Poll April 2006

States of Insecurity

The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign policy authorities—selected for their breadth of knowledge and first-hand experience in international affairs—about threats facing the U.S. and the allies that will be instrumental in confronting them.

Q: Which states will pose the greatest overall threats to U.S. security over the next decade, either directly or indirectly? (38 votes)

  Points First-Place
1. Iran 116 18.5
2. North Korea 74 6
3. Pakistan 59.5 5
4. China 57 4
5. Saudi Arabia 30.5 5
6. Iraq 27 5
7. Russia 21 0.5
Write-ins: Egypt, Venezuela (one vote each).    

On Iran

"The first new hostile nuclear power in almost half a century."

"A nuclear-armed Iran under radical leadership would destabilize the entire Middle East, threaten Israel's survival, and enable Iran to sponsor terrorism against the U.S. and our allies while meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan with impunity."

"If Iran's leadership (as it appears) is recovering its revolutionary impulse, we face a future of destabilizing activities in the region."

"Iran has a combination of nuclear program, continued support for terrorist groups and reactionary states, and growing regional influence especially with Shia dominated Iraq."

"We are heading toward the Cuban missile crisis in terms of their nuclear program."

"Unless both the U.S. and Iran shift course, this could become a major threat to U.S. security; [much depends] on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of leaders."

On North Korea

"North Korea represents the biggest immediate nuclear proliferation threat.  Nothing should give us comfort that North Korea will not sell nukes to Al Qaeda or other U.S. adversaries, or even start a conflict threatening US forces and interests on the Korean peninsula. The failure of the Bush administration, distracted by a non-nuclear Iraq, to deal effectively with the nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea constitutes the single most serious failure of U.S. national security policy in a generation."

"Their nuclear program, history of proliferation, and political instability could ignite a regional crisis."

"The big problem here is what happens when the regime starts to implode.  That could be very messy."

"North Korea will not last the decade. It will collapse, hopefully peacefully, and be absorbed by South Korea.  We will then have a pro-Western but potentially nuclear unified Korea which will be a challenge but also a potential ally. It will not be a threat to our interests."

On Pakistan

"Pakistan could become number one on this list in a heart beat, if Musharraf is toppled in a coup by radicals with the willingness to use or transfer nuclear weapons."

"In the next ten years, the most likely threats to U.S. security will come from states disintegrating rather than from rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan tops the list – it is a weak state, with uncertain control over nuclear weapons, and home to various terrorists groups that remain largely beyond the control of the state security forces."

"Pakistan is a very unstable government with nuclear weapons and a radicalizing security establishment."

"The problem in the war on terror is our 'friends' as much as our enemies. The worst kept secret in the world is that we are not allowed to debrief A.Q. Khan [the father of Pakistan's nuclear program now under house arrest for transferring nuclear technology to other states] because he'd tell us what we already know and fear to confirm—the generals were in on the proliferation scam with him."

On China

"China will threaten U.S. security indirectly as a consequence of: its insatiable thirst for oil and its willingness to do anything to compete for access to secure energy supplies; its growing economic, technological and military power; and the fact that it holds large quantities of U.S. debt."

"Our long term interests just don't line up well; they want to be the dominant power in East Asia and we are the dominant power in East Asia."

"A rising power with more political and diplomatic challenges than military challenges, but they are modernizing a military establishment in ways that we need to pay very close attention to."

"China is increasingly complicating American and European international actions, especially toward the Middle East."

"China may or may not be a major threat over time.  It is not now."

On Saudi Arabia

"More democracy would just bring worse Wahhabists to power. On the other hand, the members of the corrupt ruling family are hardly poster children for [responsibility]; supporting them is to court long-term disaster. Either way, this is a major problem."

On Iraq

"Iraq represents a massive diversion of our energies, the prospect of a radically destabilized region, and a massive erosion in the perception of our power and moral authority."

"Iraq is our most immediate challenge.  If we fail to create an independent state with a reasonably good chance of long term viability our global position—and our ability to influence events in the Middle East—will be so degraded that it will be difficult to predict future threats."

"If that doesn't go right, after all the American blood and resources, then we're in for real trouble by a bolstered radical Islamic ideology." 

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