McNair Paper 41, Radical Responses to Radical Regimes: Evaluating Preemptive Counter-Proliferation, May 1995

Institute for National Strategic Studies

McNair Paper Number 41, Radical Responses to Radical Regimes: Evaluating Preemptive Counter-Proliferation, May 1995


Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced a significant policy shift on December 7, 1993, that the United States would add a military dimension to its fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In a speech before members of the National Academy of Science in Washington, D.C., Aspin explained the rationale and initial program of what he termed a U.S. "Defense Counter-Proliferation Initiative."(Note 1)

This new policy is a response to the number of radical regimes that appear on the verge of acquiring WMD(Note 2). Particularly unsettling was finding out just how close Saddam Hussein's Iraq was to acquiring a clandestine atomic bomb at the time of the Gulf War. A more recent concern, also sparking the new policy direction, is the nuclear threat posed by Kim Jong Il's regime in North Korea.

Aspin stated that the United States is now developing improved and specialized military capabilities, doctrine, training, and contingency plans to pursue its counter-proliferation policies. In addition, he said that the Department of Defense was tripling the number of people assigned to gathering counter-proliferation intelligence.

Specifically, the DOD Counter-Proliferation Initiative (CPI) will include: (Note 3)

While laying out these new military and intelligence initiatives, Aspin also indicated that diplomacy, treaty restrictions, security assurances, export controls, non-military sanctions, and economic cooperation would remain the primary U.S. means of preventing, and coping with, the proliferation of WMD.

Nevertheless, the CPI would provide improved U.S. capability to deal with, in Aspin's words, a "Saddam Hussein with nukes," either in a reactive or a preemptive mode, primarily the former, but also the latter when no other option provides a better means of defense.

This new U.S. policy anticipates a troubled world in which more states acquire WMDCwith some of those states governed by dangerous and hostile radical regimes. Hopefully, leaders of such states can be deterred from WMD use. However, it is for those states who are willing to accept risks, are very dissatisfied with the status quo, and may not be deterred by threats to their people or their nation's economy that the DoD Counter-Proliferation Initiative was designed.

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