Now The Nuclear Dominoes

There has never been real order in the nuclear world. Only the exclusivity of the P-5 nuclear club, has erroneously been referred to as ‘order.’ In recent decades that ‘order’ has begun eroding. The North Korean nuclear test has merely reinforced the disorder. On October 9 a new military power center has emerged, another member of the nuclear club. Others sit on the margins probably mapping their own way into ‘the club. Most sellers of this deadly technology, even from the A. Q. Khan ring, are on the lose. All but the Pakistani scientist A Q khan held unaccountable the international approach of ‘cops’ looking selectively for the thieves robbing nuclear technology, not really working.
For the insecure it is a weapon of security, for the relatively secure their nuclear bombs are tools for enforcing peace and stability. For the peace-nicks they spell annihilation. For the realists nuclear bomb is the deterrent to bohemianism by both, the arrogant and the errant State. So a nuclear bomb is a differing reality for differing perspectives.

Meanwhile strong condemnations, to North Korea’s nuclear tests keep pouring in. Past the UNSC sanctions China is in the lead pushing a more moderate approach. Supported by the South Koreans, Beijing wants a peaceful resolution of the crisis. The Chinese foreign ministry has stated that "punishment is not the goal." Accordingly Beijing is opposing taking punitive actions against North Korea. For Beijing the ultimate objective of any move has to be to "maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula." They realize pushing Pyongyang too far could prove destabilizing.

The North Korean test will force IAEA and Washington to a heightened realization of their roles as the ‘cops’ going after the nuclear technology thieves. This may create new hurdles for the passage of the US-India nuclear deal, which has already become entangled in US domestic politics. IAEA will also set a sharper search light on Iran’s nuclear program. But ultimately the global community recognizes that without complete cooperation from Tehran it can’t set a sharper search light on its program. The carrot and stick will continue.

Meanwhile, there are two longer term issues that the North Korean test may prompt increased focus upon. One, to give IAEA ‘teeth’ to enable it to compel governments to tighten export controls on sale of nuclear technology and to take punitive actions against nationals selling nuclear technology. Two, those institutions and groups genuinely committed to non-proliferation maybe forced to assess the effectiveness of the effectiveness of the ‘the cops and thieves’ approach or the ‘enhanced security’ conditions approach for non-proliferation. Interestingly most of the states including South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Brazil gave up programs, did so were prompted by a changed strategic environment.

Ultimately, insecurity becomes the primary motivating factor for the many countries wanting nuclear weapons. On lesson from the failed six party talks is that negotiation succeeds when conducted in good faith. In the case of North Korea, Washington sought regime change, while the 6-party talks went on. Kim ul Sung was expected to give up nuclear weapons, the lynchpin of N Korean security, which in the North Korean mind sits in a highly troubled zone. In addition to the security dimension there was Washington trying to work for regime change in North Korea. Hence when the US openly continued to follow a policy of regime change how could it be expected of the very North Korean government whose survival is being threatened, to sincerely participate in the talks, which were aimed at taking North Korea, giving up its security weapon.

While censure of North Korea will increase, the international community will opt for greater engagement with Pyongyang. Now the region and indeed others too have a vested interest in the reform of the North Korean state and society. A nuclear country cannot be left to its own devices. There are sufficient voices calling for diplomatic engagement with North Korea. Similarly neither can a new nuclear power be pushed to desperation.

All of Washington’s direct or indirect ‘security promoting’ military adventures seem to have back-fired; in Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan. The limits to force are being appreciated even within the US. Its latest example is the study authored by a team of researchers from MIT, one of the best US education institutions. According to this study US invasion of Iraq is directly responsible for half a million plus deaths in Iraq. Bush administration cannot dismiss this finding lightly.

With the Iraq fiasco many now ask wither the ‘new Middle East’, the glorious democracy?’ What price ignorance if not hubris? For now Iraq is unending agony. With security undermined too. Similarly Washington’s ‘axis of evil’ policy towards countries like Iran and North Korea has greatly dented Washington’s credibility as mediator or monitor on the proliferation issue. These sobering realities also contribute to the ‘new realities’ that are being created. After all Bush and the neo-cons alone aren’t creating the bloody new realities

There are lessons from deteriorating global security. One, the instinct to defend when threatened is universally uniform among all living creatures. This instinct to defend also comes ‘naturally’ to the ‘nation-state.’ The instinctive reaction of a threatened State or a threatened people will be to acquire instruments for self-defense. Hence a threatened US and a threatened North Korean response will be the same. Their differing global status and domestic systems may only effect what and how they will acquire the means for self-defense. Non-proliferation ‘cops’ cannot alter this reality.

Two, basic human psychology is at work within the nation-State too. It experiences frustration when confronted with exclusion and marginalization. Frustration often reinforces existing behavioral patterns; in this case the objective to acquire nuclear weapons. Penalizing and threatening States will not produce behavior change. Instead it will likely reinforce the very behavior pattern that the international community seeks to alter. In some extreme cases, like the Serbs unmistakably committing Bosnian genocide, military action is the only reasonable response. Otherwise sincere engagement, backed with the threat of force, is the best option for seeking behavior change. With North Korea US simultaneously sought behavior change and regime change!

Three, the strategic security route may have greater chance of promoting non-proliferation. Unless insecurity, the root cause that prompts majority of the States to acquire the weapon is addressed, proliferation will be difficult to control. Surrounded by US’s forward security posts with a nuclear umbrella in Japan and in South Korea and nuclear China, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are not entirely irrational. It however augments destabilization.

North Korea merely adds to diminishing global security. Fast diminishing global security is as profound in its impact on the human race as is global warming. Interestingly in both cases the appropriate response can only come if we see countries, as a connected whole. Not separated enough to branch out seeking security as stand-alone entities. The dangers from global warming and global insecurity require governments unlearning, some more than the others, the way they have approached questions of security and of environment. For example security has been linked so overwhelmingly to force. While the relevance of force in security cannot be ignored, it is the overwhelming stress upon the use of force in security paradigms that is now proving to be completely counter-productive.

Today, the basic security paradigm has been stood upon its head. Suicide bombers are fearless about dying while nuclear weapons proliferate the ability to annihilate mankind. Both may produce the domino effects in the 21st century. To stop this domino effect on both counts, we may now witness more inclusive ways, of promoting national and global security will now be embraced.