The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination.
The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed. … History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger, but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action.
~ President George W. Bush
How do we prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction worldwide?
According to the United States National Strategy to Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Act (dated Dec 2002), the United States utilizes a three-pronged approach to limit the spread of WMD world wide. We place emphasis on the following three pillars:
- Counter-Proliferation to Combat WMD Use
The possession and increased likelihood of use of WMD by hostile states and terrorists are realities of the contemporary security environment. It is therefore critical that the U.S. military and appropriate civilian agencies be prepared to deter and defend against the full range of possible WMD employment scenarios. We will ensure that all needed capabilities to combat WMD are fully integrated into the emerging defense transformation plan and into our homeland security posture. Counter-proliferation will also be fully integrated into the basic doctrine, training, and equipping of all forces in order to ensure that they can sustain operations to decisively defeat WMD-armed adversaries.
- Strengthened Nonproliferation to Combat WMD Proliferation
The United States, our friends and allies, and the broader international community must undertake every effort to prevent states and terrorists from acquiring WMD and missiles. We must enhance traditional measures—diplomacy, arms control, multi-lateral agreements, threat reduction assistance, and export controls—that seek to dissuade or impede proliferant states and terrorist networks, as well as to slow and make more costly their access to sensitive technologies, material, and expertise. We must ensure compliance with relevant international agreements, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). The United States will continue to work with other states to improve their capability to prevent unauthorized transfers of WMD and missile technology, expertise, and material. We will identify and pursue new methods of prevention, such as national criminalization of proliferation activities and expanded safety and security measures.
- Consequence Management to Respond to WMD Use
Finally, the United States must be prepared to respond to the use of WMD against our citizens, our military forces, and our friends and allies. We will develop and maintain the capability to reduce to the extent possible the potentially horrific consequences of WMD attacks at home and abroad.
Does current policy meet the threat?
The war on terrorism the United State has waged and the war on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are related but not identical. The attacks of September 11th stimulated a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. counterterrorism practices, agencies and procedures. But to date counter-proliferation policies have not been through a major overhaul since 2002. Meanwhile, North Korea has quadrupled its stock of plutonium, and conducted a number of unopposed nuclear weapon tests. We also have ended sanctions against Iran, a country with known nuclear ambitions and production capability.
From a nonstate-sponsored standpoint we have AQ and the Islamic State actively seeking weapons of mass destruction and, to a limited extent, it has acquired and used such weapons in Syria and Iraq. It is also actively seeking personnel with technical experience capable of expanding it’s WMD program. This means the group is not yet capable of striking Western nations with WMD, though it cannot be ruled out that the Islamic State could deploy rudimentary chemical devices against the West in the next several years.
Are current counter proliferation policies, practices and procedures enough to meet this serious on-growing threat?