At the outset of this entry I must admit a bias, having worked for Senator Lugar for many years and watching his leadership in foreign policy. But I can also say that I have been gone for a greater number of years than I was there and I am encouraged to see that he still is willing to be the forerunner on even the most difficult issues. Perhaps more impressive than his leadership and initiative is his willingness to do it all while forging relationships across the aisle. In this pursuit, most notably we have seen this past week the passage of the Lugar-Obama legislation reflecting a continued US resolve to increase international awareness surrounding the dangers of weapons stockpiles.
The Lugar-Obama Bill is founded in a previous bi-partisan effort between Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar in 1991 (Nunn-Lugar Act), which initiated the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. That program’s focus was to provide aid to the former Soviet Union to dismantle its enormous stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The Lugar-Obama Act, passed by the Senate on May 23, 2006, was essentially born out of The Nunn-Lugar Act in that it continues to seek a working relationship with foreign countries to reduce their weapons stockpiles. The latest act has two branches, which focus on the more grassroots threat of conventional weapons (i.e. anti-aircraft missiles, etc.), as well as locating these weapons and confiscating them from the likes of terrorists and black market dealers before they can be used against US troops and allies, or other peacekeeping forces.
This initiative undoubtedly represents a step in the right direction and I applaud the bill’s authors for their vision of the need for preemptive action. The recent discussions in Washington over use of the term ‘preemption’ have generally focused on preemptive military action. However, the Lugar-Obama bill reflects a type of preemptive diplomacy, which is another channel for a positive national security landscape. In that context, I do think that preemptive action seems appropriate and efficient in the context of weapons stockpiles.
This legislation still reflects a work in progress where there is an increasing need to separate weapons from those that seek to use them in a harmful way, and to do so in the most inclusive possible fashion. Almost every country has a vested interest in dealing effectively with terrorism. Unfortunately, the countries with the greatest need in this regard are also the countries that have been less willing to become involved with the US in past initiatives. My hope, then, is that this act represents a bridge to those countries upon which we might cooperatively seek action in advance of immediate threat or potential use.