Bennett Ramberg

Whatever Kim Jong-Il’s death meant for the people of North Korea, it did not change the fundamental strategic interest that the United States has in the country. The paramount issue for Washington remains assuring that Pyongyang never uses its nuclear arsenal, and that it never leaks or gifts its weapons material and technology to other nations or terrorists. But if Washington’s basic strategic posture remains, it should consider revising its current non-proliferation policies in the wake of Pyongyang’s change of leadership.

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Once again Pyongyang has its hands out for international food assistance to compensate for its inability to feed its people.

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In the wee hours of September 6, 2007, Israel’s air force crossed into Syrian airspace and attacked a clandestine, nearly operational nuclear reactor located in the country’s remote northeastern desert. Were the strike the end of the story the international community might have tipped its hat silently, thanking Jerusalem for putting to bed a nuclear risk that could have increased regional tensions dramatically. But the assault proved to be a mere chapter in what now has become a saga.

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The Nowhere Bomb

Should Jerusalem bring its bomb out of the basement? Israel, for at least the moment, is the sole possessor of atomic weapons in the Middle East, with an arsenal that now includes approximately 200 warheads. But it is also the only nuclear-armed nation to hide its cache behind a façade of official silence–neither confirming nor denying its existence. Iran’s mounting nuclear capability arguably demands a reconsideration of this stance. Explicitly announcing its nuclear status would have its advantages. It would upgrade Israel’s deterrent.

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