Jerome H. Kahan

June 13, 1994

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


What are the policy implications regarding proliferation and counterproliferation of nuclear weapons among Third World states? How does deterrence operate outside the parameters of superpower confrontation as defined by the cold war's elaborate system of constraints enforced by concepts like mutual assured destruction, and counter-value and counter-force targeting? How can U.S. policymakers devise contingencies for dealing with nuclear threats posed by countries like North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Syria?

These are some of the unsettling but nevertheless important questions addressed by the author in this monograph. In his analysis, Mr. Jerome Kahan examines the likelihood that one or more of these countries will use nuclear weapons before the year 2000. He also offers a framework that policymakers and planners might use in assessing U.S. interests in preempting the use of nuclear weapons or in retaliating for their use.

Ironically, with the end of the cold war, it is imperative that defense strategists, policymakers, and military professionals think about the "unthinkable." In the interest of fostering debate on this important subject, the Strategic Studies Institute commends this insightful monograph to your attention.

                             RICHARD H. WITHERSPOON
                             Colonel, U.S. Army
                             Director, Strategic Studies Institute



For decades, the United States has pursued nuclear nonproliferation as an important national security goal. At times, this objective was masked or even compromised by the overarching needs of managing the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance and maintaining the Western Alliance. As the cold war faded, the problem of proliferation assumed an ever more prominent place in U.S. national security strategy. During the Bush administration, this issue was especially visible when the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War showed how close that nation was to having developed nuclear weapons. The Clinton administration's national security policy puts priority on nonproliferation and assigns to the Department of Defense the mission of "counterproliferation" that is, the strategic means of dealing with new nations that cross the threshold and actually obtain weapons of mass destruction.

This monograph focuses on counterproliferation, with special attention to crises involving Third World states that, in the near term, may produce or acquire militarily usable nuclear weapons. It addresses four questions of interest to national security planners and policymakers:

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SOURCE: US Army Strategic Studies Institute