemptively subjected to military action to counter "the world's most destructive technologies." The policy advocated is a fundamentally flawed idea that momentarily designates three countries as an "axis of evil"- Iraq, North Korea and Iran; and is based on a strategy of preemption with an emphasis on force, coercion and selective enforcement as its tools of national policy.

Perkovich, cited above, says: "The radicals' concern for enforcement, therefore, suffers from triple selectivity. It deems some states' nuclear weapons good, while others' are bad. It selects one treaty, the NPT, for enforcement while dismissing others. And it selects some provisions of the NPT- the constraints on others - for enforcement. Such selectivity mocks the equitable rule of law and engenders apathy and resistance from other states that makes stopping WMD proliferation even harder than it would otherwise be." It concludes that the "White House['s] radical new strategy for handling weapons of mass destruction will reduce international cooperation, not increase it." 

Indeed, the contradictions in U.S. policy are clearly demonstrable in its actions against Iraq versus North Korea. Presently, it has launched an unparalleled war on Iraq, and despite tremendous efforts to implicate the country, no evidence for possession of any WMD has been produced. (Hans Blix, chief of inspectors needed more time to completely rule it out: so far in the war nothing has been found, and Iraqis would consider themselves off limits to inspections just as the invaders have no compunctions in this regard).

This, while the same criteria does not apply to North Korea. Not only has North Korea thrown out weapons inspectors in defiance of its U.N. agreements, but it has also revealed that it is taking up building nuclear weapons. The irony cannot be missed. North Korea has been involved in everything the U.S. administration accuses Iraq of doing, and more. Yet, the U.S. will rather negotiate with North Korea more than saber rattle. It is a clear case of hypocrisy and double standards, indicating that the U.S. nefarious, hegemonic intentions.

An often made argument is that Saddam Hussain had a history of using WMD and invading neighboring countries. But the U.S. supplied those chemical and biological weapons when they were used during Iraq's war with Iran, and, internally, on Kurds. And although Saddam's culpability cannot be condoned, there was no moral outrage whatsoever expressed by the U.S. against Hussain at the time. And now, all his neighbors, except Israel, are opposed to this war because they know the sanctions imposed on Iraq have crippled its population, while relentless air strikes over the last 11 years had a devastating effect on its defenses.

This is admitted in a report given by the U.S. National Security Council that a "major difference between the two countries is that a military strike against North Korea is difficult to entertain. Leaving aside nuclear weapons, Pyongyang has a million-strong army and enough artillery to destroy the southern capital of Seoul in the opening minutes of any battle." And, incidentally, the same may happen to the U.S. army stationed there, as well as to all else in that vicinity. Any veneer of credibility of pronouncements against Iraq by the U.S. administration is thus shredded.

Several conclusions could be drawn from Washington's fixation on Iraq. First of all, because it is Arab/Muslim country, which it now sees as its main focus of attention. Muslim lands not only occupy an important strategic area, but also have vast reservoirs of oil; and the U.S. wants to maintain its hold on them in perpetuity as an "unsurpassed" global power. And in this ambition it is aligned with Israel as its regional surrogate, which is very much apparent in the close nexus between Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in their Middle East policies (including the existing brutalities on Palestinians).

And there is another more dangerous message for the world at large. It is that in the era of the Bush foreign policy of preemption, the only way to exist honorably is to have The Bomb. Because, if a "first strike" option is exercised, the U.S. will need to consider the enemy's capabilities before it launches an attack. If that enemy has a well-organized army and is capable of nuclear deterrence, only then will preemption by the United States will be deterred.

Thus, the legacy of the Bush administration will be the rapid spread of nuclear weaponry to all corners of this emerging world. The irony is that this will be initiated by a U.S. president who has the lust for unfettered unilateral domination, and has repeatedly vowed that he would use American might to curtail the spread of WMD to potential rivals.

Again, Perkovich writes: "So long as some states are allowed to possess nuclear weapons legitimately and derive the benefits that flow from them, then other states in the system will want them too - including, perhaps, the successors to the governments the Bush administration currently opposes. The proliferation threat thus stems from the existence and possession of nuclear weapons and theft-prone materials, not merely from the intentions of today's 'axis of evil.'"

The question is what will be the U.S. response when it is challenged by several nations at once? Would America back down, or trigger a nuclear holocaust? Many feel the current U.S. administration has crossed the Rubicon in its search for enemies, and that matters can no longer be reversed - unless Bush retreats to the "humble" foreign policy he promised his nation before his election. 

Siraj Islam Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and freelance journalist.

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Older Comments:
Surely, Allah's plans are the best of plans. We have al-Quran and ah-Hadith informing us of Allah's plans - as well as perhaps having that sort of information available to us in previous teachings.

So why should we attempt to formulate the more dangerous sorts of plans - for example, plans for initiating wars - when Allah's plans are always best? It is not as if we humans have no way of knowing what Allah (who is unequaled and without partner) has planned for much of our world (and perhaps for some of our next world).

My thinking is that perhaps we should try to prepare at least two relatively separated empires or collections of states, governed by persons who profess to serve the cause of Allah (who has no son and is incomparable). The idea would be to prepare both of these two factions for service to Allah, under the direction of Isa (pbuh), potentially if necessary as armed forces.

