Biden on nuclear deterrence

In today's Wall Street Journal (no free link) Joe Biden argues "the U.S. should take the lead in creating an international nuclear forensics library."

The op-ed piece, headlined "CSI: Nukes," is a pitch for bringing nuclear deterrence into the 21st century. Biden writes:

"The library could house actual samples of nuclear material contributed by participating countries, validated data about their material, or binding agreements to provide predetermined data in the immediate aftermath of an attack or smuggling incident. A library cannot guarantee that in the wake of an attack the world could assign blame to a country, but it could be a critical tool in narrowing an investigation and debunking wild rumors or allegations. Countries might hesitate to share their nuclear material, but the library could safeguard samples and identify their origin only if they matched smuggled material or nuclear debris. Any country that refused to contribute to a nuclear forensics library would risk condemnation or suspicion in the event of a terrorist nuclear attack."

Acknowledging the problem of deterring the individual terrorist, Biden says the key is to deter the states that would sell them nuclear material or know-how:

"The U.S. has long deterred a nuclear attack by states, by clearly and credibly threatening devastating retaliation. Now is the time for a new type of deterrence: We must make clear in advance that we will hold accountable any country that contributes to a terrorist nuclear attack, whether by directly aiding would-be nuclear terrorists or willfully neglecting its responsibility to secure the nuclear weapons or weapons-usable nuclear material within its borders."