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Saturday, July 17, 2004

US energy secretary Spencer Abraham has this piece in the WaPo on how to Stop Nuclear Terror:

While the United States and Russia work to dismantle nuclear arsenals, terrorists and rogue states are seeking to obtain materials -- from former Cold War armaments and other sources -- to make nuclear weapons and "dirty bombs."
Securing this nuclear and radiological material is a top priority for the United States, Russia and many other nations. While much of it is concentrated in the former Soviet states, it is also found in other countries around the world. It constitutes a formidable threat if it falls into the wrong hands.
. . .
With all these initiatives and other efforts across the government, President Bush is pursuing the most aggressive nonproliferation effort in history. Four years ago there was no comprehensive international effort to address radiological dispersal devices. Today there is. Four years ago there was no program to place radiation detection equipment at the world's major shipping ports. Today there is. Four years ago, there was no formal agreement to return Russian-origin spent high-enriched uranium reactor fuel to Russia. Today there is. Most important: Four years ago there was no G-8 global partnership with $20 billion in commitments for nonproliferation. But today, those programs are in place.
Securing nuclear and radiological materials is one of our highest priorities and greatest responsibilities in the battle against terror. The United States will continue to intensify its efforts to keep a legacy of the Cold War from becoming a tool of the enemies of freedom.

This is all well and nice, but somehow I can't help but feel that this is all official-talk. Is really so much being done? Is it that effective? One problem Abraham makes is that he keeps talking about terror all the time, without arguing that counter-proliferation is a wider security issue. While the possibility of nuclear weapon materials falling into the hands of terrorists is a worst-case scenario we have to shield ourselves from. However the threat from ever more states -not just rogue states- must not be forgotten. The presence of such weapons would make any armed conflict far more deadly and destructive. Also it would necessitate more outside intervention in conflicts where leaving the rivals to sort things out might be the better option. In any case proliferation sucks us out into the world to deal with intractable political problems we could otherwise have avoided and that before proliferation wouldn't have mattered.


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