Charles Krauthammer today suggests how we can keep North Korea from proliferating nuclear weapons:
This is how you keep Kim Jong Il from proliferating. Make him understand that his survival would be hostage to the actions of whatever terrorist group he sold his weapons to. Any terrorist detonation would be assumed to have his address on it. The United States would then return postage. Automaticity of this kind concentrates the mind.Given Pakistan's proliferation of nuclear technology, including the sale of technology to North Korea, doesn't that caveat make this proposal a non-starter? (Would he have us assume that such technology sales will never happen again?)
This policy has a hitch, however. It works only in a world where there is but a single rogue nuclear state. Once that club expands to two, the policy evaporates, because a nuclear terror attack would no longer have a single automatic return address.
Further, why should we automatically assume North Korean involvement when our technology allows us to pinpoint the source of plutonium used even after a nuclear blast? Attacking North Korea for a different nation's carelessness with or sale of its nuclear technology offers no deterrent value whatsoever.
Also, what are we going to do to North Korea? There are perfectly valid reasons why, as Krauthammer previously acknowledged, the U.S. doesn't want to launch "a second Korean War", let alone one which would "presumably [involve] in-kind nuclear retaliation". I'm sure South Korea and China would be thrilled with that proposal.
Am I the only one who scratches his head a bit when people who tell us how horrible it would be if a "rogue nation" obtained nuclear weapons don't even take a breath before arguing that it would be an appropriate military response to "nuke the desert to glass" or "nuke their country into a parking lot" if they cross certain lines? I didn't hear that particular argument from Krauthammer in response to "what if Iraq uses biological weapons or poison gas against U.S. troops" - apparently for him somebody must actually use nuclear weapons before a nuclear response should be "presumed". But I still have this vision of him sitting on the bomb as it falls from the sky, waving his cowboy hat in the air.