What can be done about the small number of countries that refuse to play within the nuclear sandbox? Are economic sanctions alone enough, or must the United States consider the use of force to negate any threats?
That was the key question under discussion during “Emerging Threats to America: Learning from the Past to Protect our Future,” an April 4 symposium at the Columbus School of Law sponsored by the Catholic University Law Review and the Military and National Security Students Association.
The three hour symposium presented two panels that came at the question from different angles. Panel one, moderated by Jeff Abramson, former deputy director of the Washington DC Arms Control Association and managing editor, Arms Control Today, analyzed the successes and failures of the 30 year-old Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); while the second panel examined the applicability and relevance of The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which was quickly passed in the wake of 9/11.
The NPT was designed to promote cooperation and peace in the use of nuclear energy at a time when only five nations were acknowledged to possess nuclear weapons. In general, the international treaty has been “wildly successful” in its aims, according to panelist Alex Wagner, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown and senior advisor, rule of law and detainee policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Today, however, a number of belligerent nations also possess nuclear weapons capabilities, if not the capacity to deliver them long-range. Chief among them are Iran and North Korea.
Punishing economic sanctions against Iran are beginning to pay off, said Laicie Heeley, director of Middle East and Defense Policy at the Center for Arms Control. Heely noted that Iran’s production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel has dropped for the first time in four years as it appeals to the international community for partial relief from the sanctions.
North Korea is another matter entirely, however, according to Kelsey Davenport, a nonproliferation analyst with the Arms Control Association. Davenport said that while a nuclear attack by North Korea against another state remains a remote possibility, it is much likelier to sell its dangerous technology to a terrorist organization.
Economic sanctions leveled against North Korea has done little to dissuade it from its threatening ways.
“Despite this incredible body of sanctions, North Korea has continued its nuclear programs,” said Davenport. “There is a serious deficiently of implementation and enforcement of anti-North Korea sanctions.”
Davenport added that “if we’re going to make progress, we need to start talking to them.”
The second panel addressed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It tackled such questions as whether the president needs the AUMF to conduct the kinds of operations the U.S. has been conducting since its enactment, and whether the agreement will lapse if the U.S. withdraws completely from Afghanistan.
Members of the second panel included:
- Moderator: Professor Sandy Hodgkinson, chief of staff and vice president, DRS Technologies, Inc., and adjunct professor, Columbus School of Law
- Prof. Michael Noone, Research Ordinary Professor, Columbus School of Law
- Prof. Jamil Jaffer, senior counsel, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States House of Representatives, adjunct professor, The George Mason University School of Law
- Prof. Ryan Vogel, policy advisor, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), adjunct professional lecturer, American University School of International Service
Introductory remarks were offered by Daniel Attridge, Dean and Knights of Columbus Professor of Law, Columbus School of Law; Dan Bidwell, editor-in-chief, Catholic University Law Review; and Meaghan Pedati, president, Military and National Security Students Association.