I spent a considerable part of my State Department career working on non-proliferation matters, either nuclear proliferation or missile proliferation. I never worked specifically on chemical or biological weapons proliferation. President Reagan was elected after I had been in the State Department for about five years and was working on non-proliferation in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), which is the part of the State Department that works closely with the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The Carter Administration had begun working on the problem of missile proliferation, but with the change of administration, the senior people who had been working on this issue for Carter all lost their jobs. Although I was pretty junior, I was one of the few people who knew anything about it. Thus I had a larger role than I normally would have had in the creation of what eventually was called the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). This was my introduction to the competition between the State Department and the Defense Department.
At that time, missile proliferation fell under the control of a man named Richard Perle at the Defense Department. You may recognize his name as the chairman, and then member until recently, of the Defense Advisory Board, and as one of the main hawks favoring war with Iraq. Back then he was an assistant secretary of defense, which is not particularly high ranking, but his influence was much greater than his title would indicate. Some of Perle’s staff from those days is still around, including the #2 at the NSC, Deputy NSC Advisor Steve Hadley.
State was seeking a missile non-proliferation regime that we could get other countries to join. Perle was seeking an extremely tough regime that would cut off almost all trade in anything having to do with either missiles or peaceful space launch vehicles, since space launch vehicles incorporate a lot of missile technology. At first we only sought the cooperation of our closest allies – Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and a few other countries. Back then, Donald Rumsfeld’s “new” Europe was still Communist Europe. Anyway, our allies would not buy on to a regime that was too tough on peaceful space cooperation, and within the US Government, the Pentagon would not buy on to a regime that allowed too much peaceful space cooperation. So, we negotiated with our allies and within the government until I got assigned to Bangkok, Thailand. When I got back from assignments in Bangkok and Brasilia, Brazil, they had reached agreement on what they called the MTCR, which turned out to be one of those things designed by committee that generally pleases no one.
It did not please me, because while I was in Brazil, I helped an American company win a multimillion-dollar contract for satellite tracking stations to allow Brazil to use satellites to monitor environmental conditions in the Amazon. A few months later, however, the Pentagon vetoed the deal because it said the tracking stations could be used to track missiles if Brazil tried to develop them, although they would have been poorly suited for this purpose. The US eventually approved licenses for the ground stations, but my Brazilian contacts were furious with me because of my role in persuading them to buy American. They said that they would have bought a similar Japanese system if they had known the US would have created so many problems for their environmental satellite program. However, the State Department office in Washington that had been created to handle the MTCR asked me to come back and help them get it working. So, I spent another two years trying to get more rich countries to sign on to it, and to get better enforcement of what we already had in place against poorer, potentially proliferating countries. The MTCR still exists, has much wider membership, hopefully has stronger controls, and is being supplemented by other agreements on missile control. My boss during this assignment was Richard Clarke of “Against All Enemies” book fame.
In the early days, one of the most contentious issues was what to do about SCUD missiles, which were at the lower limit of what the regime controlled. SCUDs were first produced by the Soviet Union, but the Soviets sold not only the missiles themselves, but also the technology to build them. So, today they are produced by a number of unsavory countries, including North Korea. You may remember that during the first Gulf War, Iraq fired SCUDS at Israel and US troops in Saudi Arabia. They were one of the weapons of mass destruction that we expected Saddam Hussein to use in the second war. But they were not used and like other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, Iraq’s SCUDS have gone missing, although before the war UN inspectors did find and destroy components for a more advanced missile based on the SCUD.
One sad thing I learned at State is that it’s easier for the government to do easy things than for it to do hard things. This may sound simplistic, but I found that it was often easier to take action against moderate countries that were not so bad, like Brazil or Argentina, than against tough countries that were really misbehaving, like Pakistan or China. It looks to me like this still going on today. Despite all that we have learned in the last few months about A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb, selling nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, Libya, and possibly Iraq, the US remains on good terms with Pakistan because we need their help in Afghanistan and the search for Osama bin Laden.
Pakistan built its atomic bombs using uranium enrichment technology; Pakistan is the developing country that has the best expertise in uranium enrichment. The latest big flap in our relations with North Korea is over their building a uranium enrichment facility. But because of our terrorist problems in Afghanistan and elsewhere, we are reluctant to crack down on Pakistan. So, we recently sanctioned North Korea for its relatively low-grade missile proliferation activities in helping Pakistan with missiles. But we have not sanctioned Pakistan, because of political considerations.
Russia and China remain problem countries. Russia stands accused of supplying somewhat similar nuclear technology or equipment to Iran. Russia and Iran have nuclear cooperation going back years and years. China appears to have been the source of some crucial nuclear technology acquired by the Pakistanis. But because of our huge trade relationship with China and our need for China’s help with North Korea, we remain quiet about China’s other activities.