An American Security Policy: Challenge, Opportunity, Commitment

| July 2003

AN AMERICAN SECURITY POLICY: Challenge, Opportunity, Commitment

National Security Advisory Group

July 2003

William J. Perry, Chair

Madeleine K. Albright, Samuel R. Berger, Louis Caldera,

Ashton B. Carter, Wesley K. Clark, Michele A. Flournoy,

Alfonso E. Lenhardt, John D. Podesta, John M. Shalikashvili,

Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall

Message from the Chair:

William J. Perry

Our national security advisory group was formed partly in response to the perception that

Democrats have been indifferent to national security problems and weak on defense. This perception flies in the face of the historical role that Democrats have played in national security. Harry Truman established the Cold War's national security strategy -containment and deterrence -and launched the first programs to implement that strategy. John Kennedy took the nation safely through the single most dangerous national security crisis of the Cold War - the Cuban Missile Crisis. During Jimmy Carter's administration, the nation developed a new generation of deterrence systems: the MX ballistic missile, the Trident 2 submarine, the Trident 4 and Pershing missiles, the B-2 bomber, and air- and ground-launched strategic cruise missiles. President Carter's administration was also responsible for developing a new family of conventional weapons, including the F -117 Stealth fighter, precision-guided munitions, conventional cruise missiles, and advanced surveillance systems, all of which performed so brilliantly a decade later in Desert Storm. And the Clinton administration developed the JDAM precision guidance package, remotely-piloted reconnaissance aircraft, digitized army units, airstrike-on-demand targeting, and internetted joint forces - systems that played a key role in defeating in a matter of days Iraq's sizable military forces.

Today the country faces security problems that are very different from those of the Cold War. When the Cold War ended, some thought that our security problems were behind us, a view described most eloquently in Prof. Francis Fukuyama' s book, The End of History and the Last Man. But in the last decade it has become increasingly clear that history has not ended; that old Cold War dangers were being replaced by new dangers; and that a new security strategy was needed to deal with these dangers.

Five years ago Ash Carter and I wrote a book that attempted to spell out these dangers and outline the elements of a strategy for dealing with them. We focused on what we called "Type A threats," defined as those that could cause casualties in the United States comparable to those our forces suffered in World War II. We described how these massive casualties could be caused by an accidental or unauthorized launch of nuclear missiles, or from a rogue nation or a transnational terrorist group that had gotten access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Since 9/11, the public has joined us in focusing on the most fearsome of these dangers: the possibility that a terror group would detonate a nuclear bomb in an American city. No one should doubt that AI Qaeda would have the will if they had the weapon. And even one nuclear bomb in New York City could cause casualties comparable to all American casualties in World War II.

President Bush implicitly recognized that danger when he stated that keeping the worst weapons out of the hands of the worst people was his highest priority. But the national security programs put in place by his administration do not adequately protect Americans from this danger. The United States needs the clear articulation of a security strategy for these dangerous times, and it needs national security programs better designed to serve that strategy. And Democrats should take the lead in articulating this strategy and working for those national security goals, just as they did in the most dangerous years of the Cold War. Senator Daschle, believing that, asked me to bring together a National Security Advisory Group to advise the Democratic leadership, and through them the entire Congress and the nation, on what that strategy and what those programs should be.

Our group began with a fundamental belief: preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should be a top priority goal of America's security programs. During the Cold War the success in preventing proliferation exceeded anyone's expectation. But today this whole effort, this success resulting from decades of hard work, could be unraveling. India and Pakistan have gone nuclear; North Korea is about to start serial production of nuclear weapons; and Iran is only a few years away from production. Unless this tide can be stemmed, the proliferation game will be irretrievably lost. And if lost, it is likely that before this decade is over, nuclear bombs will be used in regional wars and in terror attacks on American cities. The acid test of America's national security programs is the extent to which they make less likely that catastrophic outcome.

Our group has written six papers evaluating American security programs and recommending how to improve them to better meet this acid test. Our first paper deals with the most imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities -the nuclear program underway in North Korea.

There are three basic alternatives for dealing with this dangerous situation. The administration can continue to refuse to negotiate, "outsourcing" this problem to the concerned regional powers. This approach appears to be based on the hope that the regional powers will be able to prevail on North Korea to stop its nuclear program. But hope is not a strategy! Their efforts are unlikely to succeed in the absence of a clear American negotiating strategy in which they can playa part. Multilateral efforts can be a potent ingredient in a US strategy but are no substitute for one.

A second alternative is to hope for "regime change" in North Korea, or to take military actions to bring this change about. While the regime may one day collapse on its own, there is no reason to believe that this will happen in time - the nuclear threat is imminent. Taking military action to force a timely regime change could result in an intensity of conflict comparable to the first Korean War, with casualties that would shock the world.

The third alternative is to undertake serious negotiations with the North Koreans to determine if there is a way to stop their nuclear program short of war. The administration is clearly reluctant to negotiate with the North Koreans, calling them loathsome and cheaters. It is easy to be sympathetic with this position, but here is where strategic clarity matters. A North Korea without nuclear weapons is a deplorable dictatorship, probably short-lived; whereas the nuclear weapons they could make if we do not act are the highest order of security threat we face, a threat that will long outlive the regime.

Any negotiation with the North Koreans should be predicated on a prior agreement that they will freeze their nuclear activities during the negotiations. It would need to have a positive dimension, making it clear to North Korea that foregoing nuclear weapons could lead it to a safe and positive future; but it also would need a negative or coercive dimension, both to induce North Korea to take the right path and to give us and our allies more credible options if diplomacy should fail. President Kennedy said it best: "Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate."

