Most people consider the North Korean nuclear tests to be A Bad Thing. Similarly, most people consider Iran's program to do the same A Very Bad Thing. But not Olaf, Blogging Tory and frequent commenter here. He's taken the neorealist argument that carefully controlled nuclear proliferation could add stability to the international arena, and given it some crystal meth. Basically, Olaf argues (here and here) that anyone who wants nuclear weapons should be able to get them. The UN would - if I read Olaf right - effectively serve the market that AQ Khan built up, providing nuclear weapons to anyone who wanted them, provided they were tracked and regulated. Were any nation or terrorist to actually use said weapons, the UN would sanction a proportional nuclear strike against the aggressor. Olaf calls his theory MAD to the Max, which sounds a bit too much like a brand of Gatorade to me.
1) Olaf calls his theory a neorealist one, and he does indeed draw from some neorealist thought. But the UN is altogether too important in Olaf's plan to be truly realist. Rather, the plan should leave it up to regional powers to proliferate nuclear technology. There's plenty of candidates here - Russia could sell nukes back to the 'stans, China and Japan could compete in the Pacific Rim for nuclear customers, South Africa could proliferate Africa, and there's a couple of candidates for South America. But does anyone want to bet on whether or not the United States will allow Canada to develop nuclear weapons?
2) Related to point 1, relying on the UN to sanction a retaliatory strike doesn't belong in a neorealist theory. Rather, we need a similar proliferation of missile technology as well as nuclear warheads. Every nation that wants one should be allowed intercontinental ballistic missiles, and maybe even missile submarines.
Points 1 and 2 aren't just theoretical points: for the UN to play the role Olaf is calling for, it would need to be able to agree (presumably in the Security Council) to sanction a nuclear strike on a member state, but not have been able to agree on a solution to the original dispute which preceded the war. That's questionable, to say the least.
Let's just say that I'm not wild about this idea - I wasn't wild when Walz proposed his more moderate version, and Olaf's version doesn't exactly make me comfortable. But... Since 1970, the nuclear-armed states have spent three decades punishing states that develop new nuclear weapons without making serious committments to reduce their own arsenals. The Indian/Pakistani/Israeli criticism of the NPT - that it creates nuclear "haves" and "have-nots" without any fair reason - is perfectly reasonable, if the US and Russia aren't willing to commit to total disarmament. Our moral objections to proliferation become even more questionable when you see how short-lived American outrage at India and Pakistan was, and how little criticism Israel's nuclear arsenal gets in US press.
If we aren't serious about non-proliferation - and the last 30 years suggests we aren't - then we might as well sit back, kick up our feet, and chug a few cans of Diet Caffeine-Free Mad to the Max.
Some uncomfortable questions for Olaf, wherever you are:
1) Why do you want Iran to have a nuclear weapon? Are you opposed to the existence of the state of Israel?
2) Why do you hate freedom?