The Helen Caldicott Foundation | The end of nuclear deterrence
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The end of nuclear deterrence

The end of nuclear deterrence

“The only solution is simply to ban nuclear weapons for good.” From deterrence to disarmament. A change of heart report back from the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry / The Week 12 December, 2014

This week, I attended the Vienna conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons… The conference was striking in describing the utter, absolute destruction that can be caused by nuclear weapons.

I came in as a supporter of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, which says that the world’s major power-brokers should have nuclear weapons as a way of preventing a new world war. Advocates of this doctrine point to the Cold War, which never went hot, as a success for deterrence.

But supporters of disarmament — including the Red Cross, Pope Francis, and, believe it or not, Henry Kissinger — say that’s wrong. These are serious, sober-minded people, not just pie-in-the-sky activists, and they say that deterrence doesn’t work in a multipolar world. Instead, the presence of nuclear weapons just creates an incentive for more proliferation, as small countries try to one-up their regional adversaries…

…the most striking thing at the conference… the risks inherent in the existence of nuclear weapons. History has recorded many close calls in which nuclear weapons were almost fired. (This, in turn, could have led to a nightmare scenario where an accidental strike is met with a riposte, triggering Armageddon.) …six U.S. nuclear warheads went missing because of a bureaucratic mistake. …the story of the U.S. nuclear missile launch officer with the drug problem.

If this stuff can happen in the U.S., which has the oldest, best-funded, and most sophisticated nuclear force, one shudders to think about what might be going on in Russia or Pakistan…

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