Our second paper deals with the global nuclear proliferation problem, and recommends ways to get the world back on the non-proliferation track. America needs a multi-faceted approach to preventing proliferation, one that includes arms control regimes and other cooperative international programs. The Bush administration's actions to counter proliferation do not match its rhetoric - it is simply not doing enough to overhaul the panoply of counter-proliferation tools, which should have been our highest priority immediately after 9/.11. Instead, the administration's actions suggest that it believes that military preemption is the preferred way of dealing with this problem, elevating this option to the level of a supposed "doctrine," Military preemption is and must be one option open to the United States, and because of the dominant power of our military it is generally a plausible option, though our difficulty in locating WMDs in Iraq should be a caution that the preemption tool is not a silver bullet. Military operations involve casualties, political costs, and unintended consequences, and most of all are subject to intelligence uncertainties that arise from the very nature of WMDs (they can be easily concealed) - as we are seeing in Iraq today. Therefore as a matter of policy, preemption should be reserved for those cases of proliferation where the danger is unambiguous and imminent, and considered only after the failure of serious efforts to curb the proliferation through coercive diplomacy. As a matter of practicality, preemption is no replacement for a comprehensive approach, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons.

Even before exercising diplomacy, the United States should work, in a comprehensive way, to create the conditions that make proliferation less likely in the first place. For example, the United States should take the lead in broadening and deepening the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program by fostering an international coalition designed to secure and eliminate the ingredients of WMD and to establish strict safeguards on the creation of the components of WMD - all such ingredients are "sleeper cells" of catastrophic terrorism. And the United States should not be suggesting to the world that our preeminent conventional military power is more reliant on nuclear weapons in this era -for example, by pursuing new nuclear weapon designs, and by giving hints of the need for new underground testing of nuclear weapons.

The success in preventing proliferation during the Cold War was not happenstance. It required a modicum of American restraint on its own nuclear programs; it required an enormous investment of political capital on the part of successive American administrations; and it required skillful and determined diplomacy to create the necessary international cooperation. The same restraint, the same investment of political capital, and the same determined diplomacy are required today, but have not been forthcoming from the Bush administration.

So the first barrier to nuclear bombs being detonated in American cities is a robust program to prevent proliferation. But even with a determined, multi-faceted, and creative overhaul of our entire set of non-proliferation programs, we should not rely on these programs as our only strategy. It is also necessary to take the offensive and attack and disrupt transnational terror groups that might use such weapons if they got them. The administration has attacked Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, destroying their training camps and some of their leaders. They have impounded the funds of AI Qaeda whenever possible. And they have pursued terror cells around the world with law enforcement and intelligence operations. These operations have been vigorous and deserve our support. But this is the beginning of a long and dangerous war on terrorism, and much more needs to be done.

Our third paper accordingly deals with counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and especially with the paramount need to prevent terrorism with WMD. Efforts underway to protect the homeland from a terror attack have been poorly organized and implemented. A clear set of homeland security priorities and a coherent interagency strategy and spending plan compatible with these priorities are long overdue. The threat reduction efforts that should receive highest priority are not clearly defined as a part of the homeland security effort.

As a result, the increase in funding for Homeland Security has too often been used to pursue pet programs of an agency rather than high priority programs that protect the homeland from real threats. And almost two years after 9/11, America's front line forces -the first responders - are not adequately funded or organized. In fact, the combined effect of the recession and the administration's tax cuts are dramatic decreases in State budgets and the drying up of funds available to support the police and fire departments and local public health facilities - the first responders that are so critical in minimizing casualties after an attack like 9/11.

Finally, the administration is losing the war of ideas in the world. Democrats, in addition to working to achieve domestic security goals, should take the lead in promoting the indispensable third leg of the war against terrorism - rigorous and principled global leadership and engagement. We must isolate the extremists, not ourselves.

Our fourth paper points out that the administration is in danger of undoing much of the good work of the American military in Afghanistan and Iraq by failing on the post-war reconstruction efforts in those countries. To date, the reconstruction effort in Iraq has been executed poorly, partly because the administration apparently underestimated just how difficult this task would be. There is a real danger that Iraq will degenerate into another Gaza strip, only much larger, with American soldiers the continuing victims of ambushes and suicide attacks. The concomitant risk, then, is that the administration, caught without a viable reconstruction plan, will respond by departing prematurely, leaving the entire region to descend into chaos and instability.

The opposite danger is that we will respond by over-reaching and using the heavy-handed tactics of a permanent army of occupation, creating a backlash against the United States and abetting the forces of Islamic extremism. Democrats should support a program of modernization and reform throughout the region and should insist on an honest accounting of what this program could cost, which objective observers have estimated to be $30 to $50 billion per year, with a probable duration of many years. Democrats should also support a serious effort to bring our allies and partners into the reconstruction effort to share this burden, instead of rejecting their help because they did not support the war effort.

Our fifth paper suggests ways of working cooperatively with allies and partners that are very different from the approach of the Bush administration. Pervading all aspects of America's national security objectives is the role of allies and partners in achieving those objectives. Anyone who has traveled abroad this past year has learned that regard and respect for the United States is at an all-time low around the world. But this alienation is not just a condition that makes us uncomfortable when we travel; unless corrected, it could have a profoundly negative affect on America's national security.

