Monday, February 20, 2012

Musing on anti-proliferation

One of the parts of our foreign policy that I find most problematic is our idea that it is in our interest to police who gains new nuclear capability. This isn't to say that I think it would be good if every country had nukes, far from it, but that our policy does not stop nuclear proliferation and in fact guarantees that any country that does develop new nuclear capability will consider the US to be its enemy.

Take the case of Iran. They would have to be monumentally stupid to not want nuclear capability, given that the las decades have proven repeatedly that countries without a nuclear deterrent are destroyed. Now the problem with the fact that our foreign policy has basically forced every almost-nuclear country to consider getting a nuke ASAP is that we have also internalized that in our thinking about other countries.

Take this quote from a CSM article on what a nuclear Iran would be like:

"If I was an Iranian national security planner, I would want nuclear weapons," Bruce Riedel, a 30-year veteran of the CIA now at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said in January.
"Look at the neighborhood that I live in: Everyone else has nuclear weapons who matters; and those who don't, don't matter, and get invaded by the United States of America," Mr. Riedel said on a panel hosted by the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Now to a great extent he is probably right, but it was exactly this sort of logic that got us into Iraq. We know that our foreign policy puts almost-nuclear states in a very bad position, therefore we assume that they are doing what they should be to move into an untouchable status, actions that to our foreign policy represent a valid casus belli. It all becomes very circular.

This really creates a no win situation for our targets. If they don't develop nuclear capability then they will always live in fear of us. If they try to develop nuclear capabilities we will attack them. Even if they don't try and develop nukes, there is a solid chance that we will not believe them because we cannot imagine a country choosing to live in fear of empowered countries. So once they get targeted, they lose unless they find a game changer. The only game changer is to actually get a nuke and do so without us knowing about it. Either we invade a country that was no threat to us, or we create a hostile nuclear power. There is no win for us either.

In other words: our anti-proliferation foreign policy actively creates new enemies that would not have been a threat to us. We continually beat the drums of war to build up support for wars against enemies that only exist because of the short sighted and hypocritical foreign policy that is trumpeted by both of our one and a half political parties. Destabilizing whole countries will not make the world a safer place for us, and the sooner we realize that the better off we will be.

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