A World Without Nuclear Weapons
That seems to be the consensus of an influential group of European leaders making the rounds in Washington this week. Among their stops was the Atlantic Council, where the delegation from the Pugwash Conferences and the Top Level Group joined us for working lunch on the future of the U.S. nuclear posture in Europe.
I outline the major arguments in “Are Nuclear Weapons Obsolete?”
My major rejoinders:
At first blush, it sounds like a wonderful idea. After all, nuclear weapons are weapons of mass destruction that can kill innocents by the thousands if not the millions. Who wouldn’t want to be rid of them? Getting to that point might be absurdly fanciful from a practical standpoint, but it’s a wonderful ideal, no?
Certainly from an American standpoint it is. By most estimates, we spend more on defense than the rest of the planet combined. A nuclear-free world would be one in which our conventional military might would give us even more freedom of action than we now enjoy. North Korea would be rendered a minor irritant and our relationship with Iran and Russia would improve decidedly in our favor.
Presumably, the same is true of the Western Europeans and the NATO countries, who would be far less constrained in their relations with Russia and far less worried about Iran.
But the opposite would seem obviously true as well. Surely, North Korea and Russia are much happier as nuclear powers. And there must be some reason Iran is so actively pursuing nuclear capability. There are decided advantages to being a member of the club.
Clausewitz taught us that war and politics are inextricably linked. So, the distinction between the “political” and “military” viability of nuclear weapons is one without meaning. The bottom line is that deterrence theory still works, at least amongst state actors. After all, no nuclear power has ever been attacked by another state. The same can’t be said about attacks by nuclear powers against non-nuclear states.
Much more at the link.