The United States has demonstrated that it can successfully conduct significant military operations, unilaterally if necessary. But unilateral efforts cannot effectively prevent proliferation. Unilateral efforts cannot effectively cut off international funding for terrorists. Unilateral efforts cannot effectively preempt terror cells in other countries. Unilateral efforts cannot effectively deal with a biological attack or, for that matter, a SARS epidemic. And unilateral efforts cannot effectively and economically deal with the reconstruction programs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since a prime threat to our security is a transnational terror group detonating a nuclear device in an American city, it follows that working cooperatively with nations around the world to contain and disrupt this threat should be a top national security priority.

So-called "coalitions of the willing" are not a substitute for established alliances and partnerships. Indeed, without allies and partners who have trained and exercised with our military, we will have no effective coalition members to draw from.

Our sixth paper deals with the American defense program and budget, which, of course, affects all aspects of national security. At the end of the Clinton administration, the United States had the dominant military force in the world. This was essentially the same force that this past year performed brilliantly in Afghanistan and Iraq, as it had earlier in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Bush administration, in its first year, proposed very nearly the same defense budget as had been planned under Clinton. However, in the wake of 9/11, an opportunity arose to make significant increases in the budget, and they seized it. What are they doing with that opportunity?

While their rhetoric has been about the "transformation" of America's military forces, their proposed defense programs essentially continue the programs initiated by their predecessors. Indeed, to the extent that "transformation" is the aggressive application of information technology, smart weapons, and unmanned vehicles, that transformation is already well advanced, as the American military demonstrated in Desert Storm and Kosovo, as well as in Iraq. In fact, most of the budget increases have been used to sustain the "transformation" programs started by previous administrations, and to fund an overdue increase in military pay, cover rising health costs, and fund procurement programs that were underway but not adequately funded.

We believe that Democrats should continue to support those programs and the budget increase to $400 billion that made them possible. But the Bush administration is proposing further increases in the defense budget (to $500 billion) in the later years. We believe that a further increase in security spending is warranted to deal with the national security problems described in this paper, but that the bulk of this increase should go to other national security accounts. In essence, we are calling for a rebalancing of national security spending, where the non-military activities that contribute to security receive some of the increases that military spending has had. These activities include homeland security, post-conflict reconstruction, foreign assistance and foreign affairs, non-proliferation and threat reduction, and intelligence. We believe that national security should be seen as a total package, with the world's best military complemented by a greatly improved non-military dimension; only then will Americans get adequate protection in the 21st century.

And we believe that spending more on the non-military aspects of national security, while at the same time spending yet more on the military puts national security on a collision course with other budget imperatives. Another big increase in defense spending - on top of the substantial increase we have seen and support -is not sustainable; moreover, it is not needed. We believe that the defense budget should be held at the current levels, plus allowances for inflation and reasonable cost of living increases. This will require DOD and Congress to find ways of achieving efficiencies in the management of defense programs. There are many such opportunities, including:

- Closing of unneeded bases;

- Building on the acquisition reforms initiated ten years ago;

- Using private capital sources to fund badly-needed new military housing, following up on the program initiated eight years ago; and

- Negotiating assistance from other nations in the costly reconstruction efforts.

But seizing these opportunities will require the investment of political capital by the Secretary of Defense and the cooperation of Congress. Democrats in Congress should both prompt the administration to take these actions and then support them when they do.

In spite of the incredible dangers our nation and people faced, we survived the Cold War without the destruction of American and Russian cities by nuclear weapons. But that was only because President Truman had articulated a clear security strategy focused on that objective, and because successive administrations aggressively pursued national security programs designed to implement that strategy.

We can do no less today, when the nation is faced with the threat of nuclear bombs being detonated in American cities by a terrorist group. To protect Americans, we need today, as in the Cold War, a clear security strategy focused on that threat.

Democrats must have the courage and must bear the responsibility to lead the way in articulating and implementing this strategy. It is our hope that the ideas that are in this report will serve as a rallying point for Democrats, and will encourage the party to resume its historical role as the protector of America's security.

The Loose Nukes Crisis in North Korea

July 2003


North Korea's move to unfreeze its plutonium program at Yongbyon presents profound and urgent dangers to U.S. security. It poses the specter of nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist groups and rogue nations. It is a massive failure for U.S. counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism policies. This crisis will unfold within the next few months. It can only be forestalled by U.S. leadership.

- The fuel rods apparently being reprocessed at Yongbyon contain five or six nuclear weapons' worth of weapons-grade plutonium. They are now being put out of reach of both IAEA inspectors and the possibility of U.S. airstrikes -for the first time since the Agreed Framework of 1994. North Korea also is restarting its reactor, allowing it to produce plutonium for several more bombs within a year.

- The United States has successfully prevented North Korea from obtaining plutonium since 1989, when North Korea is suspected of reprocessing (extracting plutonium from spent reactor fuel rods) enough plutonium for one or two bombs. Had North Korea's plutonium program not been frozen during this period, by now it could have produced a large nuclear arsenal. This non-proliferation success is in danger of being lost.

- The issue is not Iraq versus North Korea. It is whether we can afford to put North Korea on the back burner while we continue to focus on Iraq. The answer is no. Indeed, the threat posed by North Korea's recent moves with its nuclear program is far more immediate than Saddam Hussein's Iraq ever was.


A North Korea with a nuclear weapons assembly line would gravely imperil U.S. and international security.

- North Korea has a proven record of selling its weapons technology indiscriminately. Once it has a handful of nuclear bombs, North Korea might sell some of them - or the plutonium to make them - to other proliferators or terrorists. Those bombs could eventually be detonated in any city in the world.

- A nuclear North Korea might miscalculate that by threatening nuclear use against the United States and its allies, it had tipped the balance of deterrence on the Korean peninsula, which would make a destructive war there more likely.

