'Left of Boom'

By Sebastian Sprenger / August 7, 2009 at 5:00 AM

That term became the new mantra among Defense Department officials some years ago when roadside bombs in Iraq were killing dozens of U.S. forces every month, with no end in sight. It symbolized a shift in attention -- mainly through intelligence and good old fashioned police work -- toward understanding and disabling the networks of bomb makers behind the deadly attacks.

Similar thinking is apparently going on among the nation's intelligence agencies charged with stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, according to a speech by a top official this week.

In the past, counter-WMD efforts often were understood as a "technical" discipline providing "descriptive analysis" to U.S. decision-makers, National Counterproliferation Center Director Kenneth Brill said in a speech this week at the Washington Institute for Near-East Policy.

But officials now are increasingly trying to figure out the motivations of WMD-seeking adversaries and deduce from those potential strategies to "discourage, prevent, rollback and deter" their WMD programs, Brill said.

"To get to the left of the proliferation problem, we need to learn about and understand a state’s motivations, determine ways to address those motivations and identify what levers and opportunities can be applied or exploited to dissuade interest in WMD," according to Brill.

"The Intelligence Community, in coordination with partners across the U.S. government -- is instituting a new watchfulness to guide its action -- watchful for nascent WMD programs, watchful for levers that can discourage such programs, and watchful for the threats that have been made real in this era of globalization," he said.