Deterring nuclear terrorism

One of the most hyped security threats in recent times is that of nuclear terrorism, especially since the A Q Khan affair showed how close he had come to commoditising the nuclear bomb.

Michael Levi, a Brookings scholar, suggests that since terrorists invariably need support from a state for developing nuclear weapons, the threat of nuclear terrorism can be headed off using deterrance. If the United States develops means to identify where the bomb came from after a nuclear attack, it can then retaliate massively against the state sponsor. He argues that the inherent threat of complete obliteration will deter potential state sponsors from handing nuclear weapons to terrorists.

Deterrance may even work. But unless United States is willing to eschew expediency while implementing its strategic doctrines it will continue to indulge in miscarriages of policy, a la Iraq’s WMDs. Sparing Musharraf while spearing Saddam Hussein has convinced comrade Kim that accelerating his nuclear weapons project is the only way to survive.