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Nuclear deterrence
The discussion about the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear arms, before hopelessly diverting every which way, seemed to rest on the premises that some countries should not be allowed to possess such weapons, whereas it is assumed that other countries' nuclear arsenal may be tolerated. This leads to an issue that I find quite troubling, as I can't seem to grasp it properly. My confusion is compounded by my impressions after recently seeing Dr. Strangelove again. It seems clear to everybody else, so obviously I am missing some crucial point, and I would like to be enlightened.

(So much for false modesty, now to the point --- )

Why should any country possess nuclear arms?

Nuclear arms are particularly well-suited for mass killing, and although they may possibly be used against purely military targets in certain cases, their capability of wiping out the entire population of a region is surely a matter of grave concern. Unlike other weapons, it is very hard to use nuclear weapons in a measured way. I am thus considering the possibility of a nuclear attack as most undesirable. This assumption is compatible with the common claim that the existing nuclear powers are reluctant to use nuclear weapons.

Why possess them, then? If a country will not use nuclear weapons, it need not possess them. In other words: If a country may possibly launch a nuclear attach, we should deny it such destructive capabilities; otherwise, it has no use for them and thus need not acquire them. This usually leads to the notion of nuclear deterrence -- they are supposedly only for posing a threat, not for being used. However, this brings us back to the same problem -- the key of a threat is the possibility of its realization.

I find the whole concept of deterrence as an element in international relationship a bit dubious. It is often assumed, for instance, that deterrence can guarantee peace, and the Cold War is often mentioned as an example. However, in order for deterrence to be maintained, the willingness to use force has to be demonstrated regularly, and as a matter of fact, millions of people were killed in Cold War-related conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and several wars and campaigns across Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Furthermore, the world may have been a heartbeat away from a full scale nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis (and it is claimed that if not for the objection of a single submarine officer named Arkhipov, the war may have been triggered at one point). An even poorer example of the merits of deterrence is the first World War. I can't help referring the reader to the following bit from Blackadder:

Iran often accuses the international community of hypocrisy and double standard when it strives to suppress her nuclear program while overlooking Israel's. Why should it be so? Why should Israel possess nuclear weapons? Why should India? Why should France? Why should any country?
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Latest Post: March 7, 2010 at 9:30 AM
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