- A nuclear North Korea would cause South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and other non-nuclear powers in the region to reconsider their own nuclear programs, a scenario the United States has successfully prevented through several decades.

- If North Korea - a small, impoverished, communist country – successfully defies the international norm against nuclear proliferation embodied in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, particularly without robust efforts by the United States to prevent it, that norm and treaty regime would be critically weakened.

- If the North Korean regime collapses as a result of its economic and political failures, its nuclear weapons could be commandeered, diverted, or sold in the chaos of transition to a new government.


The Bush administration has not developed a strategy for immediately heading off the developments at Yongbyon.

And while the U.S. military maintained a two-theater capability throughout the 1990s to deal simultaneously with crises in the Persian Gulf and the Korean Peninsula, our current civilian leadership - preoccupied with the effort to disarm Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons, and the war's aftermath - has failed to pay sufficient attention to the nuclear-weapons situation developing on the Korean peninsula.

Time is not on our side.

- The situation at Yongbyon has progressively and rapidly deteriorated, as North Korea has successively withdrawn from the Agreed Framework, expelled international inspectors, restarted a nuclear reactor, and apparently relocated and begun reprocessing plutonium-containing fuel rods.

- U.S. options are narrowing. By moving the fuel rods, North Korea has put them out of reach of both inspectors and the possibility of U.S. military action. Once it reprocesses the fuel rods, it can fashion five to six nuclear bombs from the plutonium within weeks.

In the absence of a coherent, articulated strategy for dealing with North Korea's nuclear threats, U.S. statements to date might inadvertently be leading North Korea and others to believe that:

- A nuclear North Korea is not a serious and urgent threat to the security of the United States and its allies. As North Korea prepared to unfreeze Yongbyon in December 2002, Secretary of State Powell declared that the situation was "not yet a crisis."

- Reprocessing does not cross a U.S. red line.

- Going nuclear will guarantee safety from the United States and will only result, as President Bush put it in his State of the Union message, in "isolation." North Korea is already the most isolated country on earth.

- Military action to head off these threats has been taken off the table.

- The United States does not stand firmly with South Korea in defense against North Korea.

- The United States believes its security can be adequately protected through the interventions of others - South Korea, Japan, China and Russia - without U.S. involvement.

§ The United States will not take action to deal directly with North Korea on the crisis until North Korea halts its nuclear program, whereas North Korea is accelerating its program.

- The United States cannot handle more than one crisis at a time.


The only way to know whether North Korea is willing to engage in meaningful diplomacy, or whether it is determined to seek a nuclear arsenal regardless of what we do, is to test it in talks.

President Bush has stated that he seeks a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis but has not suggested a roadmap for talks. Our allies and friends in the region expect us to try a serious diplomatic effort and will not be prepared to stand firmly with us unless such an effort has been tried and has failed.

The U.S. should move immediately on a new and aggressive diplomatic approach incorporating the following initial features:

- Undertake immediate, parallel efforts to repair relations with our ally South Korea, and to forge a common front with South Korea and Japan. Japan is the focal point of U.S. policy towards the entire Asia-Pacific region, and no U.S. strategy toward North Korea can succeed unless it is shared with South Korea. In particular, South Korea can contribute greatly to diplomatic success; it can undermine our diplomacy if it does not agree with us; and without its participation more coercive approaches to North Korea become unavailable in practice. We have lost considerable leverage in dealing with North Korea over the past two years by allowing our relationship with South Korea to deteriorate.

- Pursue direct U.S. talks with North Korea (direct talks mean that U.S. and North Korean representatives are in the same room, though representatives of other nations might also be present in the room at the same time). China, Russia, and others can play an important role in pressing North Korea to comply with the NPT and accept the IAEA inspectors.

  • Direct talks can and should be conducted in parallel with efforts at the United Nations to raise international concern over North Korea's nuclear moves; the UN has an important role to play in holding North Korea responsible for complying with its obligations under the NPT, and for providing the vehicle (IAEA) for verifying that compliance.
  • But issues at the very heart of American security cannot simply be outsourced to China, Russia, or the United Nations. North Korea itself maintains that only the United States, as the leading power in the region and the world, can address its security concerns, and that these concerns are the source of its nuclear program. Our allies and friends in the region also urge direct talks. Their efforts can be powerful ingredients in a U.S. strategy, but they are not a substitute for a U.S. strategy.

- Begin talks with North Korea with the firm objective of complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons (both plutonium-based and uranium-based) and long-range missile programs nationwide. This objective includes, but goes beyond, all the obligations contained in previous agreement made by North Korea.

- Be prepared to begin these talks immediately, with the understanding that as long as the talks are under way North Korea will freeze all activity at Yongbyon (under IAEA supervision), and the United States will refrain from any military buildup on the Korean peninsula.

- Articulate a red line, making clear to North Korea that the United States cannot tolerate North Korean progression to serial production of nuclear weapons, and that we are prepared to take all measures of coercion, including military force, to prevent this threat to U.S. security.

- Offer to pledge that the United States will not seek to eliminate the North Korean regime by force if North Korea agrees to the complete and verifiable elimination of its nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs.

- Offer assistance for weapons elimination, as the United States has done with the states of the former Soviet Union under the Nunn-Lugar program.

- Broaden talks over time to encompass other issues of deep concern to the United States, such as conventional forces, avoidance of incidents on the DMZ, and human rights; and to North Korea, such as energy security and economic development.

