One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

How Much for Your Nukes?

(cross-posted at On Day One)

Here’s an interesting nuclear nonproliferation idea. Buy out countries’ nukes. Specifically, Pakistan’s, the benefit of which, in the words of a Pakistani nuclear physicist, has been limited to the ability to “destroy India and be destroyed in its response.”

Here’s Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens’ proposal:

How much?

How much for all of them?

This is the deal I have in mind. The government of Pakistan would verifiably eliminate its entire nuclear stockpile and the industrial base that sustains it. In exchange, the U.S. and other Western donors would agree to a $100 billion economic package, administered by an independent authority and disbursed over 10 years, on condition that Pakistan remain a democratic and secular state (no military rulers; no Sharia law). It would supplement that package with military aid similar to what the U.S. provides Israel: F-35 fighters, M-1 tanks, Apache helicopters. The U.S. would also extend its nuclear umbrella to Pakistan, just as Hillary Clinton now proposes to do for Israel.

A pipe dream? Not necessarily. People forget that the world has subtracted more nuclear powers over the past two decades than it has added: Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine and South Africa all voluntarily relinquished their stockpiles in the 1990s. Libya did away with its program in 2003 when Moammar Gadhafi concluded that a bomb would be a net liability, and that he had more to gain by coming to terms with the West.

So in addition to the $700 billion economic stimulus package, taxpayers can embrace a $100 billion nuclear bailout bill? My guess is that this will be a tough sell. Further, Stephens’ imagined impositions sound a bit like aggressive nation-shaping under another name. And the key to the successes that Stephens cites is that they were voluntary abdications of the countries’ nuclear programs, not enticements to gain additional military assistance.

(image from flickr user OpenThreads under a Creative Commons license)


December 16, 2008 - Posted by | India/Pakistan, U.S. Foreign policy | , ,


  1. Even better – how about a reverse auction in nuclear arms reductions?

    The West can invite a handful of countries that we’d like to disarm to bid downward until we reach the lowest price for which one will scrap their nuclear program. It would create some perverse incentives, but at a small fraction of the cost of the Iraq war, and with positive rather than negative externalities, we could do it many times.

    Comment by Nathan Labenz | December 18, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] nuclear cooperation Turns out the idea of putting Pakistan’s nuclear weapons up on the auction block may not have been that far-fetched after all.  If Britain can do it, why not […]

    Pingback by Anglo-American nuclear cooperation « Boondoggle | December 22, 2008 | Reply

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