News | April 1, 2004

"At the Crossroads:" Counterproliferation and the New National Security Strategy

The continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) represents the most serious threat to U.S. national security and an enormous challenge for the entire international community. In the hands of rogue states, failing states, or substate terrorist groups, these weapons threaten not only U.S. forces, friends, and allies abroad, but also the U.S. homeland. Rogue states armed with WMD threaten the security of regions that are vital to the United States and raise the costs and risks of U.S. military operations intended to protect those interests. Forming international coalitions to defend shared interests is also more difficult in the shadow of the rogue state WMD threat. WMD in the hands of regional rivals exacerbate long-standing conflicts and increase the potential for escalation and conflict. Finally, terrorist interest in WMD and the threat of terrorist use of such weapons appear to be growing.

Arresting and reversing the spread of WMD pose formidable challenges to U.S. policy, as do defending against and mitigating the effects of their use. Powerful strategic, technological, and security factors drive interest in these capabilities. Rogue states with aspirations for regional dominance may see these weapons as crucial to preserving the survival of their regimes, to deterring regional adversaries, to challenging U.S. hegemony, and to constraining the exercise of U.S. military power. Moreover, the knowledge, technology, and materials necessary for WMD are spreading at a rapid rate to both hostile states and nonstate actors. Many of these states are becoming more self-sufficient and taking advantage of the dual-use nature of WMD technologies to pursue advanced WMD programs under the guise of legitimate commercial or scientific activity. As a result of these factors, the Intelligence Community warns that the proliferation landscape is becoming more complicated and that “more than ever we risk substantial surprise.” READ MORE >>