Getting to Zero: How to rid the world of 23,000 nuclear warheads and prevent new ones? A panel of nuclear experts discussed the challenge at the World Economic Forum in January.
COURTESY OF YAN XUETONG
"From the Director"
Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter
Author: Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School
After a year of seriously seeking to engage Iran, the U.S. is now pursuing a new UN Security Council resolution that will ratchet up sanctions, targeting Iran's Revolutionary Guard. As many have observed, the results of Obama's kinder, gentler more sensitive approach to Iran are eerily similar to the Bush administration's opposite tack. Friendship or hostility, reassurance or threats-whatever-Iran continues enriching uranium at the rate of six pounds a day, accumulating another bomb's worth every eight months.
Looking to the year ahead, a simulation or war game hosted by the Belfer Center in November is suggestive. The purpose of the exercise was to illuminate the shape of the challenge and real policy alternatives for decision makers in the months ahead. Participants included some of the leading thinkers working on the Iran issue today: our own Nicholas Burns, the Bush administration's lead diplomat on Iran; Columbia University's Gary Sick; and Dore Gold, Israel's former permanent representative to the UN. Columnist David Ignatius observed the simulation and published his takeaways in a column for the Washington Post.
I summarized my own takeaway from the simulation in a poor-man's version of Yogi Berra: if the river is pushing your raft to where you don't want to go, if you just hang on, you'll get there. My second: if you don't want to go where the river is pushing your raft, you better get off.
The simulation demonstrated the pressing need for game-changing ideas on the Iran front. Iran, however, is only one of several nuclear-related issues that will be on the front page of the international agenda over the next several months. The Obama administration is hosting the first ever Nuclear Security Summit in April, where 42 heads of state will join him for two days focusing on one issue: how to secure all nuclear weapons and all weapons-usable material worldwide to a gold standard-beyond the reach of terrorists or thieves. Two Belfer alumni, Gary Samore and Laura Holgate, are the key National Security Council staff members preparing this event.
On the nuclear terrorism front, I am pleased that a recent Belfer Center report by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former top CIA official and now a Belfer Center senior fellow, received extensive international attention. It details al Qaeda's sustained efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction-beginning more than a decade ago and continuing today. (Read it here: http://belfercenter.org/publication/19852/)
In a lead article in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs, I asked whether the current global nuclear order could be as fragile today as the global financial order was two years ago. Analyzing the facts on the ground in Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea, it is clear that trendlines are propelling us toward a "tipping point" for proliferation and nuclear terrorism. President Obama has undertaken the most substantial effort to bend these trendlines since JFK in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. As President Obama recently noted, "The next 12 months could be pivotal in determining whether [the nonproliferation regime] will be strengthened or slowly dissolve away." Folks at the Center will be providing all the ideas and support we can to what we hope will be a pivot in the right direction.
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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