- Promote a gradual and conditional relaxation of tension. Within the context of a shared diplomatic approach, South Korea and Japan should be encouraged to expand their contacts with North Korea. Important economic benefits to North Korea could result from these expanded contacts, but if, and only if, North Korea curbs its weapons programs.

The United States should not give in to blackmail, but neither should it be frozen into paralysis. The objective of negotiations should not be simply to return to the status quo ante, but to achieve a more comprehensive curb on North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs than ever before, backed by extensive verification and international monitoring.

Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)1

July 2003


U.S. administrations of both parties have long maintained a comprehensive policy toward proliferation of WMD, especially nuclear weapons. While the use of military force has always been an option, it has been one tool among many. This multi-faceted approach has had significant success over the history of the nuclear age.

- Steady and reliable alliances and security partnerships with the United States have made it unnecessary for nations - Japan, Germany, South Korea, and Taiwan, among many others to turn to nuclear weapons for their security.

- Focused U.S. diplomacy, supported by international opinion embodied in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and other nonproliferation regimes, has confronted and reversed proliferation in such nations as Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus.

- U.S.-led efforts such as export controls, covert action, and the Nunn-Lugar program have denied weapons technology to potential proliferators.

- Sound technical intelligence on WMD has frequently given the U.S. an accurate picture of nascent proliferation threats, essential to policy implementation.

- Where determined proliferators have proceeded to obtain nuclear weapons despite U.S. opposition, the United States has sought to isolate and punish them, as in the sanctions applied to India and Pakistan in the two decades after they went nuclear in the 1970s and 1980s.

- The United States has sought to deter those who might use WMD against U.S. territory, forces, or allies by promising "overwhelming and devastating" response to such use with both non-nuclear and nuclear weapons.

- The United States has deployed defense against ballistic missile and chemical and biological weapons attack to reduce our vulnerability.

- The United States has recognized that punishment, deterrence and defense after proliferation has already occurred are insufficient and increasingly unsafe, and we have accordingly threatened and used military force preemptively to foreclose WMD programs before they can be fully realized, as in North Korea in 1994 and Iraq in 2003.

As a result of U.S.-led efforts, only a handful of the world's 200-odd nations pose a threat of nuclear proliferation today.

- Most countries perceive no need to proliferate. We need to preserve the peaceful and lawful international order that will keep them thinking that way and ensure that we get their help to confront the small number of countries that do become proliferators.

- Some "rogues" appear determined to proliferate. While few in number, these determined proliferators are the most difficult cases, as many of the tools that work with others do not work with them.

- A large number of "in-between" cases involve countries that have flirted with proliferation in the past or that might proliferate if conditions are not maintained that both assure them their security and threaten them with U.S. and international repercussions if they proliferate.

An effective U.S. counterproliferation policy must cover all three categories.


While the U.S. should be proud of the record of its comprehensive approach to proliferation, and should retain and strengthen the tools that comprise that approach, the new urgency of stopping WMD proliferation requires new tools as well. Why the new urgency?

- In the post-cold war world, some nations perceive a new incentive to proliferate: The unmatched power of America's military has led some potential opponents to believe that WMD are their only hope of deterring the United States from defending its interests.

- Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda are actively pursuing WMD. If these fanatics acquire such weapons, they will use them - and the resulting destruction will be orders of magnitude more severe than what we experienced on 9/11. Yet traditional forms of deterrence do not work against extremist non-state actors who are willing - even eager - to die for their cause.

- State and non-state proliferation are linked. In the past we worried about the risk of WMD use by the governments that made them. Today we also must consider that every nuclear weapon a government makes might someday be sold to, or otherwise fall into the hands of, terrorists. No proliferation is "safe" in the 21st century.

- Stronger tools are needed to deal with determined proliferators who cannot be stopped by diplomacy, denial of technology, or threat of isolation, as the cases of India and Pakistan in the 1970s and 1980s, and Iran and North Korea today, illustrate. The tools of a comprehensive counterproliferation policy must therefore be accompanied by the credible threat of force.


President Bush has correctly emphasized that "keeping the worst weapons out of the hands of the worst people" is the highest security priority of the United States as it enters the 21st century. But deeds have not followed words. Twenty-two months after 9/11, America's efforts to counter WMD in the hands of rogues or terrorists have focused almost exclusively on one proliferator - Iraq, and one tool - preemption. Otherwise the scorecard has been uniformly poor, and the administration's efforts either inadequate or counterproductive. As a result, the United States is not better prepared to stop the worst people from getting the worst weapons than it was before 9/11. Indeed, in the case of North Korea, U.S. nonproliferation policy risks suffering a dangerous setback.

- North Korea’s bid to make itself a nuclear power, and its move to acquire five or six nuclear weapons and proceed to a larger nuclear arsenal, go unchecked as the administration fails to develop and implement a coherent strategy.

- The administration's promotion of preemption of WMD (attacking a proliferator's weapons of mass destruction with a U.S. attack using conventional weapons) as a "doctrine" in its National Security Strategy might well backfire, fostering rather than countering proliferation.

  • Over-emphasizing preemption devalues the other tools in the comprehensive approach to countering proliferation that have proved successful in other situations.
  • In the first application of its supposed "doctrine" - the successful war in Iraq - the administration left the world confused about whether the "doctrine" is supposed to trigger preemptive strikes when the objective is elimination of WMD or, alternatively, change of a regime to which the United States is opposed.
  • While brandishing preemption might be theorized to have the effect of intimidating Iran and North Korea into forbearance in their nuclear weapons programs, in practice it might have the opposite effect: they might instead conclude first that they had better hasten their programs to get nuclear weapons to fend off an imminent American attack, and second that the United States is not serious about trying a diplomatic approach first.
  • After we adopt such a "doctrine," other nations might exploit it for their own purposes, such as legitimizing attacks on their neighbors.

