- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2007

The only deterrent for some countries from being next on “Washington’s hit list” is to have nuclear weapons themselves, a new policy report concludes.

The report, released this week by the Independent Institute, a California free-market think tank, said U.S. behavior may have inadvertently created an incentive for some countries to acquire nuclear weapons, and that the United States should change it’s policies concerning relations with countries with nuclear weapons.

In “Nuclear Nonproliferation in the Post-9/11 World,” defense analyst Charles Pena says that current U.S. nonproliferation policies, which attempt to prevent countries from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, should be changed from preventing them from gaining this material to figuring out what to do about it once they have acquired such weapons.

Speaking at a policy forum yesterday, Mr. Pena said because of past U.S. military intervention to cause regime change in countries such as Panama, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq that did not have nuclear capabilities, countries such as North Korea and Iran may be enticed into having nuclear programs to prevent U.S. military intervention in their countries because of the fear of U.S. nuclear retaliation.

“None of us are arguing proliferation is a good thing,” Mr. Pena said. “If we’re going to have alternatives we have to be able to talk and debate them.”

Doug Bandow, vice president of policy for Citizen Outreach, said “for most of President Bush’s administration, government officials refused to talk to North Korea.”

North Korea, a communist country run by dictator Kim Jong-Il, began its nuclear weapons development program in late 2002.

Coincidentally, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Christopher Hill traveled to North Korea yesterday in an attempt to encourage the government to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Iran’s nuclear program — which Tehran says is a peaceful energy program — is of concern because of the country’s ties to terrorist groups, the Independent Institute report said.

“It seems from the presentations that the biggest threat isn’t that they’ll launch an attack on the U.S. but it seems the biggest threat is that they’ll sell these weapons to terrorist groups,” said Ivan Eland, director of the institute’s Center on Peace and Liberty.

But Mr. Pena said while many Americans fear terrorists will attack a major U.S. city with nuclear weapons, many dictators and leaders are hesitant to give terrorist groups these weapons.

While former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein supported terrorist groups, he never gave them nuclear weapons and actually kept them on a “tight leash because he viewed these groups as a threat to his power,” Mr. Pena said.

“There’s an irony here, if one of the reasons they acquire nuclear weapons is to prevent regime change, why would they give them away to a group that may take control away from them?” he said.