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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Robert G. Joseph: US Nuclear Warrior Takes The Helm

The top US government official now in charge of arms control advocates the offensive use of nuclear weapons and has deep roots in the militarist political camp. Moving into the job of John Bolton, the administration's hardcore unilateralist nominee to be the next US ambassador to the United Nations, Robert G Joseph is the right-wing's advance man for counterproliferation as the conceptual core of a new US military policy.

Within the George W Bush administration, Joseph leads a band of counterproliferationists who - working closely with such militarist policy institutes as the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) and the Center for Security Policy (CSP) - have placed preemptive attacks and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at the center of US national security strategy.

Joseph recently replaced Bolton at the State Department as the new under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.

US 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 BWC [Biological Weapons Convention] protocol that we inherited, an arms control approach would actually harm our ability to deal with the WMD threat."

Before the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, proponents of national missile defense and a more "flexible" nuclear defense strategy focused almost exclusively on the WMD 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 hardline strategists advocated large increases in military spending to counter these threats, while paying little or no attention to 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 as al-Qaeda, which had an established record of attacking the US, militarist policy institutes such as the NIPP and CSP focused almost exclusively on proposals for high-tech, high-priced items such as space weapons, missile defense and nuclear weapons development.

After September 11, Joseph and other administration militarists quickly placed the threat from terrorism at the center of their threat assessments without changing their recommendations for US security strategy.

Joseph points to Iran and North Korea, as well as China, as the leading post-Cold War missile threats to the US homeland. Typical of strategists who identify with the neo-conservative political camp, Joseph continually raises the alarm about China, alleging 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 NIPP titled "Rationale and Requirements for US Nuclear Forces and Arms Control". The report recommended that the US government develop a new generation of "usable" lower-yield nuclear arms. The NIPP study served as the blueprint for Bush's controversial Nuclear Posture Review.

Joseph was instrumental in inserting the concept of counterproliferation into the center of the Bush administration's national security strategy. Counterproliferation is the first of the three pillars of the administration's WMD 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 WMD 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, founder and director of the Center for Counterproliferation at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, 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 NBC 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," Joseph concluded - and that action includes the US's preemptive use of WMDs.

Not a high-profile hardliner like Bolton or former under secretary 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 (CIA) officials later revealed that the CIA had vigorously protested the inclusion in that speech of any assertion that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons since their intelligence would not support such a conclusion. Alan Foley, the CIA's top expert on weapons of mass destruction, told Congress that Joseph repeatedly pressed the CIA to back the inclusion in Bush's speech of a statement about Iraq's attempts to buy uranium from Niger.

The new under secretary of state for arms control has said 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", and added as a corollary that a versatile US WMD 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".

The arms control chief 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 WMD arsenal and then use it against other proliferators.

Tom Barry

Tom Barry is policy director of the International Relations Center.
Published with permission of the International Relations Center

(Copyright 2005 International Relations Center.)


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