- Nunn-Lugar "loose nukes" efforts stagnate. After an extensive "review" that dragged on long after 9/11, the Bush administration finally decided to support the decade-old Nunn-Lugar (Cooperative Threat Reduction) programs but did little to expand the scale, scope, and pace of these key programs so that they can work to eliminate nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons threats worldwide.

  • The last Clinton administration budget for DOD's Cooperative Threat Reduction (Nunn-Lugar) program (Fiscal Year 2001) was $443 million, but the Bush administration's request for Fiscal Year 2004 - after the events of September 11, 2001 and after the war over Iraq's WMD - is only $451 million.
  • The Department of Energy's nonproliferation programs have increased from $864 million to $1,304 million from 2001 to 2004, but almost all of that increase is for programs to strengthen security of, or dispose of, American fissile material, not foreign fissile material.
  • The Bush administration's proposal to the G-8 group of industrial nations in Kananaskis, Canada to form a "'Global Partnership" against WMD terrorism (the so-called "'10 + 10 over 10" initiative) pledged no increase in U.S. spending on control of WMD compared to what we were planning to spend before the September 11 terrorism attacks.
  • The stagnation of the WMD threat reduction programs under the Bush administration stands in stark contrast to the recommendations of the bipartisan Baker-Cutler Commission, which recommended a tripling of DOE threat reduction spending.
  • Similarly, the Bush administration's modest funding of these programs contrasts sharply with the administration's $4 billion surge in annual missile defense funding between 2001 and 2004.

- DOD counterproliferation programs remain in disarray. Despite a large increase in the defense budget, DOD counterproliferation programs - for protective suits, vaccines, detectors, and other protections for troops and civilians - remain underfunded and poorly organized.

- Homeland security programs give inadequate attention to the priority threat of WMD. While large sums are committed to preventing other types of terrorism, the White House Office of Homeland Security has established few new innovative programs specifically directed against WMD terrorism (in the new Department of Homeland Security or in other involved agencies), despite President Bush's correct assertions that WMD terrorism is the most dangerous threat we face.

- The manner in which the administration’s Nuclear Posture Review was presented contributed to a harmful misperception around the world that the importance of nuclear weapons to U.S. military power is growing, whereas in fact it is decreasing as U.S. conventional superiority continues to grow.

  • By suggesting that such steps as enhancing readiness to conduct nuclear tests and exploring "bunker-busting" and other new applications of nuclear weapons are the first steps towards a renewal of nuclear dependence in the U.S., the administration has created the perception of a lowered nuclear threshold at the very moment in history when doing so is least warranted and most detrimental to our security.


It is well past time for President Bush to drop the single-minded preemption approach and instead undertake an urgent, comprehensive overhaul and strengthening of all facets of national policy to counter WMD proliferation and terrorism. This overhaul should have begun immediately after 9/11. We should:

1. Undertake a dramatic expansion in the scale, scope, and pace of the Nunn-Lugar and other threat reduction programs in DOD, DOE, and State. It makes no sense that these programs are nearly the same size they were before 9/11. The goal should be to secure the means of WMD terrorism worldwide within this decade.

- Accelerate existing Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, which have already proven greatly successful at eliminating WMD threats to the United States.

- Extend the scope of Nunn-Lugar CTR planning and programs, on an urgent basis, to additional projects specifically associated with prevention of WMD terrorism.

- Adopt and meet the specific goals and timetables for securing former Soviet Union nuclear weapons and fissile materials described in the Baker-Cutler report.

- Extend the authority and funding of Nunn-Lugar CTR programs to permit threat reduction programs in states beyond the former Soviet Union. The current limitations on the program are a remnant of the Cold War.

- Further expand the scope of the Nunn-Lugar CTR programs to give more attention to chemical and biological weapons.

- Build on the G-8 Global Partnership Initiative, adopted by the G-8 nations at the Kananaskis, Canada summit of June, 2002 to pool the resources of the G-8 to counter the threat of "loose nukes" and other WMD, by increasing the U.S. contribution and extending the partnership's membership beyond the G-8.

- Using either the G-8 Global Partnership or flexible partnerships of the willing, design international Nunn-Lugar CTR-like programs to secure stocks of research reactor enriched uranium, plutonium produced in power reactors, and other potential sources of WMD terrorism worldwide.

- Adapt the Nunn-Lugar CTR method to the elimination of WMD in post-conflict Iraq, including international cooperation if possible.

- Adapt the Nunn-Lugar CTR method to reduce the risk that Pakistan's nuclear weapons will one day fall into the hands of extremists or terrorists.

- Devise a plan to adapt the Nunn-Lugar CTR method to eliminating North Korea's nuclear and missile programs if diplomacy succeeds in an agreement requiring their eradication.

2. Allocate more resources to DOD's counterproliferation programs in the defense budget. Counterproliferation should be an essential element of the "transformation" of the U.S. military to meet the threats of the 21st century. These programs include new vaccines, protective masks and suits, and detectors.

3. Within the Department of Homeland Security and Office of Homeland Security create a dedicated effort to counter WMD, including funding for both R&D and deployment.

4. Strengthen intelligence regarding WMD proliferation and terrorism, which today suffers from too few technically trained analysts and too little technical and human collection.

5. Preemption: Retain the option but renounce the "doctrine." The United States obviously has, and should have, the option of preemption against WMD proliferators, an option it has successfully exercised in Iraq. But preemption is an exception, not a doctrine.

