Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On Nuclear Weapons

The years of the Cold War are over, and with them the tensions between the great nuclear Powers of the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union has fallen, and its successor, Russia, is hardly in a position to challenge the United States for supremacy. Moreover, even though Russia and the United States still possess nuclear weapons, there is no potential dispute on the horizon between these two nuclear Powers that could possibly involve nuclear weapons. Yet each nation still stockpiles large quantities of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. Is this really necessary?

The answer is, I think, largely no--yet there is a crucial caveat to this "no." The most each nation needs is 1000 warheads stockpiled, preferably mostly not on hair-trigger readiness. On the other hand, once nations have nuclear weapons it would be irresponsible and imprudent to get rid of them completely. The only way nuclear weapons are going to disappear from the world is if they are rendered obsolete, which is not on the horizon. The nature of such weapons is such that even if the major nations of the world were to get rid of them, some small nation would no doubt get them and hold the rest of the world to ransom, or come some war the race would be on to re-make nuclear warheads before the other guy. So while continued reductions in nuclear warheads are good, it is highly unlikely that they will disappear, and not a good idea, I think, to talk about getting rid of them completely. Which is why the Bush administration's plans to produce a new ICBM are appropriate and prudent, because they recognize that they cannot let their guard down while other nations still have these weapons. Deterrence will still be necessary, probably for as long as these nations exist. But they should seek to mitigate the threat these weapons pose to world peace, and limit their stockpiles and preparedness.

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