After Detection--What?

Courtesy Reuters

THE current debate on arms control and disarmament puts great stress on the problem of how to detect violations of whatever agreements may be reached. To this end inspection schemes and instruments for detection are developed, their capabilities and limitations discussed, and efforts made to test and improve them. Indeed, the technical question of detection dominates not only the domestic debate but also the international disarmament negotiations.

Yet detecting violations is not enough. What counts are the political and military consequences of a violation once it has been detected, since these alone will determine whether or not the violator stands to gain in the end. In entering into an arms-control agreement, we must know not only that we are technically capable of detecting a violation but also that we or the rest of the world will be politically, legally and militarily in a position to react effectively if a violation is discovered. If we focus all our attention on the technicalities of how to detect a violation, we are in danger of assuming that our reactions and sanctions will be adequate.

A potential violator of an arms-control agreement will not be deterred simply by the risk that his action may be discovered. What will deter him will be the fear that what he gains from the violation will be outweighed by the loss he may suffer from the victim's reaction to it. In other words, even if we can develop an inspection system that makes the probability of detection very high, a nation contemplating a violation will not be deterred if it thinks it can discourage, circumvent or absorb our reaction.

We have learned (almost too late, in the case of the nuclear test ban) that an opponent may thwart our detection techniques by evasive techniques of his own. We should also realize that he may thwart the consequences of detection--which we count on to deter violations--by military or political stratagems. We must study, therefore, not only what our opponent may

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