By Karl Stampfl
Daily Staff Reporter
David Kay, the man who led the fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003, said the United States should be paying more attention to Mexico, which he says may pose a threat to national security.
Kay delivered the Harold Jacobson Memorial Lecture yesterday afternoon in the Rackham Amphitheatre on the future of nuclear nonproliferation.
He said the United States’s lack of intelligence on Mexico is another example of the flaw that led experts to incorrectly believe Iraq had WMDs – overconfidence.
“Because we like margaritas and tacos and grew up in Texas, we think we understand Mexico,” Kay said. “But this is a state that is among the most corrupt in the world.”
In a recent survey by Transparency International, Mexico ranked as the 21st most corrupt country.
Eight countries have declared nuclear weapons programs – the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea – while several others, including Iran and Ukraine, are suspected of possessing nuclear weapons but have not acknowledged their alleged capabilities.
Kay said nuclear proliferation is one of the biggest threats facing the world today because technological barriers are no longer enough to prevent countries from developing weapons programs.
“The technology is out of the bottle,” he said. “It’s readily available. It’s not a matter of skill, it’s a matter of cost.”
Kay said firms will develop nuclear weapons for countries that do not have the technology for about $10 million.
“Virtually anyone can become a nuclear power overnight,” he said.
Kay said the current political system is ill-equipped to deal with the threat of increased nuclear proliferation. Efforts to stem nuclear proliferation failed in the 1980s when several nations, including India and South Africa, developed programs.
Kay said U.S. intelligence gathering efforts have to be improved to better understand and predict the actions of other nations. For example, he said that of the 1,400 people he led into Iraq to search for WMDs, only two spoke fluent Arabic.
“How can you understand a society without having anyone that can speak its language?” he said.
Another problem that plagues U.S. intelligence is a lack of accountability, he said.
Kay said few officials in U.S. intelligence agencies are willing to tell policymakers what they don’t want to hear, and even fewer are willing to admit they don’t know something.
Kay said he is also concerned about the large number of failed states that may acquire WMDs out of desperation.
“I’m convinced the dominant focus of international politics in the next 25 years is going to be learning to deal with a failing-state system,” he said.
LSA freshman Daniel Albertus, who attended yesterday’s lecture, agreed with Kay that U.S. intelligence gathering is flawed.
“In order to overcome the problem of nuclear proliferation, we have to overcome the problems of the system,” he said.
But Kay said preventing proliferation is not only a task for the United States.
“It’s an international thing, but we must lead it,” he said.