The Roots of the Washington Threat Consensus

  • Jacques E. C. Hymans


In the months leading up to the Iraq war, many American foreign policy elites spoke out against the First Strike Doctrine that was declared in the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (henceforth the Strategy). But overwhelmingly these elites—even political opponents of die Bush administration— did not criticize the threat assessment that underlies the doctrine. What I will call the “Washington threat consensus” a broad-based agreement about the nature of the contemporary threat environment—was not primarily the result of “obvious” external realities or of mean political calculation. Rather, it stemmed from the fact that the mainstream opposition—Democratic politicians, arms controllers, and even many progressive activists—had independently developed the same assessment as the Bush administration.1 Indeed, in many cases they had even got there first.


Bush Administration Chemical Weapon Biological Weapon Threat Assessment Clinton Administration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 10.
    Benjamin Frankel, ed., Opaque Nuclear Proliferation: Methodological and Policy Implications (London: Frank Cass, 1991).Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “The Methodology of Mass Destruction: Assessing Threats in the New World Order,” journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 23, no. 1 (March 2000), 163–187.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Alexander L. George, “The Need for Influence Theory and Actor-Specific Behavioral Models of Adversaries,” in Barry R. Schneider and Jerrold M. Post, eds., Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and their Strategic Cultures (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: United States Air Force Counterproliferation Center, November 2002), 271–310.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Richard Price and Nina Tannenwald, “Norms and Deterrence: the Nuclear and Chemical Weapons Taboos,” in Peter J. Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 114–152.Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Kenneth N. Waltz, “More May Be Better,” in Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, eds., The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), 1–46.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Joseph S. Nye, “Before War,” The Washington Post, March 14, 2003, A27.Google Scholar
  7. 23.
    For an insider’s account of this history, see A. David Rossin, “Marketing Fear: Nuclear Issues in Public Policy,” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 46, no. 6 (February 2003), 812–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 24.
    John Maxwell Hamilton and Leonard S. Spector, “Congressional Counterattack: Reagan and the Congress,” in Pilat, ed., The Nonproliferation Predicament, 57–69.Google Scholar
  9. 26.
    Richard K. Lester, “Foreign Policy Preaching and Domestic Practice,” in Pilat, ed., The Nonproliferation Predicament, 40 .Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    Edward J. Markey with Douglas C. Waller, Nuclear Peril: The Politics of Proliferation (Cambridge, MA.: Ballinger Publishing Company, 1982), 4 .Google Scholar
  11. 29.
    John Tirman, Making the Money Sing: Private Wealth and Public Power in the Search for Peace (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), 91–92.Google Scholar
  12. 30.
    United Nations Department of Political and Security Council Affairs, The United Nations and Disarmament, 19451970 (New York: United Nations, 1970), 12 .Google Scholar
  13. 32.
    Seymour M. Hersh, Chemical and Biological Warfare: America’s Hidden Arsenal (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968), 23.Google Scholar
  14. 34.
    Charles Piller and Keith R. Yamamoto, Gene Wars: Military Control over the New Genetic Technologies (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1988), chapter 7 .Google Scholar
  15. 35.
    Richard Price, The ChemicalWeapons Taboo (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), 144.Google Scholar
  16. 39.
    Warren C. Christopher, “Wobbly on Iraq,” New York Times, April 29, 1994, A27.Google Scholar
  17. 40.
    William Cohen statement in “Standoff with Iraq; War of Words: The Administration, Its Critics, and Questions of Moral Right,” New York Times, February 19, 1998, A9.Google Scholar
  18. 46.
    Morton Halperin, “The Decision to Deploy the ABM: Bureaucratic and Domestic Politics in the Johnson Administration,” World Politics, vol. 25, no. 1 (October, 1972), 62–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 49.
    John Rawls, The Law of Peoples; with, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 9 and 81.Google Scholar
  20. 50.
    Jeffrey Paris, ‘After Rawls,” Social Theory and Practice, vol. 28, no. 4 (October 2002), 697.Google Scholar
  21. 54.
    Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  22. 56.
    Peter Lavoy, “What’s New in the New U.S. Strategy to Combat WMD?” Naval Postgraduate School Center for Contemporary Conflict Strategic Insight, December 16, 2003. <>
  23. 59.
    Jonathan Schell, “The Folly of Arms Control,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 79, no. 5 (September/ October 2000), 22–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 60.
    Paul H. Nitze, “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves,” New York Times, October 28, 1999, A31.Google Scholar
  25. 63.
    Frances Fitzgerald, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), 200 .Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Betty Glad and Chris J. Dolan 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacques E. C. Hymans

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations