Saturday, June 10, 2006


The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed
A debate between Kenneth Waltz (left) and Scott Sagan

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Sometimes it’s not a question of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, of whether you are an optimist or pessimist. What matters are the consequences of that perception.

Kenneth Waltz (Columbia) and Scott Sagan (Stanford) stand on opposite sides of the fence, perceive the glass differently, and also the consequences of its state of existence. On the subject of nuclear proliferation, they are polarized on opposite sides. Both want the same general consequence, a world in which we don’t have to live in a perpetual state of fear. But both also have distinct and separate visions of the consequences that would arise, if the powers that are and the powers that will be, allow things to continue one way or the other. They have voiced their concerns in other places, in speeches and books and articles, but this book provides a common debate platform for them to discuss our nuclear predicament in a way that is accessible to the layman, and in a form from which the intelligent layman can draw his own conclusions.

Waltz’s outlook is ‘more may be better’. He wants to actually encourage nuclear proliferation, so that states maintain peace by deterrence, an age-old Cold War strategy of course. He thinks that once everyone has these weapons, there will be no imbalance of threat and annihilation. Everyone will have equal opportunity for destruction of their enemy’s nation, and equal fear of retribution. Stalemate or not, this course of events will lead to sustained peace.

Sagan on the other hands appeals to another age-old tendency, that of humans to err repeatedly. He thinks that with the inherent uncertainties and follies of human beings and the complex organizations and governments they run, no country will be safe from accident, error and misunderstanding, and greed, all of which beset sovereignties. Uncertain circumstances will lead to accidents; then, if everyone has nuclear weapons, we will willfully blow ourselves to kingdom come in a frenzied Armageddon. His position is clear. He thinks ‘more may be worse’.

One of the important parts of the book involves the confrontation between India and Pakistan, and the role that nuclear weapons can play in it. This discussion constitutes a major portion of the volume, and in fact one of the main reasons why the book was revised in 2003 was to discuss this state of affairs in the wake of the two nations’ 1998 nuclear tests. Since this discussion is based on the same general points that Scott and Sagan make throughout the book, I will focus on it and summarize it against the backdrop of their basic mindsets. Then, assuming I am an intelligent layman, I will try to say what’s brewing in my own mind.

* Nuclear weapons in South Asia:

* Sagan- ‘More may be worse’:

Sagan is fearful of nuclear confrontation in South Asia. India and Pakistan have always had a tumultuous relationship, leading to the loss of the lives of about 60,000 soldiers in bloody conflicts spawning five decades. In spite of negotiations, a coherent plan for achieving peace still does not seem to be on the horizon. We have fought four wars with our neighbor, including the latest one when both them and us possessed nuclear weapons. Sagan points out that Pakistan has predominantly had a military leadership. Even during the time when civilan leadership did reside in Islamabad, the President has often not been accurately briefed by his generals about their agenda. In the Kargil war itself, Nawaz Sharif was quite unaware of the exact nature of the actions that his troops were taking in the high ranges of the Himalayas. This of course does not exculpate Sharif from having encouraged aggression against India, but it does point to the kinks present in the Pakistani hierarchy. What this translates into in terms of nuclear conflict is that decisions may well not be coordinated between leaders in the Pakistani government and military. Because of this lack of coordination, control inevitably becomes tenuous, insubordination is easier to carry out and harder to detect, and accidents can take place by virtue of miscommunication or deliberate sabotage. Such accidents may give the Pakistani defence forces a manufactured excuse to engage in nuclear aggression against India. The fact that India and Pakistan are neighbours does not help to mitigate tensions. Many Indian and Pakistani missiles currently in the arsenal can easily span the short distance between Delhi and Islamabad.
In case of India, Sagan is a tad more generous. We have enjoyed a very stable democracy, and unlike Pakistan, controls over the manufacture, development, and deployment of nukes in our country are predominantly civilian. Even though, there still has been a divide between military and executive branches in our country, in terms of goals envisaged and decisions taken. To illustrate this, Sagan points to the ‘Brasstacks’ exercise undertaken during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure in the late 1980s. Indian troops engaged in a massive buildup and military exercise near the Pakistani border in Rajasthan. To this day, the exact purpose of that exercise remains shrouded in mystery. However, many from the Indian front ranks, including the then chief of Army staff General Sundarji, have been crystal clear about the purpose; to provoke Pakistan into a similar response, and then possibly use that excuse to engage in military operations against it. One goal in such a conflict would have been to bomb Pakistani nuclear facilities that enriched uranium. Sagan’s message is that even in such a supposedly stable and sensible democracy like India, the reins of power are not always secure, and deliberate or accidental miscommunication can thwart even the most sincere attempts to maintain peace.
According to Sagan’s assessment, nuclear weapons in India and Pakistan have hardly contributed to assured deterrence. The Kargil war is but one case in point. The mini-domino effect is clear; to balance the threat of looming, economically and militarily more powerful India, Pakistan would never back off from its nuclear development. India in turn would always perceive a threat from the proportionally more powerful China, and that would ensure that its breeders and missile cones are up and running. Missile development has always been a constant for our country’s defence establishment. Even when we had missiles that could easily reach major cities in Pakistan, we continued to develop missiles that would extend our military ability to Beijing.

One of the recurring themes in Sagan’s arguments is that of ‘normal accidents’. Any engineer who has designed a complex power plant knows that when it comes to complicated systems, accidents are normal. No matter how tight the control in such organizations, there are some problems which nobody can foresee due to the sheer overbearing complexity of the infrastructure. A defence establishment, with its convoluted hierarchy of generals, civilians, and politicians and with its continuous flexibility in response to international and national affairs, is a fiendishly complex system. Since nobody can prevent accidents from happening in such a system, the only thing can be done is to try to set up the system in such a way that the consequences of that accident will be minimized. In no other arena of policy is this paradigm more important than in nuclear matters. The scenarios are all too familiar; what if Indian intelligence detects activity near a Pakistani nuclear installation that would suggest a nuclear strike on our soil? What if this information was based on assessment of activities that were actually benign? What if the perceived activity had only been an accident? Can we afford to misconstrue something like that? What if we decide to launch a preventive/preemptive strike against Pakistan? What if Pakistan exaggerated the magnitude of our action and responded in kind? Sagan thinks that in order to prevent such an unfortunate conglomeration of events and responses, it’s better not to have nuclear weapons, so that the effect of such a catastrophe can at least be vastly less destructive. Even in India itself, Sagan cites a shocking example of negligence that I was unaware of; in 2001, when the Indian defence minister was inspecting the Milan missile facility in Hyderabad, one missile that was still live accidentally got turned on. Fortunately, it was ‘only’ a 2 km range missile, but it flew off the top of the building, went through the body of a man in the process and killed him, and landed some distance away. Even if this example is impressive, I think that it is a banal example, because such accidents can happen with almost any military equipment that has nothing to do with missiles or nuclear weapons.
One of the problems with both the Indian and Pakistani arsenals, as Sagan points out, is that they lack well-trained personnel as well as Permissive Action Links (PALs), locks which cannot be unlocked without proper authorization.

This brings us to a related issue of great importance- nuclear terrorism. Sagan thinks that shoddy stockpiling of nukes by states makes their theft by terrorists vastly more possible. A case in point is the large number of nukes from the former Soviet Union, many of which are believed to have been ‘cannibalized’ and then sold in the black market. I will have more to say about nuclear terrorism later.

To illustrate all his points, Sagan cites a number of instances during the Cold War, including of course the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the US and the Soviet Union came to the brink of war due to sheer misunderstanding. Sagan also warns that in spite of these comparisons, every nuclear nation is unique, and it is precisely because of this uniqueness that India and Pakistan’s nuclear situation is unpredictable, and the knot of nuclear war becomes more probable. New countries can simply not be trusted with nuclear weapons. In a nutshell, they are complex organizations run by complex human beings operating in complex cultural, military, and political environments, and precedent shows that the handling of the nuclear tinderbox cannot be entrusted to such nations.

* Waltz- ‘More may be better’:

Interestingly, Waltz also cites more or less similar historical precedents to draw exactly the opposite conclusions! This is where we begin to see the peculiar nature of history, where one can almost always draw conclusions that are favourable to one’s viewpoint. Sure, there were confrontations between the US and the Soviets when nuclear weapons were going to be deployed. But were they actually deployed?? Sure, nuclear weapons could have been used by India and Pakistan, most notably during Kargil. But were they??
First of all, Waltz says that the development of nuclear weapons by Pakistan was almost inevitable. Once India developed nukes, Pakistan could not cool its heels. Benazir Bhutto made this clear; that given India’s military and economic strength, Pakistan would have developed nuclear weapons anyway even if India had not developed them, simply to correct the imbalance. One can make a similar argument that India developed them because China did…and ad infinitum, until all one can do in my opinion is blame Otto Hahn and Strassman for discovering nuclear fission! So here, Waltz seems to say that irrespective of what either he or Sagan thinks, the development of nuclear arsenals is almost a reflex action, in a world where every country feels naturally threatened by its neighbours.
The main framework that Waltz builds to augment his arguments is that of neorealism. We deal with what happened, not with phantasmagorical war games and theoretic constructs. This is unlike the organizational theory that Sagan brings to bear upon the problem. After all, for all the discussion about uncertainties in complex organizations, the fact that the world has been nuclear war free since World War 2, even though there were several potential vistas for such deployments, is a fact that merits attention. Waltz’s major point is that even though nuclear weapons engender complex environments, by virtue of their ubiquitous destructive power, the decision-making that they force is decidedly simple. The response of states to nuclear acquisition will be predictable and sound. Nobody wants a powerful neighbour who has nukes and who can call the shots. Nobody wants to wage war against a neighbour who has nukes, knowing well that the sword of death lies midway over the necks of both. Deterrence may be an old concept, but it seems to be a concept for all times. Waltz thinks that reactions to nuclear weapons stockpiling, by a nation as well as it’s neighbours, are going to be relatively predictable and standard, not surprisingly reflecting the common goals of survival and development that any sovereignty would aspire to, unless there’s a madman at the helm.
As far as the argument from history is concerned, Waltz points out the several non-nuclear confrontations that have occurred between nations, including the Israel-Palestine conflict and skirmishes between China and Russia during the cold war. Both these are instructive because unlike the Soviet Union and the US, these states did border each other like India and Pakistan and still did not use nuclear weapons against each other, and so one can skirt Sagan’s fears that distance may create unforeseen problems between India and Pakistan, which did not exist between the two traditional cold war adversaries.

About the issue of nuclear terrorism, Waltz points out that many terrorists are not as irrational as we think. They have long-term objectives that they would not always sacrifice for the purpose of causing a big bang. They fear if not their lives, then certainly their organizations and goals, and would refrain from rash actions that would jeopardize their terrorist-military complex.

To sum up, like Sagan, Waltz draws on history, points to the discrepancy between complex nuclear scenarios and simple responses to them, and points to the fact that in spite of the extensive game-theoretic brainstorming carried out in the Rand corporation and the Pentagon, one cannot escape the fact the nuclear states have not fought each other until now with nuclear weapons. Q.E.D.

* Bringing in the verdict:

This is where I swoop in John Casti style, and pen my own opinions about the debate. As is evident, this is a complex debate, and my responses to it will also be fairly complex and distinctly non-partisan. I find myself agreeing with Waltz in some cases, with Sagan in others, with both in yet others, and with none of them in a few aspects.

