Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Ringing in Proliferation: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network

| Fall 2005


The nuclear nonproliferation regime has come under attack from proliferation determinists, who argue that resolute proliferants connected by decentralized networks can be stopped only through the use of aggressive export controls or regime change. Proliferation pragmatists counter that nuclear aspirants are neither as resolved nor as advanced as determinists claim. A technical review of recent proliferators’ progress reveals that Iran, North Korea, and Libya (before it renounced its nuclear program) have been unable to significantly cut development times; the evidence that these regimes are dead set on proliferating and cannot be persuaded to give up their nuclear programs is not compelling. Because these states lack tacit knowledge, the most effective way to dissolve the hub-and-spoke or star-shaped structures of their nuclear and ballistic missile networks is to target the hubs—that is, second-tier proliferators such as Pakistan that have assisted these states with their nuclear and missile programs. Past strategies aimed at dissuading proliferants have been most successful when they combine diplomatic, social, and economic benefits with credible threats and clear red lines. The United States should therefore use these strategies instead of regime change to target current and potential hub states to halt further proliferation.

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For Academic Citation: Montgomery, Alexander H.. Ringing in Proliferation: How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb Network.” Quarterly Journal: International Security, vol. 30. no. 2. (Fall 2005):