Washington Post: Iran's Nuclear Program Speeds Ahead
"Our three 'axis of evil' designees seem to have decided to push hard to provide themselves with weapons if they're going to be in the constant attention of the United States," Gottemoeller said. "We need a more proactive, positive way of engaging them first and then trying to shut these things down."
The current US behaviour towards countries that have nuclear weapons and those that don't makes the choice for those countries pretty clear: develop nuclear weapons quickly, or nothing short of a total Wall Street crash will stop a US invasion. In short: nukes and maybe terrorism are the only things that will keep you from getting invaded. This, compounded with Bush's promise to use nuclear weapons against countries that use chemical weapons, or keeping the option to proceed with "legitimate" first use of "tactical nukes" serves only to escalate worldwide nuclear proliferation.
Daniel Ellsberg writes:
With or without first-use in this conflict, I fear that an attack on Iraq will spur other nations into acquiring nuclear weapons for deterrence in the future. In the guise of averting proliferation in Iraq, this bullying attack by the world's preeminent nuclear power will accelerate proliferation dramatically. (It may already have had that effect in North Korea). The black market price for Russian (or Pakistani, or North Korean) nuclear materials or, better, operational nuclear weapons, will skyrocket. If a market and international trade in such materials and weapons does not develop in response to this, then the assumptions underlying the theory of markets and free trade need radical overhaul.
As Ellsberg points out, the #1 threat to the US right now is the possibility that Al Quaeda or other terrorist groups might acquire nuclear weapons. By invading and occupying Iraq, the US will not only be creating a huge demand for nuclear weapons, but severely increasing the possibility of that such weapons will get into the hands of terrorists. All it takes is one, after all.
On its own, the new nuclear proliferation (which has already begun) will have tremendous unforseen consequences. If Iran gets nukes, how will its neighbors react? In that event, Saddam Hussein will stop at nothing to get nuclear weapons, since he (probably legitimately) fears a reprisal for the war he started with Iran in the 80s. Any US-sponsored regime in Iraq would undoubtedly not feel it was secure until it also had nuclear capabilities to deter Iran. But that's just an obvious example; the point is, we cannot predict these things. No one can.
The obvious and sane alternative is to work for cutting down conventional arms buildup in general and nuclear capability in particular across the board in the Middle East. That means, of course, stopping much of the highly lucrative business that US arms dealers (usually subsidized by US taxpayers) do in many countries in the region. It also means working with Russia to make sure their vast nuclear arsenal is accounted for. This is the only possible way for governments in the region to feel secure without possessing huge arsenals. For obvious reasons, it is very much against the prerogrative of the Bush administration to do this, which is why only popular pressure can make the government responsive to the vast danger it is creating.
I, for one, don't want to see another September 11th, much less one involving nuclear fallout.