Rethinking Non-Proliferation

Some states are more equal than others. America's non-proliferation strategy should reflect this reality.

Issue: Summer 2005

America's goal of stopping nuclear non-proliferation has suffered two serious setbacks in recent years. Both North Korea and Iran appear to be pursuing ambitious nuclear weapons programs. What U.S. officials have not recognized is that such actions are a logical, perhaps even inevitable, response to the foreign policy the United States has pursued since the end of the Cold War. Washington may have tried to shape the international system with the best of motives, believing that taking action against unsavory states would both enhance America's security and advance the goals of peace and justice in the world. But as generations of realist scholars have shown, other nations may not concede that the motives of an activist power are benign. What might seem to U.S. policymakers justifiable, even noble, behavior may seem threatening to nations that have a less than cordial relationship with the United States.

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