Focus on realities of nuke threats

A nuclear-free world is years away. Proliferation is today’s challenge.

Scott Beutel - masters public policy student

I enjoyed Ian BryneâÄôs Monday column, âÄúNuclear weapons still a threat.âÄù But I want to add some additional information and thoughts to the debate.
A nuclear weapons-free world is a worthy goal, but it is one that is years away. We need to meet the present challenge of proliferation now. It is dangerous to make absolute proclamations about other countries. We may be forced to meet challenges that offer no good choices. We need to meet these threats proactively, flexibly and creatively while transcending rigid commitments to hard power.
Bryne states that with a few kilos of highly enriched uranium and a trip to the hardware store, a country could be well on its way to building a nuclear device.  This is far from true. Pakistan, North Korea and now Iran have incurred great risks while investing huge amounts of time and money in their quests to build a weapon. Enriching uranium is a major engineering challenge, if not a conceptually difficult one.
If, as Bryne states, âÄúIran cannot in any circumstance be allowed to possess weapons-grade material or nuclear weapons,âÄù then I wonder what he proposes we do about it? Current sanctions, or any sanctions, seem unlikely to stop Iran from having the capability to build a nuclear device within the next several years. If sanctions do not work, this leaves the United States with a military option what would be messy, costly and may ultimately fail.
Our generation has both the advantage and disadvantage of not having lived through the Cold War. Our advantage is the ability to not be boxed in by past notions of what a nuclear threat looked like. Our disadvantage is we do not have that personal terror to focus our work on the task of engaging this ongoing threat. It is time to place this issue firmly on the agenda, but we must do so in a way where success is not defined as unachievable or where we view threats as inherently being the products of mad regimes without logic.