In the previous issue of The National Interest, John Mueller argued that the threats from nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear war are exaggerated. Now he gets the last word in the Apocalypse When? forum.
I WISH, first, to thank my distinguished detractors for their considered comments and, second, to register a few points of clarification, disagreement and dismay.
Dismay is the easiest. All three seem in various ways to want to detach quiet and methodical programs for securing Russian fissile material and improving the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—programs I am happy to support—from the more spectacular consequences of the nonproliferation obsession, particularly the Iraq War. But that war was principally packaged and sold as a quest to prevent or roll back Iraq's supposed nuclear development. As Francis Fukuyama has crisply put it, a prewar request to spend "several hundred billion dollars and several thousand American lives in order to bring democracy to . . . Iraq" would "have been laughed out of court." Similarly, the sanctions against Iraq, popular on both sides of the political aisle, were substantially designed to keep the evil, if pathetic, Saddam Hussein from obtaining a nuclear capability. Not bad goals, but in carrying them out, each venture inflicted more deaths than did the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined. Costs like that, I modestly suggest in my article, can reasonably be labeled "dire."