Books of Note

Arms Control and Missile Proliferation in the Middle East

Bernd W. Kubbig and Sven-Eric Fikenscher, eds., Routledge, 2012, 335 pp.

Greg Thielmann

With contributions from 39 researchers, this collection plows new ground in explaining the daunting challenge of curbing missile proliferation in the Middle East. As the preferred mode of delivery for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), ballistic missiles are expected to be part of the conference on a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone to be held at the end of this year. The authors cover well the historical circumstances setting the stage for this conference, particularly the 1992-1994 Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group. The book renders an important service in breaking down the motives and perspectives of the individual regional states and nonstate actors. The various authors note, for example, that although Israel is the central security concern of Egypt and Syria, the most imminent threat perceived by Gulf Cooperation Council governments is Iran, and Iran’s primary perceived threat is the United States. The book also examines the role of external powers, highlighting complications from the U.S.-Israeli military relationship, the large number of U.S. military bases in the region, and the sales to various countries of Russian and Chinese missiles and missile technology. A chapter on the particular verification needs of a formal limit on Middle Eastern missiles draws heavily on experience from other arms control regimes, suggesting the sponsorship of seminar-like conferences and the pursuit of a regional monitoring agency to build expertise and establish initial trust. The final chapter provides a useful list of findings and conclusions containing such interesting judgments as “[a] security arrangement between the United States and Iran is a central condition for successful missile reduction [in the region].”



No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons and International Security

Jonathan D. Pollack, Routledge, 2011, 247 pp.

Farrah Zughni

In this concise and approachable book, Jonathan D. Pollack, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, tackles the problem of why and how North Korea has been able to defy the international community by successfully developing nuclear weapons. He attributes most of the secrecy, distrust, and defiant struggle for total autonomy that have come to define modern-day North Korean policy to the experiences and philosophies of the two central personalities that shaped it, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his successor son, Kim Jong Il. According to Pollack, much of the elder Kim’s political career was shaped by his early dependence on Chinese and Soviet support, which “bred resentment and frustration from which he sought to break free for the rest of his life.” Pollack argues that Pyongyang’s nuclear program was in part an extension of this quest but also shaped by the country’s direct exposure to nuclear weapons as a result of its proximity to three countries: Japan, where the horrors of the bomb were first demonstrated; China, a superpower and nuclear-weapon state; and South Korea, which hosted foreign tactical nuclear weapons aimed at North Korea for years. Outlining strategic choices with regard to Pyongyang for China, South Korea, and the United States, the book’s conclusions are as somber as its title. Pollack concedes that “barring major internal change” on a par with the transformation South Africa underwent following the end of apartheid, North Korea most likely will keep its nuclear weapons for the indefinite future. Therefore, he argues, the United States should focus on minimizing the risks of North Korea’s extant weapons and the potential transfer of any technology or materials beyond its borders.