The idea would be (specifically) NOT to unite them with one another - in order to (hopefully)deny Dajjal the control of both of them through formal union. The idea would be instead to wait until they were united by Isa (pbuh) - according to Prophecy - Insha'Allah.

As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.

I can't help but feel that although the Bush administration is saying that the war is ending - it is really just beginning. It makes me sick to see such an involvement of the US in Iraq, with regards to who will run the country. Also how can the US "award" a company a contract to rebuild Iraq (ie Bechtel). Should this be for the Iraqi people to decide. If Bush's real intention was to liberate the Iraqi people in order to have some say in the government they he should listen to the Iraqi people and not impose his underlying intentions on them.

Allah/God is Most Loving, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving. Calm down. He doesn't need you to do his work with anger in your heart. The word Muslim means obedient slave to Allah. Let me remind you that America is full of obedient slaves to Allah. We are called, Believers. We here, since we speak English, do not refer to Him as Allah, we call Him God. God created the heavens and the earth in six periods of time. God breathed breath into Adam and made Eve from his rib. We here in America love God/Allah too. Granted, most people in America don't know what the foreign Name, Allah means. It all breaks down to a language barrier. What do you think,"God bless America", means? We just happen to pray in the name of the Messiah, Isa (Jesus). See Surah 3:55 Qu'ran.

I noticed that the Ph.D. that wrote this story gave his personal opinion throughout it. I would also like to take that liberty and give some of my own personal opinions.

America is a wonderful country. You, no matter who you are, could come here and if you put your hand out people will shake it and introduce themselves. I believe that Allah has used our Country to answer the MILLIONS of prayers prayed by Afganistani and Iraqi Believers. The Taliban and Mr. Hussein brought this on themselves. What happens when evil people say they speak in the Name of Allah? Saddam had his whole country say prayers for him. He then continued to live a life of pure evil. What did he expect that Allah would do? See Surah 3:56 Qu'ran.

WMD? Yes, having them is a great responsiblity. Are there easy answers for the world right now? I suppose not. I do know that God is all loving, merciful, and forgiving and he requires us as individuals to love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength. And we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. He requires us to forgive so that He will forgive us of our sins. What right do we have to hold grudges against others when Allah himself is quick to forgive when we repent?

a salaam u leikum my brothers sister
i feel so mutch anger if i see what i have seen
on tv i can't see how my brothers and sisters get murder against bush his dog's and blair his dog's i'm so mad because i'm a muslim and if i had the power like our big arabic leader then i speak to all the muslim's there are 1.6bilion muslim's iin the universe and i'm sure that every muslim wil stand up against the devils ore evil but i'm surprise that the arabic country's did nothing why you keep leting them its a shame because there only thinking on his own bisnes and money let me tell you something money or fame or anithing if the day come when you wil buried in the ground you wil only take your soul's and spirit and then you people ho has not standing up against these dog's evil's ho only want to steel the oil from the muslim world they wil be punish by ore creator and master and they wil be judge on judgement day because whe only here for 1day you maybe ritch or famous it wil not take it whit your soul and spirit and whe have to stand up against that so cal powerfull state they are not powerfull whe muslim's are the most powerfull people of allah the arabic people say's that america is powerfull its a shame that they are afread of the so call american are they blind you must be afread of ALLAH and insallah i wil help my brothers and sisters that's what i call a muslim who will give up his life for ALLAH and my muslim people and i'm not afread onlly of ALLAH have merci so please stand up if you have comment's please send me a message back have only fear of allah and there a all lies ho think's the american's have power ALLAH got the power for all the muslim's so!!! be a muslim a salaam u leikum.

When an underpaid civil servant on the other side of the earth, of whom I have never heard and whose children are perhaps dying of AIDS, can destroy my village - with merely a phone call or the push of a button - then, at that time, we will all truly care about the well-being of strangers or suffer the consequences for not bothering to do so (according to the will of God). Peace be upon you.

I read your article and i really liked it

An excellent reflection on Nuclear Proliferation.

It is very refreshing to read an article on americas stance on WMD that is so well written thoughtout and isn't propaganda. If only that sort of knowledge could be conveyed through the mass media I believe people would have a much better judgement of the war in Iraq and the USA in general.
Thankyou very much Steve

Both Russia and the United States are reportedly converting a large number of nuclear warheads into fuel. However, no country that currently possesses nuclear deterrence would ever (voluntarily or otherwise) "give up" such a cost-effective means of averting hostile incursion, whether it felt threatened by America or some other country.

Ironically, the author's list of nations - those with nuclear capability - all seem to be relatively responsible members of the global community. The possible exceptions might be America (which has yet to conclude its post-9/11 rampage) and North Korea (which is reportedly still acquring nuclear capability).

The author seems to be making a case for WMD - as a component of a nation's defense - or possibly as an alternative to substantially more expensive alternatives for defense. What would you have me say? Get the bomb and become a target for the bomb - it will likely encourage most of those who do to become even more responsible neighbors.

Regarding those who don't wish to be responsible neighbors, please understand that in post-9/11 America there is substantially less concern (among approximately seventy percent of the voters) about what might happen to our own community as long as someone, as God wills, can be expected to pay for the damage. What would you have me say? The Prophet Muhammad (God bless him) is God's messenger. As Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.