- The U.S. should regard preemption as but one arrow among many in its quiver of counters to WMD, one viewed and used as a last resort. We cannot afford to attach low value to, or even suggest we have given up on, dissuasion, diplomacy, extended deterrence, alliance nuclear umbrellas, nonproliferation regimes, export controls, and other instruments that have proven powerful counters to WMD proliferation for decades.

6. Reaffirm the value of international nonproliferation agreements like the NPT, BWC, and CWC. Some in the administration have suggested that these agreements have no value because they can be all-too-easily ignored or cheated on by countries determined to proliferate, whereas they are not needed for countries that are not determined to proliferate. This all-or-nothing argument misses the point and risks sacrificing the benefits of these agreements.

- These agreements establish a global norm against WMD; through the transparency and inspections they require, they establish a level of risk of detection and consequent global condemnation associated with becoming a proliferator.

- The norm created by these agreements is by no means a total answer to proliferation, any more than the "doctrine" of preemption is a total answer. But the agreements help the U.S. stop proliferation in two ways.

  • First, when the United States acts to oppose the determined proliferators, we do so with the backing, and more importantly the assistance, of the many nations who are committed through this norm to resist proliferation.
  • Second, there is an in-between category of countries - examples in recent history are South Korea, Taiwan, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, and Ukraine – that have contemplated becoming nuclear states but have not become determined proliferators, and the global nonproliferation norm has been an important contributing factor in their decisions.

- Moreover, the risks of detection and condemnation could be made greater if the provisions of these agreements covering verification and sanctions for violations were strengthened. The U.S. should be trying to strengthen and not weaken these agreements. It is contrary to the security interests of the United States to suggest that we would be better off if these regimes did not exist.

7. Take urgent steps to head off a catastrophic burst of proliferation and loose nukes in North Korea.

- Allowing North Korea to proceed to serial production of nuclear weapons would be a major disaster for U.S. national security.

- The U.S. should attempt a diplomatic resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis, with the objective of the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile programs.

- We cannot be sure that diplomacy will be successful, but we cannot move on to other options until diplomacy has been tried and has failed.

- To have the greatest chance of success, the U.S. diplomatic approach must have three components:

  • Willingness to accept a diplomatic outcome. This means that if the result of diplomacy is an agreement that achieves U.S. objectives without compromising U.S. security objectives, the United States must be willing to enter into that agreement.
  • Red line. Diplomacy must be backed up by a credible threat of coercive action, including military force, if North Korea proceeds to serial production of nuclear weapons.
  • Forestalling WMD over regime change. The United States must put achieving its critical objective of stopping and eliminating North Korea's nuclear and missile programs over inducing collapse of North Korea's government.

- If a diplomatic solution is not possible, the United States should be prepared to use coercive action, including military force, to preclude serial production of nuclear weapons by North Korea. Such a military action should have the clear objective of retarding the advance of North Korea's nuclear program, and this limited aim should be clearly communicated to the North Korean government.

8. Reconcile U.S. efforts to counter nuclear proliferation in Iran with overall U.S. policy towards reform in Iran.

- The U.S. faces two immediate security imperatives with respect to Iran.

  • To prevent Iran from going nuclear.
  • To support Iran's younger generation in casting off the yoke of the mullahs in favor of a normal relationship with the wider world.

- These objectives can be pursued simultaneously:

  • The United States should publicly offer Iran a full economic and political relationship if it renounces nuclear weapons and support for international terrorism.
  • Conversely, we should make it clear that pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran will preclude normal relations and will put Iran on a collision course with the United States.

9. Ensure that U.S. policy towards the role of U.S. nuclear weapons supports, and does not undercut, our effort to counter proliferation. With an unmatched conventional military, the United States has fewer military roles for nuclear weapons than at any time in the Atomic Age. There is therefore little advantage to emphasizing nuclear weapons, and a great disadvantage in suggesting to others that the U.S. is increasing reliance on nuclear weapons. We should:

- Continue to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.

  • There are few, if any, operational requirements that cannot be met with non-nuclear forces. Advances in conventional precision strike, electronic warfare, and SOF have substantially delimited the missions for which nuclear weapons are needed and appropriate.

- Preserve a long-term nuclear deterrent. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons continue to serve a vital function of background deterrence against nuclear attack, and may be of some value in deterring biological and chemical weapons attacks.

  • A U.S. nuclear arsenal, greatly reduced through existing arms control agreements, will remain an essential ingredient of American security until we have been much more successful in ridding the world of WMD.
  • As long as countries hostile to the U.S. have or seek WMD, the United States will need credible nuclear forces to deter attacks against our homeland, our allies, and our interests abroad.

- Ensure stockpile safety and reliability. A reasonably funded and technically sound stockpile stewardship program is therefore a long-term necessity, and the current levels of investment (about $6.4 billion this year) are appropriate.

  • We should make every effort to ensure that we can maintain the safety and reliability of our nuclear arsenal without a return to nuclear testing.

- Make no further changes in deployed nuclear forces - either dramatic reductions in numbers and types beyond those foreseen by existing arms control agreements, or the addition of new types of weapons or new doctrines.

