Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Defensive Preemption

I came across this yesterday. It's a policy paper I wrote for my National Security class. I wrote it a scant week before we invaded Iraq, so it should be looked at in that light. Even with the problems we've had in Iraq and the complete collapse of popular support for George Bush and the Bush Doctrine, I think that a lot of the salient points in my paper still hold. For the record, I believe that the Iraq occupation was bungled, not so much the war (and we're seeing the results of a good occupation with the increasingly good news from Iraq now). Warning: this paper is long and full of good old timey Neocon doctrine. There might be some minor typos due to the OCR and I didn't attach the bibliography, but it is available (if you really cared). I think Francis Fukuyama would be proud.

During the Cold War, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was not a terribly serious concern. It was important to try and halt, however, the greater problem of a threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union instead of focusing on proliferation. As a result of the end of the Cold War and the United States becoming the only superpower in the world, stopping the hemorrhaging has become paramount. This is reflected in the National Security Strategy of the United States. In the NSS, it says that we will
[maintain] the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place ofthe enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively (Bush 2002, 15).

The first move toward challenging the United States is to attempt to get on a level playing ground. The United States has a military that is more advanced than any other on earth. As a result of the humongous technological gap between the United States and other nations, the only way they can challenge our might is by deterring us. Because we outspend all other nations in defense spending, and because our military is equipped to handle any other military on the planet, the only hope other nations have of deterring the United States is through weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the past, the US has shown that it can be deterred by a strong nuclear power. This was the case with the Soviet Union, and it is currently the case with North Korea.
As a result of these deterrents, the United States has to walk a very fine line. Doing what appears to be right and doing what needs to be done are no longer necessarily the same thing. There are several problems that arise when nations get WMD. The first problem is that they have complete control over their domestic situation. If there are purges, genocide, or other domestic problems, the United States cannot do anything about it without fear of a retaliatory WMD strike. This is the case in North Korea right now. Kim long Il's people are starving, but the United States cannot do anything to help them (along the lines of regime change) without fearing for the safety of Seoul, Japan, or the West Coast. The second problem is that these dictators can threaten the regional balance of power by either attempting to become a regional hegemon or disrupting the current balance of power, leading to an arms race that could have disastrous consequences.
An instance of the United States attacking a nation with a WMD program already exists. In 1991, we attacked Iraq in the first Persian Gulf War, and we saw what could be done by a dictator with WMD. Without apparent reason, other than merely punishing the US-led forces for liberating Kuwait, Saddam Hussein "[buried] thousands of chemical and biological weapons in Southern Iraq, at Basra, Nasiriyah, Simawa, Diwaniya, and Hilla, the likely routes of the Allied invasion" (Hamza 2000,244). These were blown up according to standard US procedure, blowing a lethal cocktail of chemical and biological gasses onto the attacking Allies, defending Iraqi forces, and the Shiites of Southern Iraq. This is known in the US as "Gulf War Syndrome." There was no warning of this; it was merely a doomsday device to punish those who Saddam saw as his enemies. While this seems irrational to us, it was a rational decision for Saddam. Because we cannot tell what is rational to these regimes, they are unpredictable. This inherently unpredictable nature of totalitarian leaders is something that the presence of WMD merely exacerbates.
Because our current nuclear arsenal is a product of the Cold War, most of our nuclear weapons are larger than 500 kilotons. This extensive city-busting arsenal is an ineffective deterrent against the smaller regional powers in the post-Cold War era, and as a result, many have called for smaller nuclear weapons as a more realistic deterrent (Larsen 2002, 133). While this will certainly deter states who have already crossed the WMD threshold (especially states that have nuclear capabilities), it does not address the problem of states developing WMD. Clearly, if the threat of US retaliation is not powerful enough for them to stop before they have these weapons, then mere deterrence
is not enough. To stop the proliferation of WMD, a different path must be chosen.
As is stated in the NSS, the United States must be more proactive in stopping the proliferation of WMD. Primarily, we would deal with only rogue states and not our allies. For example, if the emerging nuclear threat in North Korea is such that Japan no longer feels safe under the US nuclear umbrella, then they should be allowed to develop WMD as a counterweight to North Korea.
Of course, allowing our current allies to develop WMD presents some problems. First, it is a dual standard. While that is the case, common sense would say that a nation like Japan -primarily an economic power, with a pacific people would not become an aggressor if they got WMD. It would send a message that it was better to be the friend of the United States instead of the enemy, because we will tum our heads when you develop WMD. This was the case in the early eighties, when the French sold Iraq a nuclear reactor capable of making weapons-grade plutonium and very nearly sold them 58 pounds of enriched uranium, enough to make two nuclear weapons (Hamza 2000, 105 and 133).
