Sen. Hillary Clinton recently confirmed that as president she would be willing to use nuclear weapons against Iran if it were to launch a nuclear attack against Israel. In an interview Mrs. Clinton affirmed that she would warn Iran’s leaders that “their use of nuclear weapons against Israel would provoke a nuclear response from the United States.”
And last week the Bush administration told Congress that North Korea was helping Syria build a plutonium‐producing nuclear reactor before Israel bombed the site last September.
Such news assumes that efforts at preventing nuclear proliferation will be, at least partially, unsuccessful. This is why a new report from the RAND Corporation says, “prudence dictates that the United States and it allies prepared for the possibility that they might, in the not‐too‐distant future, confront regional adversaries with deliverable nuclear arsenals.”
The monograph, “The Challenge of Nuclear‐Armed Regional Adversaries” released April 15, 2008 was written by RAND analysts David Ochmanek and Lowell H. Schwartz. Ochmanek is a former Air Force officer and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy from 1993 until June 1995. Before coming to RAND, Schwartz was a former business analyst at The Boeing Company.
The authors take exception to the view that deterrence is still a valid strategy, as it was against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They argue that deterring the use of nuclear weapons by threatening retaliation could be “highly problematic in many plausible conflict situations involving nuclear‐armed regional adversaries for the simple reason that adversary leaders may not believe that they will personally be any worse off for having used nuclear weapons than if they were to forgo their use.”
The authors write that for different reasons — Kim Jong Il out of a sense that he has little to lose and Iran’s leadership out of nationalist ambition fueled by religious‐revolutionary zeal.Both countries may be willing to accept a great deal of risk once conflict breaks out.
The monograph points out North Korean and Iranian leaders have compelling reasons to consider using nuclear weapons. It notes: