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Nuclear Warrior Replaces Bolton as Arms Control Chief

Activists gather on the west side of the Capitol Building June 7 in Washington, D.C., to protest the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / AFP-Getty Images)

The top United States government official in charge of arms control advocates the offensive use of nuclear weapons and has deep roots in the militarist political camp.

Moving into the old job of John Bolton, the administration’s hard-core unilateralist nominee to be the next ambassador to the United Nations, Robert G. Joseph is the right-wing’s advance man for counter-proliferation as the conceptual core of a new military policy.

Within the administration, he leads a band of counter-proliferationists who — working closely with such militarist policy institutes as the National Institute for Public Policy (N.I.P.P.) and the Center for Security Policy (C.S.P.) — have placed preemptive attacks and weapons of mass destruction at the center of national security strategy.

Joseph replaced John Bolton at the State Department as the new undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.

United States security strategy, according to the new arms control chief, should “not include signing up for arms control for the sake of arms control. At best that would be a needless diversion of effort when the real threat requires all of our attention. At worst, as we discovered in the draft B.W.C. (Biological Weapons Convention) Protocol that we inherited, an arms control approach would actually harm our ability to deal with the W.M.D. threat.”

Before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, proponents of national missile defense and a more “flexible” nuclear defense strategy focused almost exclusively on the W.M.D. threat from “competitor” states such as Russia and especially China, and from “rogue” states such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and North Korea.

Joseph and other hard-line strategists advocated large increases in military spending to counter these threats while paying little or no attention to the warnings that the most likely attack on the United States and its armed forces abroad would come from non-state terrorist networks.

Instead of advocating improved intelligence on such terrorist networks like Al Qaeda, which had an established record of attacking the United States, militarist policy institutes such as N.I.P.P. and C.S.P. focused almost exclusively on proposals for high-tech, high-priced items such as space weapons, missile defense, and nuclear weapons development.

After 9/11 Joseph and other administration militarists quickly placed the threat from terrorism at the centre of their threat assessments without changing their recommendations for security strategy.

Joseph points to Iran and North Korea, as well as China, as the leading post-Cold War missile threats to the homeland. Typical of strategists who identify with the neoconservative political camp, Joseph continually raises the alarm about China, alleging that China is the “country that has been most prone to ballistic missile attacks on the United States.”

Joseph participated as a team member in crafting the influential 2001 report by the National Institute for Public Policy titled “Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control.”

The report recommended that the government develop a new generation of “usable” lower-yield nuclear arms. The N.I.P.P. study served as the blueprint for President Bush’s controversial Nuclear Posture Review.

Joseph was instrumental in inserting the concept of counter-proliferation into the centre of the Bush administration’s national security strategy. Counter-proliferation is the first of the three pillars of the administration’s W.M.D. defense strategy, as outlined in the National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction — a document that Joseph helped draft — and in the White House’s National Security Strategy.

In 1999, Joseph told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the country was unprepared to defend the homeland against new W.M.D. threats. He recommended that the “United States acquire the capabilities to deny an enemy the benefits of these weapons. These capabilities — including passive and active defenses as well as improved counterforce means such as the ability to destroy mobile missiles — offer the best chance to strengthen deterrence, and provide the best hedge against deterrence failure.”

Joseph, the founder and director of the Counterproliferation Center at the National Defense University, told the Senate committee: “We are making progress in improving our ability to strike deep underground targets, as well as in protecting the release of agents [meaning radioactive fallout]. We are revising joint doctrine for the conduct of military operations in an N.B.C. environment [meaning one in which nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are the weapons of choice], based on the assumption that chemical and biological use will be a likely condition of future warfare.”

“In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action,” concludes Joseph — and that action includes the preemptive use of W.M.D.s.

Not a high-profile hardliner like John Bolton or former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith, Joseph successfully avoided the public limelight — that is until the scandal of the 16 words in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address about Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons development program. Press reports and congressional testimony by Central Intelligence Agency officials later revealed that the C.I.A. had vigorously protested the inclusion of any assertion that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons since their intelligence would not support such a conclusion. Alan Foley, the C.I.A.’s top expert on weapons of mass destruction, told Congress that Joseph repeatedly pressed the C.I.A. to back the inclusion in Bush’s speech of a statement about Iraq’s attempts to buy uranium from Niger.

The new undersecretary of state for arms control has said that his “starting point and first conclusion” in formulating national security strategy is the fact that “nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are a permanent feature of the international environment.”

As his second conclusion, Joseph asserted that nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons “have substantial utility,” adding as a corollary that a versatile W.M.D. capability is essential “to deny an enemy of these weapons” since “the threat of retaliation or punishment that formed the basis for our deterrent policy in the Cold War is not likely to be sufficient.”

Arms control chief Joseph is a new breed of militarist who believes that in a world where weapons of mass destruction may be proliferating, it behooves the United States to bolster its own W.M.D. arsenal and then use it against other proliferators.

For more about Robert Joseph, see the I.R.C.’s complete profile and extended analysis at rightweb.irc-online.org/ind/
joseph/joseph.php.

Tom Barry is policy director of the International Relations Center, online at www.irc-online.org, and a regular contributor to Inter Press Service, which first published this news analysis June 10.

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