This leads to the second problem: that alliances are never made up of permanent states with the similar interests, but rather of transient states with similar interests. When Iraq began pursuing their nuclear weapons program, they were allied with the west, and that alignment became even closer following the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979. If the French had been successful in selling uranium to the Iraqis (they were pressured to withdraw by the United States and Israel) (Hamza 2000, 133), or if Israel had not destroyed the Osirak reactor in 1981 (Hamza 2000, 128-130), Iraq would have had a nuclear deterrent when their alliance with the United States ended before the Persian Gulf War. This is the bigger problem of the two, however, if we took into account a variety of things like the threat presented to the country, type of government, etc, we could allow some allies to develop a deterrent force if necessary.
Ultimately, the United States would be helped the most by protecting our allies and helping them feel secure under our umbrella. This could be done in several ways, including mutual defense pacts, a la NATO. A corollary to this would be a promise from the United States to prevent nations from getting weapons of mass destruction, by preemptive force if necessary. Preemption, though, poses some difficulties. One is that we would need to know where the WMD programs and/or warheads were (Haass 1999, 52). Another is the problems the US faces from launching an attack. Either we attack without warning, as Israel did in the 1967 Six Days' War and against the Osirak reactor in 1981, or else we drag out a long bout of diplomacy with a buildup of troops and forces, followed by an attack, either via a traditional mix of ground and air attack, or by other means.
Critics of preemption would cite the diplomatic dance as the most troublesome step. Infiltrating enemy WMD programs would primarily be accomplished by giving the CIA greater latitude in dealing with people, including getting rid of restrictions like not allowing the Agency to hire criminals for field work. Once that was accomplished, and our combination of human intelligence (HUMINT) and signal intelligence (SIGINT) via satellites, phone taps, and so on was good enough, we would run into our main problem. As Philip Zelekow says, the United States cannot preemptively attack a nuclear program while it is in its infancy. We are too powerful a nation, and the world would condemn our actions because at that point in a nuclear program it is vulnerable to both negotiation and military action. The reaction to the United States taking out another nation's WMD program would be even more outraged than it was over Israel destroying Osirak in 1981 (Blackwell and Carnesale 1993, 167-168). By the time it was justified, the program would be too far along, and the United States would be powerless to stop it.
I would submit that while some of this may be accurate, it does not matter in the end. Instead of endless rounds of diplomacy and a drawn out buildup, it would behoove us to attack without a force buildup. The United States could and should weather the diplomatic firestorm that would accompany such a strike. As was the case with the outrage against Israel in 1967 and again in 1981, it would occupy the focus of the world for just a little bit, and then nations would move on, secretly happy that there was not another nuclear power on the planet.
This would work for emerging nuclear powers, like Iran and Iraq, however, for nations like North Korea, who have been developing nuclear weapons and ICBMs and are close to major metropolitan areas, it would not. North Korea is another situation all together. Assuming the United States was able to destroy all of its nuclear arsenal, either through covert means like SEALs or Delta Force, or through pinpoint bombing from our B-2 Spirits, we would still have the problem of 600,000 troops stationed thirty miles from Seoul, a city of some twenty million people. Any attack on North Korea's nuclear program would certainly be used as a pretext for them to abandon the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and they would move on the South.
Another problem that North Korea poses is their willingness to provide other -I nations with missile and nuclear technology. Noted foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz suspected that North Korea may even be using, or will use in the future, Abu Sayyaf pirates to ferry nuclear material and technology to other nations (Ijaz 2003). Because Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda, this is a disturbing development and a clear threat to national security. Ultimately, because of the threat that North Korea represents, diplomacy is the least bad option. If diplomacy breaks down, however, the United States should be prepared to launch a preemptive strike on the North Korean nuclear program and on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the North from the South. Because of the depth and dynamics of the North Korean defenses, the United States should not rule out the use of either bunker busting nuclear capabilities or a third generation neutron bomb solution. By using a neutron bomb, fallout would be kept to a minimum, the neutrons from the blast would penetrate the network of North Korean
caves, and it would punch a significant hole in North Korean defenses on the DMZ.
Of course, most nations are not as hard a case as North Korea. Of the current nations who are trying to, or have tried to acquire nuclear weapons, none has the perfect storm of a large army, nuclear weapons, and proximity to valuable targets that North Korea has. With Libya, Iraq, and Iran, among other nations, the United States could launch a preemptive strike without endangering their neighbors. This could even be accomplished without using nuclear weapons because we would not need to take out large numbers of deterrent forces along with their WMD program.
While we should avoid using them unless it is absolutely necessary, it is a sad fact that nuclear weapons may be needed to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. That being said, the United States cannot stand by and wait for things to get more dangerous. Appeasement has been tried by major powers, from the British and French in 1936-1938 to the United States and South Korea in 1994 to the French, Russians, and Germans in 2002-2003. Ultimately, if we are not willing to use force to coerce nations into complying with international law, that law will be meaningless and other nations will follow in their footsteps. Especially in the shadow of September 11, we must take a hard line on proliferation, with or without the support of the rest of the world. We have seen what happens when we do not make the tough decisions, and if we continue to shirk these lesser decisions, we risk fighting a war or enduring a terrorist attack that is so destructive that it defies the imagination.

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