The Freeman's Burden:

To defend the principles of human liberty; to educate; to be vigilant against the ever expanding power of the state.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Dangerous Illusion

On October 7th of last year, I posted a brief essay on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. Specifically, I used economic analysis to show that the very idea of preventing countries from obtaining nuclear weapons is a dangerous illusion. Rather then trying to focus on an impossible goal, we should instead spend our resources on creating a creditable defense shield and get out of other country's business. Recent events in Iran and North Korea bear out this analysis, but US foreign policy continues to push adversarial nations towards nuclear development specifically because the US continues to engender a sense of insecurity that many nations feel threatens their sovereignty. So, with that in mind, here is a re-post of that October 7th article.
Nuclear Non-Proliferation is a Fantasy
You don't want to hear this, but the US media is unlikely to mention it and somebody has to be the wet blanket. US and UN efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation are doomed and cannot possibly prevent nuclear weapons from becoming a common part of every major and medium military arsenal in the world. According to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, some 40 countries are currently developing nuclear capabilities. Anyone that understands how technology evolves understands why nuclear non-proliferation is a fantastic policy that cannot possibly work. As technology becomes older, it becomes cheaper and more common. When DVD players came out, they were prohibitively expensive for all but the rich, today you can pick one up at Wal-Mart for less than $40. The same is true with weapons, the US spent billions developing the technology to produce nuclear weapons so it's not necessary for other nation to re-invent the wheel. They only have to acquire the existing know-how and purchase the required equipment. As the case of A.Q. Kahn in Pakistan illustrates, there are plenty of people with both the technical knowledge and the motivation to provide it to any that can pay the price. The U.S. should quite the effort to prevent proliferation and accept the reality of the situation. There is nothing that can be done to prevent a nuclear North Korea, or Iran, or Brazil, etc. The only effective strategy moving forward is to concentrate on deterrence (Keep our own arsenal deployed and ahead of the technology curve), missile defense, effective border security and a good neighbor foreign policy that doesn't provoke nations or non-state actors to a level of animosity where thermo-nuclear terrorism inside the United States becomes an acceptable option.


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