Jeffrey W. Knopf, ed. International Cooperation on WMD Nonproliferation. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2016. 344 pp. $64.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8203-4527-7.
Reviewed by Albert Mauroni (USAF Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies)
Published on H-War (July, 2016)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)
The development and implementation of arms control and nonproliferation agreements represents an esoteric and often very technically focused subset of international security studies. For most national security students, the focus within international relations is on crisis management--how leaders of nation-states dealt with the outbreak or aftermath of military conflicts, rather than on the tedious diplomatic discussions between wars and crises. When it comes to addressing the threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), understanding of arms control and nonproliferation issues within the general national security community is even more scant. Usually knowledge is limited to recognition of the three major treaties--the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), and Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Certainly these are the core international treaties addressing WMD, but as editor Jeffrey Knopf points out, they are not the only nonproliferation efforts.
Formal treaties addressing arms control, and in particular multilateral arms control treaties, require years to develop and to agree upon particular language, have differing verification mechanisms, and often do not address all the potential areas of dispute that national leaders may wish them to. These treaties focus on compliance with international norms rather than cooperation. As a result, there have been significant gaps in coverage where national leaders have felt other, supplementary agreements were required to meet their specific security concerns. These activities have been more cooperative and collaborative in nature, supplementing the main arms control treaties and assisting countries in implementing the intent of advancing disarmament of these unconventional weapons.
Knopf has collected twelve case studies that evaluate the development, implementation, and overall success of nonproliferation activities outside of the major arms control treaties. The intent of this project is to determine how cooperative efforts have evolved and whether one can identify certain factors and trends that would explain how these arrangements have occurred. These factors include the degree of self-interest of parties wishing to enter into WMD nonproliferation agreements; the role of U. leadership; the norms and identities that were developed as a result of entering into these agreements; what ideas were developed and nurtured across transnational networks; how external or domestic politics played a role; and how the availability of capabilities to implement the agreements affected the success of such efforts.
The twelve case studies are diverse, but practically all deal with nuclear weapons proliferation. They address multilateral export controls, nuclear research reactors, cooperative threat reduction, the G8 Global Partnership, the Proliferation Security Initiative, UN Security Resolution 1540, countering nuclear terrorism, the recent nuclear security summits, multilateral nuclear weapons free zones, the Argentina-Brazil agreements on nuclear safeguards, nuclear nonproliferation cooperation efforts, and multilateral efforts addressing Iran’s nuclear program. It may be understandable that there is a heavy focus on nuclear nonproliferation, given the nature of the threat and the continued growth of nuclear energy programs in non-nuclear-weapon states, but (to this chemical-biological defense specialist) it is a little disappointing that few people are studying the complex factors behind developing nonproliferation activities addressing the potential proliferation of chemical and biological weapons.
Because each of the chapters could be read as a stand-alone study, I will avoid critiquing each of the chapters and rather note some general points. All of the chapters are well developed--even among technical members of the WMD community, the origins and rationale behind these nonproliferation activities are not well known, and the authors have all clearly laid out histories and details that provide a strong basis of analysis for their findings. Most in the WMD community know the names of the programs but not what they really do--these studies reveal the basis of the agreements and how they were developed in a way that does not require a former tour in the State Department or technical background in WMD programs. That said, because the chapters review both the history and details of complicated nation-state diplomatic efforts before attempting to arrive at conclusions, the readings can be a little dry. This is not to denigrate the depth of research or the findings--all of the authors should be commended for answering the editor’s intent to evaluate particular diplomatic agreements and to identify the role of those factors in the success of implementing said agreements. They are all clearly written, well defended, and frank in their evaluations.
One of the reasons this book got me excited was the project’s intent to assess the effectiveness of these cooperative nonproliferation activities. It is a long-standing debate as to whether anyone can “prove” that nuclear deterrence was effective in constraining the outbreak of nuclear war. Similarly, it is difficult to prove that treaties and agreements have effectively reduced the risk of nuclear war. In either case, the typical approach is a binary solution set--if nuclear war did not break out, it was because deterrence and/or treaties prevented it. If terrorists have not detonated a nuclear device in a metropolitan city, it is because arms control activities and international law prevented access to special nuclear materials. Of course it is not that simple to attribute success or failure to these activities. If Iran and North Korea become nuclear-weapon states, does that mean that the Proliferation Security Initiative has failed? Can we quantifiably measure the degree by which the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism or UNSCR 1540 has reduced access to special nuclear material by nonstate actors? The answer in both cases is no.
The majority of authors in this book cannot offer any such quantifiable measures, and in some cases, even qualitative evidence is hard to determine. The Cooperative Threat Reduction is the obvious exception, since it has a “scorecard” that identifies the number of nuclear weapons, delivery systems, and production facilities that have been dismantled. One can qualitatively see that Argentina and Brazil have both decided not to become nuclear-weapon states based on a well-developed cooperative agreement. Knopf notes that there have been other indications of the value of these activities, however. Cooperative efforts increase awareness of the dangers of WMD proliferation and reinforce the international “taboo” that is the global norm today. It would probably be true that, in the absence of these nonproliferation activities, more WMD proliferation would be evidenced.
Some of the conclusions resulting from a review of these twelve cases will not be surprising. Self-interest was the most important factor in a nation-state’s participation in a nonproliferation activity, and US leadership was key in developing many of them. International or regional norms were not as great a factor. Not every country views WMD as the threat that the US government has publicly declared them to be. Working-level relationships between scientists and technical experts of different nations were crucial for success (but again, this should not be a surprise for any international activity). There is always the need to consider domestic politics and national capability to implement cooperative efforts, if one is to be successful. If domestic politics and national capability is lagging, encouragement from other international partners is vital.
This book addresses a distinct need in the WMD community--while there is ample literature on the major arms control treaties, these nonproliferation activities represent a very real and tangible program that needs to be better understood and examined. While this book is not for the layperson, I would recommend it to anyone who works in the arms control community or who is seeking a better understanding of how the international community addresses WMD proliferation challenges.
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-war.
Albert Mauroni. Review of Knopf, Jeffrey W., ed., International Cooperation on WMD Nonproliferation.
H-War, H-Net Reviews.
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