As long as the Cold War continued, the superpowers were enemies competing for clients, not allies forming a cohesive anti-proliferation core. The reality of competition repeatedly trumped the need for cooperation. Any nuclear-seeking regime would lean to one or the other side, so a preventive attack on it would change the strategic balance between the superpowers. It would have required something close to a miracle to get the superpowers to agree on mutually compensatory terms for proceeding with such a proposed attack. For example, the Soviets reportedly suggested a joint pre-emptive attack on China in 1969 and 1970; the United States refused, exploiting the situation instead to form its own links with China against the USSR.
The Third Phase
Today the Cold War is over--and the third phase of non-proliferation is unfolding before our eyes.
Its most important features are the abatement of Soviet-American mutual hostility; the replacement of bipolarity with unipolarity (allowing tighter multilateral negotiations and more effective enforcement); and the substitution of small states for great powers as the potential targets of counter-proliferation. At the same time, the urgency of curbing proliferation has also grown. Nuclear knowledge and material are spreading, and rogue regimes and Islamist terrorists are actively seeking to acquire them.
But standards, once lowered, are not easy to raise again. A major jolt was needed to send them back upward. The Iraq War supplied the jolt. Libya, a long-intractable case, finally moved to renounce its nuclear (and great power) ambitions. Diplomacy alone would not have achieved this.
Nor would war alone have sufficed. In fact, the Gulf War already supplied an appropriate jolt in 1991, but that opening was not sufficiently exploited. With the Cold War drawing to a close and the trend toward cohesion on the Security Council growing, there could have been a joint Russian-American-led effort to clean up the rubbish they had strewn around during the Cold War. The moral energy was available for a new post-Cold War partnership. Global opinion would have welcomed almost anything that could have been presented as getting rid of "Cold War relics." But it was not to be.
The Gulf War revealed the holes in the old IAEA inspections regime. It led to creation of a new and more intrusive regime of inspection (UNSCOM, for the special case of Iraq). It introduced further discrimination into non-proliferation policy. It applied not to everyone but to a specific known offender. It was asymmetrical. It was put in the terms of truce for a defeated small country, thus perpetuating the war's abridgement of Iraq's sovereignty, and it was applied on that country by the Security Council making use of its unique legal authority over all other states. This enabled UNSCOM to be unusually successful in uncovering and destroying Iraq's WMD programs--although only with the help of further Anglo-American bombings and high-level defectors.
As time passed, the disunity of the Security Council and new forms of great- power rivalry came back into play. The Security Council's unit-veto structure made it ill-suited for carrying out a complex and costly program consistently, for states came to view their respective national interests differently.
In a sense, UNSCOM was too discriminatory. Remedial anti-proliferation was needed in more places than Iraq. Discrimination needed to be raised to the level of a norm applied to all nuclear-seeking rogue states. Several countries grew tired of enforcing the sanctions regime against Iraq in the course of the 1990s. As the UNSCOM regime applied only to a single case, it had differential impact on the great powers of the Security Council. The Iraqi government was able to play upon this, as well as upon resentment of America as the de facto leader and arbiter of the process that the Security Council and UNSCOM were in effect fronting.
Had an UNSCOM-type regime been extended to all the "states of concern", it would have aimed to curb proliferation globally and thus brought the national interests of great powers closer together. It would have recognized, for example, Russia's list of states of concern--Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia--a list whose validity the United States came belatedly to recognize after 9/11--alongside Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya and North Korea on the American list. Such bargaining could have made for mutual support in dealing with both sets of rogue states, instead of inspiring Russia to launch resentful polemics against America's unilateral decisions on which countries counted as "rogues."
But this was not done in the 1990s. The decade passed. The problems grew worse.
Today, as in 1991, we can afford neither diplomacy without war nor war without diplomacy. Where there has been significant success, it is because the coercive action on Iraq has been supplemented with semi-coercive diplomacy, and because that coercive diplomacy has supplemented the work of multilateral treaties and institutions. And there are signs that the United States--despite its alleged propensity to "unilateralism"--has taken these lessons to heart.
President Bush announced a six-pronged initiative to strengthen the NPT regime in February 2004. Taken together, its six points add up to a substantial strengthening of the non-proliferation system. It combines recent ad hoc efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative. It tacks on multilateral measures such as the "additional protocol" with the IAEA, which can be agreed to one country at a time, and it joins them to a series of unilateral measures and voluntary collective measures (through the forty-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group). Thanks to this realistic mesh of different levels of work, progress can be made before all countries have signed on--a reality that actually provides an incentive for countries to sign on. It is also realistically discriminatory--indeed, it creates a third tier in the nuclear hierarchy: countries that do not enrich uranium. It does not go nearly as far as the salto mortale Baruch Plan, but it could be described as its partial revival, adapted in light of the realities of the intervening half-century.
The six points received immediate endorsements from men like Mohamed ElBaradei, Director of the IAEA, and from the administration's inveterate critic at the Carnegie Endowment, Joseph Cirincione. The endorsements indicate a broad base of support for follow-through. At the same time, Cirincione called for greater balance between non-proliferation spending (very small), counter-proliferation spending (huge, counting Iraq), and consequence management spending (huge also, in ballistic missile defense and Homeland Security). This is a useful conceptualization. It suggests that a more full-service approach would help in consolidating elite support for the administration's counter-proliferation innovations. Carnegie has also put forth its own collective draft plan, entitled, Universal Compliance: A Strategy for Nuclear Security, for following up on the anti-proliferation momentum. It calls for taking the successful UNSCOM-UNMOVIC experience of intrusive inspections and extending it to other countries. It acknowledges that the threat of military coercion has been necessary for these successes. It draws heavily on the supranational rights of the Security Council to impose non-proliferation obligations on all countries, urging the use of this to prohibit withdrawal from the NPT and make its norms binding on all. It offers a comprehensive "strategy synthesiz[ing] some innovative approaches of the George W. Bush administration, the benefits of the traditional treaty-based regime, and many new elements."
Both sides of the debate thus agree that more should be done to generalize the recent advances based on war, threat and intrusive inspections. The degree of consensus is encouraging, as was the momentum of action after the Iraq War. Without it, the jolt of the 2003 war could have been mostly wasted, as was the jolt of the 1991 war.
If there is to be an effective and durable non- and counter-proliferation effort, diplomatic gains must be embedded permanently in agreements and institutions. Existing organizations have to be reinforced and supplemented where necessary. Skeptics will point out that such bodies can become obstacles to action--as the United States feared was true in the run up to the Iraq War. Such fears are not always wrong. When an international body is crippled by great-power rivalry, it is not scandalous for other international bodies, or core countries, to act in its stead. More use can be made of devices such as coalitions of the willing inside NATO, and the (little known) absence of a legal requirement of consensus in NATO decision-making.
Cohesion is not consensus; it needs to be understood in the future more in terms of getting the job done for the common good and less in terms of waiting for agreement by every member. Cohesion is deepened when decisions can be taken on a timely basis and implemented by those willing to do so, as long as the minority pledges not to undermine the majority. Such coalition actions do not bypass the alliance but enhance it. Bypass operations are also sometimes necessary, but should not be overused. The core cohesion among the advanced technological allies (the nato/G-8 plus group) has to be maintained, indeed upgraded; otherwise we could never keep up consistent economic and political pressures on would-be proliferators--and so keep down the cases of military enforcement to a workable remainder.Essay Types: Essay