At a speech to the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC., Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson unveiled his plan to prevent nuclear terrorism, or as he referred to it a “nuclear 9/11.” Richardson said,” In the 20th century, nuclear deterrence worked.  In the 21st century, it won’t.  Mutually Assured Destruction deterred the Soviet Union, but nothing will stop suicidal Jihadists from using a nuclear bomb if they get their hands on one.  If Al Qaeda obtained nuclear weapons, they could smuggle them into American cities – and they would not hesitate to use them with the same ruthlessness that allowed them to fly airplanes filled with people into buildings filled with people.”

Since in his view the Jihadists are determined and can’t be stopped, Richardson’s solution involves what he has labeled as a “New Realism” in U.S. foreign policy. “You may have heard me speak elsewhere about the need for what I call a “New Realism” in American policy. By this I mean that we need to wake up and see that the greatest threats we face today, from global warming to terrorism, do not face only us – and that this means that unilateral action usually will not work.  To defend ourselves in the 21st century, we may occasionally need to act alone, but usually we must work with others.  Building and leading strong international coalitions should be our first thought when we face common challenges—not an afterthought when our unilateral course has failed. “

“A New Realism for the 21st century also understands that many threats today come not from states, but rather from societies, including our own society.  Not from armies massing or nation states targeting us with missiles, but rather from complex social trends – such as our own consumption of fossil fuels.  Not so much from hostile states as from hostile individuals, empowered by their willingness to kill and die for fanatical beliefs, the New Mexico governor said.” Richardson’s plan has four parts. As president he wants to, halt nuclear weapons proliferation, halt nuclear weapons production and reduce the size of nuclear arsenals, halt or secure civilian programs that require or produce bomb-grade materials, and consolidate and secure all existing fissile materials and all future production associated with nuclear energy and research worldwide.

He believes, as the rest of the Clinton administration did, that the best way to deal with N. Korea and Iran is to find the right combination of punishments and incentives to convince these two nations to renounce their nuclear ambitions. As the Bush administration recently found out, this is really the only way to deal with N. Korea, but Iran is a wealthier nation with its eyes on regional domination. I don’t think the Richardson’s strategy will be effective in their case.

Richardson does know what he is talking about when it comes to WMD. No candidate running in either party understands these issues as well as Richardson does, but he is also a Clintonista who has no chance of winning the nomination with Hillary in the race. To me, he is strictly campaigning for the VP slot. However, his ideas on this one issue are good. If the Iraq war has proven one thing, it is that there are some things that even the mighty U.S.A. can’t go it alone on.

Full Text of Richardson’s speech.

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at blog radio

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