A troubling lesson from Libya: Don't give up nukes
Qaddafi stopped his nuclear program. Would NATO have bombed if he hadn’t? Now, Iran watches as nonnuclear states are invaded and nuclear ones win favors.
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To fuse the gap between the "security haves" and "have nots," the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was born in 1970. It encouraged the nuclear countries to provide have-nots with expertise and infrastructure to exploit peaceful nuclear technology. The ultimate goal was full disarmament for all. But the nuclear-weapon states never disarmed while the security circumstances for the nonnuclear states remained. A few countries, namely Israel, India, and Pakistan, stayed out of the NPT to pursue weapons programs of their own. Others decided to flirt with "nuclear latency" – having all the ingredients and infrastructure of making weapons, yet not possession.Skip to next paragraph
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After the Soviet Union's demise, the prospect of nuclear disarmament became more hopeful. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and post-apartheid South Africa intellectually challenged the role of nuclear weapons for deterrence. A nescient, reenergized emphasis was placed on international law as the ultimate and legitimate arbiter of state security. Nuclear and nonnuclear states made ambitious but vague pledges to realize the disarmament goal of the NPT. Subsequent Russian and American arms-control agreements and the creation of nuclear-free weapons zones in South America and Africa added to this new cooperative spirit.
Yet creeping beneath the trend toward a "post nuclear" world, were behavioral contradictions initiated by highly industrialized nations. Their actions, perhaps unwittingly, gradually chipped away at the nonproliferation goal.
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For various reasons, these nations attacked the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya. That aggression partially, if not fully, materialized by reason of the targets' lack of a nuclear deterrent. At the same time, troublesome nuclear-armed states such as North Korea and Pakistan have not been attacked since they acquired the bomb. They've also garnered multilayered benefits from the international community.
Compare Libya and Pakistan. In 2003, Tripoli agreed to dismantle its fledgling nuclear program, give up its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and halt support for terrorism. In exchange, it was reintegrated into the global political economy. And yet, it was still attacked – a result of its brutal repression of its people in rebellion.
On the other hand, nuclear-armed Pakistan hid the most-wanted terrorist in the world for roughly a decade, while also supporting various regional militant groups and aiding the Taliban. That country has suffered virtually no consequences from the great powers but enjoys US economic and military aid.