Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Military Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Outside View: Nuclear terror's false logic

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Charles V. Pena
Washington (UPI) Aug 16, 2007
Even as the International Atomic Energy Agency is meeting with Iranian officials to discuss increasing the openness of Iran's nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains defiant about Tehran's right to pursue such a program -- including uranium enrichment, which would give Iran de facto nuclear weapon capability.

This raises the specter of one of the greatest fears in the post-Sept. 11 world: nuclear terrorism.

Indeed, this was the prospect brandished by President Bush to help gain public support for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year," he said. "And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists."

But how likely is it that a regime with ties to terrorist groups would give them a nuclear weapon?

The conventional wisdom is that if a regime such as Iran acquired a nuclear weapon it could give that weapon to a terrorist group it supports (such as Hezbollah) and that the group would use the weapon against a common foe of the group and the regime (presumably the United States.)

This is the logic of the enemy of my friend is my enemy, which is emotionally appealing and based on the assumption that regimes and terrorist groups hate us for who we are.

But it is deeply flawed.

First and foremost, there is no history of hostile regimes supplying terrorist groups with chemical or biological weapons they have access to, let alone a nuclear weapon.

Saddam was known to support anti-Israeli Palestinian terrorist groups (including Hamas) for years, but he never gave chemical or biological weapons to those groups to use against Israel, a country he hated as much as he hated the United States. The same is true for the mullahs in Tehran.

It is also important to understand that terrorist groups aided by hostile regimes are not completely controlled by those regimes. There is an assumption that a terrorist group would use a nuclear weapon to attack the United States -- and that this is the only plausible scenario.

But a nuclear weapon would also give the terrorist group the ability to topple the regime that supplied it, and the regime would have no way to prevent that from happening once the weapon was out of its control.

Moreover, it would be logistically easier for the terrorists to attack the regime that supplied it -- rather than trying to clandestinely transfer the weapon to a foreign target like the United States.

Two other factors would affect a regime's decision to transfer a nuclear weapon to terrorists. First, the cost to develop such weapons is significant -- several billions of dollars. One has to question whether any regime would make that kind of investment simply to give a weapon away.

Second, once a weapon is in the hands of terrorists, they could use it against any target of their choosing. If that target is not the one approved by the regime, nuclear forensics could be used to trace the weapon back to its source (even without nuclear forensics, the list of suspects will be relatively short).

As a result, the regime would have to worry that a terrorist group would commit an act that would endanger its own survival -- especially if U.S. policy is to reserve the right to retaliate against the suspect regime using its vastly superior nuclear arsenal.

Indeed, if deterring U.S.-imposed regime change is one of the primary incentives for certain countries to pursue nuclear weapons, giving them away to terrorists would be counter-productive and more likely to invite the very action the regime seeks to avert.

Overall, a regime would have to have suicidal tendencies to engage in such risky behavior -- yet while individual fanatics may sometimes be willing to commit suicide for a cause, prominent political leaders rarely display that characteristic.

So while the logic of the enemy of my friend is my enemy has popular appeal, the reality is that there are clear and significant disincentives for any regime to simply give away a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group.

Thus, although we must be concerned about the prospect of nuclear terrorism, we should also not be mesmerized by rhetoric of smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds and live in dire fear of it.

(Charles Pena is an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, a senior fellow with George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute and author of Potomac Books' "Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism.")

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com



Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


Russian bombers getting closer to US: American commander
Washington (AFP) Aug 14, 2007
Long-range Russian bombers are flying more often and closer to US territory, a top US commander said Tuesday, as Moscow made its latest show of military might with exercises over the North Pole.







  • India Has Changed The World
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Territory Of Partnership
  • Walker's World: China and the $ crisis
  • Walker's World: The Russian bear is back

  • Iran's Guards have 'length and breadth' of Gulf covered
  • North Korean nuclear talks resume
  • Outside View: Nuclear terror's false logic
  • Russian bombers getting closer to US: American commander

  • Ball Aerospace Completes IOTS Increment 2 In-Process Review
  • Laser-Guided Maverick Missile Meets Urgent Air Force Need
  • Lockheed Martin Ships 500th Patriot To The US Army
  • Syria buys advanced anti-aircraft missiles: Israeli report

  • Russian radar site doesn't fit US missile shield needs: general
  • BMD Focus: S-400 delays -- Part 1
  • Boeing To Transfer AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense Production To Alabama
  • BMD Watch: LM wins Norway Aegis contract

  • Russia To Build Over 4,500 Aircraft By 2025
  • Boeing Flies Blended Wing Body Research Aircraft
  • Steering Aircraft Clear Of Choppy Air
  • EAA AirVenture 2007

  • Predator Soars To Record Number Of Sorties
  • Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Completes First Flight
  • Proxy Aviation Completes Cooperative Flight Demonstration OF UAV For USAF
  • Second Predator Crashes In Iraq In Two Days

  • Analysis: Kidnapped Iraqi had top oil role
  • US 'surge' in Iraq 'likely to fail': British lawmakers
  • US not considering draft: Pentagon
  • Australia says 'hard sell' keeping troops in Iraq

  • DARPA Completes Autonomous Airborne Refueling Demonstration
  • Northrop Grumman Delivers Key Software For First F-35 STOVL Variant
  • Japan to build stealth jet in five years: report
  • Russian Gunmaker Develops New Anti-Terrorist Kalashnikov

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement