The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More may be better
Last updated: March 7, 2019
Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz have written a book entitled The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed, this is part of an ongoing debate within International Relations about nuclear weapons, could proliferation be a good thing? or is it too risky? after all its a risk we could not test. The Cold War implied that nuclear weapons helped prevent war and bring stability to the world but does the collapse of a bipolar stystem change this?
Deterrence operates by frightening a state out of attacking. It is achieved by the ability to punish. This is why a second strike capability is necessary. [John J. Mearshimer, 'The Case for a Ukrainian Nuclear Deterrant', Foreign Affairs, (Summer, 1993), pp.57-58, http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/pdfs/A0020.pdf%5D%5D Nuclear weapons make defence and deterrence much more effective than offence. This is because nuclear weapons are a weapon of last resort; they are most likely to be fired in defence. If a country concentrates on its second strike capability rather than offensive nuclear weapons it is possible for it to become an entirely defensive weapon, this would mean it could not act as a coercive threat and would not result in a security dilemma.[Robert Jervis, ‘Weapons Without Purpose? Nuclear Strategy in the Post-Cold War Era’, Foreign Affairs, (July, 2001) http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/57069/robert-jervis/weapons-without-purpose-nuclear-strategy-in-the-post-cold-war-era%5D%5D
less arms races
1, there is no need for conventional arms races, any number of conventional weapons can be balanced by nuclear weapons. There is little point in having a ‘relative advantage’ in conventional weapons when there are nuclear weapons as a last resort.
2, nuclear arms races are almost as pointless, unless the possibility of achieving a first strike capability is within striking distance then it won’t matter if there is a big gap in the number of nuclear weapons two states have. Britain and France felt that their modest nuclear stockpiles were an effective deterrent to the USSR, and China felt its 40 or so nuclear weapons was enough when it was not firmly tied to one bloc.
[Kenneth Waltz, “The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better,” Adelphi Papers, Number 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981) http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/waltz1.htm%5D%5D
Arms races are not caused by the weapons themselves, they are caused by insecurity between states. That is, one country feels insecure vis-a-vis another, so it ensures it has more nukes and conventional weapons than the other. Then the other country does it and so on, causing more and more tension and insecurity between the countries. Even when the number and sophistication of their weapons is almost par, they still attempt to develop further technological advances and a greater number of weapons than their foe.
This is why arms races occur - insecurity between states. It is not the inferiority/superiority in sophistication and numbers of nuclear weapons themselves that cause arms races - it is hostile relations between states that lead them to attempt to acquire more nuclear or conventional weapons than their neighbours.
The statement that 'there is little point in having a ‘relative advantage’ in conventional weapons when there are nuclear weapons as a last resort' is absurd. Relative advantage in conventional capabilities over your foes is essential for strategic success. Nuclear weapons have only been used in the most extreme of circumstances against one country in the past and are certainly not being considered as a viable option even 'as a last resort', except maybe by Kim Jong Il. This is why conventional superiority is so important in today's age. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the Cold War ended and this notion was debunked, and the world committed itself to reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons and began signing confidence-generating arms control agreements.
Also, the statement that 'any number of conventional weapons can be balanced by nuclear weapons' is hugely unlikely. I cannot flummox the possibility that a country like Pakistan would feel comfortable with having 1000 nuclear weapons and only a tenth of India's conventional weapon capabilities. This is just impossible because although Pakistan has a 'first use' nuclear weapons doctrine, in the event of India conducting military excercises on its' border they would be unable to drop a nuclear weapon on Mumbai because this is disproportionate - while also they would not be able to threaten India credibly because Indian leaders know they would not retaliate with nuclear weapons and their conventional capability would be too disproportionate to credibly threaten India's troops to withdraw.
By building up huge amounts of nukes and leaving yourself with little conventional capability is not at all prudent.
any conflict will rapidly de-escalate
“Defensive deployment, if it should fail to dis-suade, would bring small nuclear weapons into use before the physical, political and psychological environment had deteriorated. The chances of de-escalation are high if the use of nuclear weapons is carefully planned and their use is limited to the battlefield.” [Waltz, http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/waltz1.htm%5D%5D
And that each escalation makes the possibility of mass destruction more likely is something that might not necessary be the deciding factor for one state to call a quit to to conflict. No state wants to back down when the other refuses to - a situation India might find itself in with Pakistan. The assumption that any conflict will rapidly de-escalate is, much like deterrence, nothing more than a theory which is highly dangerous given the consequences if the theory does not stand up in practice.
Let's return now to the issue of India and Pakistan, which is one which breaks the assumption that many theorists have that nuclear weapons states will not go to war with one another even with conventional weapons due to the fear of the possibility of this escalating into nuclear weapons exchanges occuring. Pakistan is not playing by the rules and has a 'first use' nuclear weapons policy. Sure, they may be bluffing, but Pakistan's use of nuclear weapons in order to have a 'one-up' on India to make up for their serious strategic inferiority to India is something that is likely to ESCALATE rather than de-escalate a conflict between India and Pakistan.
both sides will avoid threatening vital interests
Lack of checks and balances
Pre-emptive Nuclear war
Despite the Truman administrations rejection of the idea Major General Orvil Anderson publicly declared: “Give me the order to do it and I can break up Russia’s five A-bomb nests in a week…And when I went up to Christ—I think I could explain to Him that I had saved civilization.” [Austin Stevens, “General Removed over War Speech,” New York Times, September 2, 1950, p. 8]]
No matter how well secured nuclear weapons are there is still a chance that they may be stolen, and even the five official nuclear states have lost nuclear materials that could get into terrorist hands. [Bruce G. Blair, Garry D. Brewer, ‘The Terrorist Threat to World Nuclear Programs’, The Journal of Conflict Resolution Vol. 31, No. 3, (Sep., 1977), pp. 379-403 http://www.cdi.org/blair/terrorist-threat.cfm%5D%5D
Moreover dictators would do anything in their power to prevent terrorists getting the bomb, not just because they may well hold the state that supplys the weapons hostage but because any nuclear terrorist attack that could be traced to that country would probably lead to nuclear retaliation by the US as the only possible territorial target. This can be seen with the US going after Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11. [http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people3/Waltz/waltz-con6.html]]
The Dismantling of Nuclear Warheads.
Dismantling nuclear weapons takes a long time. However, this is far better than the time it would take to rebuild a city should a nuclear bomb goes off, far cheaper, and with no blood shed.
I fail to see an argument for nuclear weapons. If world powers can agree to lessen their nuclear deterrents at an equal (proportionate) rate/speed, then there will be no more nuclear weapons and no state can complain about the method of doing it (seeing as how at a certain point all current nuclear states will have one warhead each. It is then up to these states to destroy the final warhead at the same time. - The idea that this will not happen due to the fact that everyone will want to keep a warhead does not stand up. Yes, one warhead would cause a lot of damage, but as soon as that warhead is used, the amount of damage that country would receive in retaliation is far outweighed, even through non-nuclear means. A non-governmental agency such as the IAEA would also ensure that all countries kept to the agreement).