7 - Establishing a global quarantine against WMD  pp. 140-154

Establishing a global quarantine against WMD

By Derek D. Smith

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Faced with mounting international insecurity, Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave his famous “Quarantine Speech” in 1937, likening the rise of fascism to an outbreak of world lawlessness. “When an epidemic of physical disease starts to spread,” FDR remarked, “the community approves and joins in a quarantine of the patients in order to protect the health of the community against the spread of the disease.” Fearful of becoming embroiled in another world war, the United States was slow to shed its isolationism, only gradually increasing the provision of arms to its allies and restricting exports to the Axis powers. When war finally came at Pearl Harbor, Nazi and Japanese forces had expanded like a cancer throughout Europe and Asia, requiring far more than a quarantine to eliminate the malignancy.

Today the proliferation of WMD represents another danger that is on the brink of developing into an epidemic. With the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests in 1998, the clandestine nuclear progress of North Korea and Iran, and over a dozen nuclear-capable states waiting indecisively on the sidelines, the world has arrived at what is fairly described as a “nuclear tipping point,” where a few decisions to produce WMD could spark a cascade of proliferation. Since the United States may be unwilling to rely entirely on deterrence and unable feasibly to wage preventive wars against rogue states with WMD, it should, together with the international community, lay the foundation for a global quarantine against WMD, prohibiting all forms of transfer.