Sept. 1, 2010
Redefining Success: Applying Lessons in Nuclear Diplomacy from North Korea to Iran
The United States has no good options for resolving the North Korean and Iranian nuclear challenges. Incentives, pressures, and threats have not succeeded. A military strike would temporarily set back these programs, but at unacceptable human and diplomatic costs, and with a high risk of their reconstitution and acceleration. For some policymakers, therefore, the best option is to isolate these regimes until they collapse or pressures build to compel negotiations on U.S. terms. This option has the veneer of toughness sufficient to make it politically defensible in Washington. On closer scrutiny, however, it actually allows North Korea and Iran to continue their nuclear programs unrestrained. It also sacrifices more achievable short-term goals of improving transparency and securing vulnerable nuclear materials to the uncertain long-term goal of denuclearization. Yet these short-term goals are deemed critical to U.S. national security in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).