U.S. Issues Broad Threat to WMD Accomplices

By Wade Boese

Serious consequences await those that aid terrorists in acquiring or using unconventional weapons under a new policy that national security adviser Stephen Hadley has broadcast.

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1 comment:

Jeremy Tamsett said...

Wade, first, I have been enjoying reading your articles in Arms Control Today for years. Thank you!

In terms of this new pronunciation by Steve Hadley, it doesn't seem that odd to me (as it apparently does to others) that the United States would make this kind of declaration directed toward non-state actors (read: terrorists) and even individuals (read: someone like AQ Khan).

Cutting through the pointless morass of whether or not the United States might use overwhelming force against friendly states like Italy or South Africa, as one commentator was quoted in your article, the U.S. position is rational and makes sense; here's why.

First, the United States is trying to close loop-holes in its 2002 language by taking into account emerging strategic security threats. For example, the United States would not attack South Africa if a foreign terrorist group operating on its soil tried to acquire, manufacture, or use WMD. In reality, the United States is likely to hold South Africa (esp. its politicians and security force) accountable for allowing such terrorist activity: this means, if wasn’t detected, it should have been; if it was detected and nothing was done to stop it, then that is inexcusable.

The US policy as espoused by Hadley is undoubtedly intended to "strongly" encourage other states to take a close second look at their early warning and prevention apparatus' on their respective home fronts in light of this "news" from Washington: "If you don't take care of the issue before it becomes a problem, we will take care of it for you.” I don’t see this to mean attacking a friendly nation to enforce compliance with US policy; rather, this means that the United States has simply given sanction to its instruments of national power (of which the military is only one part) to bring resolution to the issue at all costs.

Finally, imagine a hypothetical scenario where a transnational criminal or terrorist network is found to be operating from several different points around the globe. They ship drugs from Afghanistan to be sold for cash in South Africa to buy raw materials and equipment for WMD in some European country or Russia and so on. In all such events, the United States doesn’t want other states to pass the buck and point the finger of blame at someone else; things could get messy, very complicated, and very stagnant very quick. “I didn’t do anything wrong, these terrorists aren’t from here, they’re all Pakistani nationals.” “Yes, but they’ve been out of the country for 20 years and we don’t control all of Afghanistan’s borders.” “We didn’t even know they were in our country.” And so on.

Surely we want to ensure that there are punitive measures in place (again, not just in military terms) at ALL levels of the WMD acquisition and use spectrum; we want to live in a world that is both responsible and accountable. Every state must ensure that they know exactly what happens on and what passes through their territory; the United States is, again, sending the clear message that terrorists are not safe anywhere.