It is an old lesson but one that many states seem to forget: rather than become more secure when they develop new weapons systems, countries may make themselves less so. After all, other countries are likely to counter any new weapons development, and the resultant arms race may leave everyone worse off.
Two articles in this month’s issue examine the hidden dangers of U.S. plans to develop space-based defenses, especially space-based missile defenses. Such defenses are intended to counter the potential threat of an ICBM attack from a country such as North Korea or Iran, neither of which has flight-tested even an intermediate-range missile.
Hui Zhang points out in our cover story that U.S. space plans could prompt China to react with several steps that could in turn endanger U.S. security. Rather than moving toward space weaponization, he argues that the United States should sign on to a Russian and Chinese proposal for a treaty banning the weaponization of space.
Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. warns that U.S. space weaponization plans may have another hidden cost: increasing the likelihood of an accidental nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia, which still retain thousands of long-range nuclear weapons. He too urges the negotiation of a treaty banning weapons in outer space.
One international institution that the United States and other countries have relied on to deter arms proliferation is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with deterring and detecting the illicit use of nuclear materials and technologies for weapons purposes. The United States and other countries, however, have expressed concerns that states such as Iran and North Korea have been able to evade or violate IAEA safeguards without consequence. To deal with this problem, President George W. Bush pushed to establish a special IAEA committee to improve the agency’s monitoring and inspection activities. Jack Boureston and Charles D. Ferguson lay out a number of suggestions for what this committee might accomplish
To many Westerners, there is no region of the world that looks more like a living demonstration of the folly of arms competition than South Asia. Robert M. Hathaway reviews three books that examine the history, roots, and significance of the nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan and questions whether the forces and fortune that have prevented a nuclear war there will continue to prevail.
In November, Congress acted to cut back on one arms program: research into development of a “bunker-busting” nuclear bomb. Among other issues, our news section looks at this development and the latest international talks and deliberations to rein in the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.