  • Strategic forces, after planned reductions, will be fully adequate for deterrence. These weapons will not need replacement for many years, and R&D on their replacements should not receive high priority relative to other pressing defense "transformation" R&D needs.
  • The small arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons is non-provocative and provides reassurance to allies.
  • The strategic weapons stockpile represents a prudent hedge against problems with the reliability of the existing stockpile and should be retained, though its size could be reduced.
  • The United States has no compelling requirement for new types of nuclear weapons, and new programs of these types should not be pursued.
  • Requirements for destroying hard and deeply buried targets (HDBTs) like command and control bunkers and WMD facilities can be met with non-nuclear capabilities (e.g. conventional munitions, electronic warfare, SOF) or the adaptation of existing nuclear weapons to that purpose.
  • Renewed underground testing is unnecessary and unwise. It would only be required for new designs - which are not needed - or in the event of a serious suspected failure of reliability in the existing stockpile - which has not occurred and is not foreseen, though it cannot be ruled out.
  • There is, therefore, no need to resume underground testing or to pursue preparation for resumed underground testing. The United States should maintain its current moratorium on nuclear testing and eventually seek ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as a long-term goal.
  • Some operational "de-alerting" steps could be taken through agreements with Russia and possibly China to further reduce the risk of accidental or inadvertent missile launches.
  • The United States should accelerate the deactivation and dismantlement of weapons slated for retirement and encourage Russia to do the same.

- Reject new departures for nuclear weapons design and testing.

  • U.S. conduct with respect to its own nuclear arsenal has little effect on determined proliferators or on states that have no intention to develop nuclear weapons, but it could well have an adverse impact on the important category of "in-between" states where the political debate over nuclear weapons is active.
  • Although the Bush administration's Nuclear Posture Review states that nuclear weapons will play a reduced role in the overall U.S. security policy, it also suggests that the United States may need to develop new low-yield, earth-penetrating nuclear weapons to destroy hard and deeply buried targets (HDBTs) and defeat WMD agents. Neither the requirement for, nor the effectiveness of, such weapons warrants such a departure.
  • Although the administration says that it is not planning to resume nuclear testing, it is taking steps to improve U.S. readiness to resume nuclear testing by reducing the time to test from the current 36 months to 18 months.
  • Although the administration says it has not made a decision to develop new nuclear weapons, it has sought funding for "advanced concepts" work on new nuclear weapons and the repeal of existing legislation prohibiting research and development of new, low-yield nuclear weapons.
  • These mixed messages are troubling, as they give others - both friends and potential foes - the impression that the United States envisions greater reliance on and wider uses for nuclear weapons in the future.

- Preserve nuclear deterrent declaratory policy.

  • The United States should maintain a declaratory policy of purposeful ambiguity and should not foreswear nuclear retaliation against enemies who use biological or chemical weapons against U.S. territory, forces, or allies. Such a threat might contribute to deterring such use.
  • At the same time, the emphasis in U.S. planning and resource allocation should be on non-nuclear responses to such threats. We should make clear that these are America's preferred responses, and that they are very effective and can be further enhanced. Non-nuclear responses include:
  • use of our conventional military power in ways that would be overwhelming and devastating to any party using BW or CW against us;
  • passive defenses like vaccines, protective suits and masks, and advanced detectors (such defenses are required for protection against terrorists, who might use BW and CW and for which retaliation might be impractical due to the absence of a "return address"); and
  • active defenses like theater and national missile defenses.
  • U.S. policy should emphasize that nuclear weapons are not just another arrow in our quiver. They are fundamentally different in nature, and U.S. policymakers should take care not to blur this distinction or lose sight of this reality.
  • The concept of integrating offensive nuclear forces, offensive long-range conventional forces, and missile defenses in a "New Triad" is not helpful in this regard as it risks suggesting to Americans and the world that the United States does not understand the profound difference between nuclear and conventional weapons. An American president should not view nuclear weapons in the same category as non-nuclear missile defenses and precision conventional weapons.

- Overall guidelines for the U.S. nuclear posture:

  • As a general rule, seek to maximize the non-nuclear capabilities available to the President, including in mission areas traditionally thought of as nuclear. We should seek to avoid a situation in which the President's only option is to cross the nuclear threshold.
  • Seek to make the set of missions for which only nuclear capabilities will suffice smaller and smaller.

- At same time, ensure that U.S. nuclear options remain credible by maintaining adequate funding for stockpile stewardship, warhead refurbishment, modernization, and the supporting nuclear infrastructure.

Winning the War on Terrorism

and Strengthening Homeland Security

July 2003


To succeed in the war on terrorism we must simultaneously wage three closely coordinated campaigns:

- Aggressively take the fight to the terrorists and to those nations that support them, particularly those that could be likely suppliers of WMD;

- Defend our homeland and our people; and

- Exercise America's leadership to create a less bitter and divided world -a world where extremists are isolated, not us.

So far our record has been mixed. While we have had some impressive successes in taking the fight to the terrorists, our efforts to secure the homeland have been slow, underfunded, and woefully short of the mark. Our relations with most nations whose help we need have been inadequate and in many cases downright counterproductive; the Administration's unnecessary unilateralism hobbles effective cooperation. This is no time for complacency on any front.


We must be aggressive in taking the fight to the terrorists, acting forcefully where necessary to prevent further attacks upon the United States, our friends or allies. The fight against terrorists must be proactive, fought, to the extent possible, on their ground -not ours. Defense is essential, but defense alone will not guarantee safety.


For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Carter, Ashton B.; William J. Perry, Madeleine K. Albright, Samuel R. Berger, Louis Caldera, Wesley K. Clark, Michele A. Flournoy, John D. Podesta, Alfonso E. Lenhardt, John M. Shalikashvili and Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall.. “An American Security Policy: Challenge, Opportunity, Commitment.” Paper, July 2003.

The Authors

Ash Carter

Dr. Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall