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Perception of American strength prevents prolif and first strikes

Talent and Hall ‘10, March (Jim - distinguished fellow in government relations at the Heritage Foundation, and Heath, Sowing the Wind, p. http://www.freedomsolutions.org/2010/03/sowing-the-wind-the-decay-of-american-power-and-its-consequences/)

There is a reason that regimes like Iran and North Korea go to the time and expense, and assume the risks of developing nuclear weapons programs; nuclear capability empowers them to achieve their ends, and thereby poses challenges to the United States, for several reasons. First, there is a danger that rogue regimes with nuclear material may assist terrorists in developing weapons of mass destruction.[36] Even the possibility that such regimes may do so gives them leverage internationally. Second, these regimes have ambitions in their regions and around the world.[37] Some of their leaders are fanatical enough to actually consider a first strike using nuclear weapons; for example, high-ranking officials of the Iranian government have openly discussed using a nuclear weapon against Israel.[38] Whether a first strike occurs or not, the possession of nuclear capability frees aggressive regimes to pursue their other goals violently with less fear of retaliation. For example, North Korea’s nuclear capability means that it could attack South Korea conventionally with a measure of impunity; even if the attack failed, the United States and its allies would be less likely to remove the North Korean regime in retaliation. In other words, nuclear capability lessens the penalties which could be exacted on North Korea if it engages in aggression, which makes the aggression more likely. The same logic applies to Iran, which is why the other nations in the Middle East are so concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. A nuclear attack by Iran is possible, but the real danger of Iranian nuclear capability is that it would make conventional aggression in the region more likely.[39] Finally, the more nations that get nuclear weapons, the greater the pressure on other nations to acquire them as a deterrent, and this is particularly true when a government acquiring the capability is seen as unstable or aggressive. North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons has tended, for obvious reasons, to make the South Koreans and Japanese uncomfortable about having no deterrent themselves. The possibility of uncontrolled proliferation—what experts call a “nuclear cascade”[40]—is tremendously dangerous; it increases the possibility that terrorists can get nuclear material from a national program, and it raises the prospect of a multilateral nuclear confrontation between nations.[41] Many of the smaller nuclear nations do not have well-established first strike doctrine or launch protocols; the chance of a nuclear exchange, accidental or intentional, increases geometrically when a confrontation is multilateral. The antidote to proliferation is American leadership and power. The reality and perception of American strength not only deters aggressive regimes from acquiring weapons of mass destruction; it reassures other countries that they can exist safely under the umbrella of American power without having to develop their own deterrent capability.[42]

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