Although folks like President Obama, U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon, and IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei have long dreamed of a nuclear-free world, it’s time to get real and admit that the road to zero they want to take is unlikely to get us there. Proponents of denuclearization may have the best of intentions, but their belief that others will quickly rid themselves of nukes only if the U.S. does it first is unrealistic. As Heritage Vice President Kim Holmes explains in today’s Washington Times, their claims don’t stand up to the facts.
First, unless and until we can render nuclear weapons obsolete with effective missile defenses, and as long as proliferation continues and information on how to build bombs is so readily available, there will be those who seek them. Second, the benefits and prestige of joining the “nuclear club” are all too clear. Iran and North Korea, which have little influence on the world stage, aren’t seeking these weapons to protect themselves from harm or to wreak destruction. Rather, their real aim is to gain influence over our power and policies in their region.
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has dramatically reduced its nuclear inventory, yet the rush of nations to join the nuclear club continues. Worse, reducing our stockpiles may have actually increased the value of nuclear weapons, making them even more desirable than before. The only sure way to reduce the allure of the bomb is for the U.S. to widen the technology gap even further and decrease its value by deploying a comprehensive missile defense system that will explode any reason for them to acquire nukes in the first place. If countries see nuclear weapons technology as a high-risk, low-return investment, they won’t expend the resources to obtain it.