In the previous issue of The National Interest, John Mueller argued that the threats from nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear war are exaggerated. William C. Potter responds.
THE ESSAY "Radioactive Hype" by John Mueller makes a number of intriguing and counterintuitive assertions. Most provocatively, it raises questions about the human costs and other unintended consequences of a "non-proliferation first" foreign policy. It also reiterates the important-but now familiar-warning that one should not exaggerate the proliferation threats posed by terrorists or states.
Mueller is correct in highlighting the by-products of past ill-conceived military ventures undertaken in the name of WMD non-proliferation and the potential for similar, if not greater, casualties should military initiatives be launched against other "axis of evil" states. He also is right on, although probably for the wrong reasons, in disputing Graham Allison's forecast about the proliferation chain effects that a North Korean bomb would trigger. (The concept of a "chain reaction" itself is suspect given the process by which states make nuclear decisions.)