Expert: WMDs threat full of hot air | AspenTimes.com
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Expert: WMDs threat full of hot air

Eben Harrell

Everyone just calm down, it’s not as bad as they’d have you think.This was the message yesterday at The Aspen Institute as national security expert Philip Coyle told a packed Paepcke Auditorium that the government has been inflating the threat of weapons of mass destruction to justify huge expenditures in defense spending.Coyle, a former assistant secretary of defense, said that use of WMDs, either by terrorists or rogue states, is not presently a serious threat to America’s homeland security. To Coyle, most weapons now characterized as WMDs – such as biological weapons or so-called “dirty bombs” – are not nearly as dangerous as people think, capable of limited human casualties and negligible structural damage. They are more “weapons of mass disruption” than “weapons of mass destruction.”Coyle also said the government has exaggerated the threat of WMDs to justify a misguided war on terror, regime change in Iraq and a hike in military spending, particularly on missile defense.”Fear, not reality, is driving our current expenditures,” Coyle said. “The threat from weapons of mass destruction has been exaggerated here and in Iraq.”Coyle said all evidence suggests that terrorists are attracted not to WMDs but traditional explosives. He cited the Madrid train bombings, along with the Sept. 11 attacks, as examples of terrorists choosing non-nuclear explosives as their weapons of choice. America should work to heighten security around the distribution of traditional explosives – such as dynamite – before worrying about WMDs in rogue states, according to Coyle.”A 747 jumbo jet loaded with fuel has the same energy potential as a small nuclear weapon,” Coyle said.Coyle also attacked the Bush administration’s foreign policy, criticizing it for being all stick and no carrot. He noted that America spends more money on national defense than the rest of the world put together, while at the same time distributing the least amount of foreign aid of any industrialized nation.”Blunt, confrontational diplomacy plus military spending is not a path to peace,” he said.Coyle had five suggestions to bolster America’s security, which he admitted was not an answer, “but surely a start in the right direction.” • America should stop fighting the United Nations.• America should use its “soft power” potential, working through diplomacy and cultural exchange.• America should focus on the terrorist threat of ordinary explosives, not WMDs.• America should halt deployment of its missiles and abandon plans to develop weapons systems in space.• America should scrap plans to develop new nuclear weapons, holding itself and other nations accountable to the spirit of nonproliferation.Coyle was the first speaker in The Aspen Institute’s Summer Speaker Series. The Tuesday lectures are free and open to the public.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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