Foreign Policy Blogs

In Support of Nuclear Proliferation

Allow me to make this clear: There is nothing to fear from nuclear proliferation. This might sound insane coming from the mouth (or hands) of a counter-terrorism analyst, but the facts speak for themselves.

The most common critique of nuclear proliferation amongst nations is the risk of irresponsible, unstable, and even principally aggressive states acquiring this weaponry.  Fortunately, history tells us that this simply does not occur.  In terms of current nuclear powers, all parties involved have acted in a responsible, coherent, and defensively postured manner.  Even North Korea, often vilified in the west, uses defensive terminology to justify its nuclear capability.  In addition, nuclear programs require time, resources, and a certain level of technical expertise not commonly found in failing states.  While these unstable or failing states are capable of obtaining these types of weapons, it is certainly not probable based on historical precedence and resource limitations.

In fact, there are many instances where nuclear proliferation can help increase international stability. Before nuclear weapons, there existed a more classical structure of state-state relations. A strong nation in proximity to weak nations often had dire consequences; most commonly war. Nuclear weapons have equalized that balance of power. Once obtained, they essentially make any nation ‘un-attackable’. The risks associated with attack are simply too great. Because of that stark fact, nuclear weapons can, and will, only be used on countries that do not possess a similar capability. The more these weapons spread, the less they can be used.

Inevitably, and predictably, there is a choir of critics whom dread the possibility of an ‘atomic al Qaeda’. Ignoring the sexiness of that argument, there is no reason to conflate the spread of nuclear technology amongst nations, and the possibility that this flood could leak to non-state actors. It comes down to one simple fact: nuclear technology cannot be ‘un-invented’. The genie is out of the bottle, Pandora’s Box has been opened. Whether all states or no states possess the expertise to create these weapons, they exist regardless.

The most dangerous issue, addressed this weak by Mr. Obama, is the spread of unsecured nuclear material. But this situation does not exist because of state involvement; it exists because of the lack of state involvement (specifically the Soviet Union). I applaud his efforts to reduce these stockpiles, yet wish he would be more honest with the harsh realities that surround these weapons of mass destruction. They exist, they cannot cease to exist. The technology is out there for those who seek it. And should any nation wish to acquire this technology, and have the means to acquire it, it is impossible and against the international order to attempt to stop them.



Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is an International Relations theorist, with expertise in terrorist ideology, American foreign policy, and war / conflict resolution. He currently holds a Master's of Science degree in International Politics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the George Washington University. Josh's most recent work, his M.Sc. thesis, is a comparative analysis between Marxist / Leninist ideology and Osama bin Laden's global jihadi movement. He currently resides in New York.

Areas of Focus:
Terrorist Idealogy; American Foreign Policy; Conflict Resolution;