Origin of U.S.Counterproliferation Policy   [open pdf - 37KB]

The origin of U.S. counterproliferation policy stems largely from our experience in the Gulf War. The potential threat posed by the Iraqi possession of nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons and their delivery means (NBC/M), often referred to as weapons of mass destruction (WMD), demonstrated that NBC proliferation had profound implications for U.S. defense planning. Indeed, many argue that the demonstration of U.S. conventional military prowess during the Gulf War has increased the possibility of WMD use against U.S. forces. Because of current U.S. conventional military dominance, potential adversaries are likely to challenge the United States by employing unconventional means, including the use of WMD. In his discussion of the dangers of WMD to the United States in a recent Foreign Affairs article, Richard Betts writes, "In the strategic terms most relevant to American security, they have become primitive. Once the cutting edge of the strong, they have become the only hope for so-called rogue states or terrorists who want to contest American power. Why? Because the United States has developed overwhelming superiority in conventional military force -something it never thought it had against the Soviet Union." Indeed, the overwhelming superiority of U.S. conventional military power, combined with the proliferation of WMD around the world, may cause future U.S. or U.S.-led coalition military campaigns to be fought on an "asymmetric battlefield" because a potential enemy might view it as necessary to employ WMD to gain strategic, operational, or tactical advantage over U.S. forces. Such an asymmetric advantage exists because of the constraints on U.S. retaliatory capability to such threats which may increase the likelihood of their use against U.S. forces. Therefore while the United States' primary goal is to stop or reverse the proliferation of such weapons (nonproliferation), the primary goal of DoD counterproliferation policy is to address this asymmetric threat to U.S. and allied forces, territories, and interests should deterrence fail.

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