Saturday, February 16, 2013

More On The North Korean Nuclear Test

Pacific Forum CSIS has posted Muthiah Alagappa's February 13 essay "North Korean Nuclear Test: Implications for Asian Security" (Link). Over at the Foreign Affairs, Dr. Jennifer Lind, who made her reputation studying war apologies, joins with two arms experts to deliver a similar message -- that continuing to pursue CVID (complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement) of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's nuclear program is a pipe dream, as the DPRK is hell bent on developing a nuclear deterrent. (Link)

I agree wholeheartedly with the above authors in calls for pragmatism. The North Koreans are not going to give up their nuclear and missile development programs no matter the incentives.

However, both essays are seriously flaws in their rage at arms control experts. Dr. Muthiah's rubbishing of the non-proliferation regime, its architects and its managers, is borderline deranged:
Nonproliferation enthusiasts contend that accepting the DPRK as a nuclear weapon state would further undermine the NPT regime.This simplistic argument does not bear scrutiny. Throughout its history the NPT regime increased the cost and slowed the spread but did not prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by determined states. Further, there is no rationale for some states to have nuclear weapons and for others to be denied that capability. This is not to argue that “more is better” or that every state that desires it must be free to develop such capability. Those interested in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons must address the demand side of the equation (insecurity) and not just the supply side as is the case with the present NPT. Like all other armaments, nuclear weapons are symptomatic of insecurity not the cause of it.

Accepting reality of nuclear Asia

Contrary to conventional wisdom, nuclear weapons have increased security and stability in Asia though there are also dangers and insecurities that should be addressed. Rather than hide behind the NPT regime and persist with a failed approach, it is time to confront the reality that, broadly defined, Asia has seven of the nine nuclear-weapon states (US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea). A
determined Iran could well become the eighth nuclear weapon state in Asia and the tenth member of the world nuclear club. The Asian nuclear era is fundamentally different from that of the Cold War.

Not only will the acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state not disrupt the non-proliferation regime, but the non-proliferation regime has been ineffective, and it's unfair, but unfair is not all bad, and it's not Asia aware...whaaaaaat?

As for Dr. Lind's essay, she and her co-authors attack a straw man. None but a fool -- and the folks who tackle the proliferation of nuclear weapons and rocket systems are not fools -- would argue that the DPRK's nuclear test program is a bargaining chip. It is a complex knot of drives, aspirations and hard science -- immensely useful for the DPRK and immensely difficult to halt precisely because it is not just one thing.

Yes, arms control experts are annoying in their rectitude -- but it is because arms control experts have to be. They are trying to keep a lid on the most dangerous objects humankind has ever made.

I am still looking for the essay offering the synthesis -- one acknowledging that the DPRK's pursuit of a nuclear deterrent is intrinsic to geo-strategic and political situation of North Korea and insisting that non-proliferation and disarmament are fundamental to the human project.

Later - This post has been edited for clarity.

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