ND Expert: Nuclear summit misses most pressing issues

Author: Susan Guibert

Michael Desch

The 2012 Nuclear Security Summit fell short of its goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials around the world, as top officials of some 50 countries gathered earlier this week in South Korea in an effort to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Much of the discussion focused on North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities, the post-tsunami problems at the Fukushima nuclear reactor plants and Iran’s nuclear capabilities — all of which University of Notre Dame political scientist Michael Desch believes “occupy a disproportionate place in our psyche.”

Desch, an expert in international relations, American foreign and defense policies, and national security, believes that “we exaggerate the nuclear threat and ignore less dramatic, but more imminent threats."

“To be sure, the post-tsunami problems at the Fukushima reactors were worrisome, but should not obscure the fact that the human cost of civilian nuclear power remains far lower than that of fossil fuel-based energy generation. I’d live with 20 Fukushimas if I could avoid the global warming we’re facing in the coming years due to our disproportionate use of oil and coal,” Desch says.

“Likewise, even assuming Irain develops a small nuclear arsenal, something the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities do not even think is a foregone conclusion, there is far more likelihood of people dying in an Israeli preventive strike — and subsequent U.S.-Israeli-Iranian war in the Persian Gulf — than in a protracted Cold War in which the United States and Israel contain Iran.”

Desch is the author of “Power and Military Effectiveness: The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism” and “Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment.” He currently is researching the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and how social science theory affects U.S. national security policy.

Contact: Michael Desch, 574-631-2792, mdesch@nd.edu; Susan Guibert, Office of Public Relations, 574-631-2867, sguibert@nd.edu