The problem with history is that it offers a tempting glimpse, but no clear factual reality, of what could have been. This makes it very difficult to judge it as being encouraging or full of despair. For example, consider the simple question; how peaceful has been the world’s history in the latter half of the twentieth century? Well, it depends on how we see it. We can point to the most destructive war in history and say that no war of comparable magnitude has followed in its wake. Or we could point to Kashmir, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Rwanda, and Bosnia, and say that we have been no better off than we were at the end of the Great War, when Woodrow Wilson christened it as a ‘war to end all wars’. Which view of history is the ‘correct’ one? The optimistic one or the pessimistic one? It’s hard to say, obviously.

A similar problem exists with an evaluation of nuclear weapons and their role in international geopolitics and relations. The scientists who built nuclear weapons were full of hope about these weapons, thinking that they would make future wars impossible. No doubt that they were pitting their hopes on an early perception of deterrence. In 1946, a remarkable report named the Acheson-Lilienthal report, whose words were largely penned by Robert Oppenheimer, called for international control of atomic energy. The report contained a revolutionary and audacious proposal, that atomic energy should be made equally available to every nation, so that every nation could have it at its disposal. However, nations who wanted to enrich nuclear material or build bombs could do it only at their risk, because of the knowledge that every other nation possessed the same technology and so potentially could retaliate in exactly the same way. Richard Rhodes provides a nice analogy; it was like a gun that had been disassembled and kept on a table within equal reach of everyone else. Anyone who wanted to use the gun on the others could do so only at the risk of his own existence. In its original form, the proposal called for international control. With hindsight, one can say that it espoused what we today call nuclear proliferation, although in a much more promising incarnation. Not surprisingly, it was too radical for the times, and it also was presented in a much more modified and unsparing form to the Russians, who promptly rejected it. But that proposal predated the whole philosophy of deterrence, which its progenitors had hoped would prevent future conflict.

Unfortunately, fear of nuclear retaliation has certainly not prevented future wars; in fact, one can argue that it has infused a sense of aplomb and audacity in antagonist states, because they know that their adversary dare not contemplate nuclear aggression no matter what they do. However, I do agree with Waltz’s assessment that nuclear weapons have made states wary in general and they do have mitigated the scope of the extent to which countries would wage war. Again, history does not tell us what would have happened had the historical tape run again exactly the way it did, except for the presence of nuclear weapons, and so we can only speculate, but we can speculate with some reason. I personally do believe that the brutality of conventional warfare may be limited if the two adversaries possess nuclear weapons.

The fact that nobody has ever used nuclear weapons since World War 2 is unfortunately not a completely reassuring fact. We know this because there is a clear record of more than one case when leaders did come extremely and realistically close to using these weapons. Again, the Cuban Missile Crisis is the archetypal example. A conference in Cuba in the 1990s revealed that the Soviets had an absurd number of nuclear warheads in Cuba- about 200. It should be noted that there are those who think that 200 nukes will be more than sufficient to destroy all the major cities of the US. During the cold war, such a macabre deployment by both sides would in fact have put the US at a disadvantage, because there was a much higher urban population density in the US than the USSR. During the Korean War, the US actually deployed nukes on the Pacific islands, the only time since WW2 it has done such a thing. During the 1973 Arab-Israel war, Israel nukes were purportedly up and ready on warplanes. With such a track record, it is difficult to believe that the world was always in an overwhelmingly comfortable and safe position when it came to using nuclear weapons. Again, one might argue about what actually happened, but one unique quality that distinguishes us after all, is the evaluation of future possibilities based on past possibilities, a quality that has repeatedly helped us to be circumspect and plan for long-term contingencies. I agree with Sagan there, that just because something never has been, there is no guarantee that it will never be. The record is impressive, but as the old adage goes, there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

However, if I were to think about the limited issue of India and Pakistan, I believe that a nuclear confrontation seems extremely unlikely. Now in this particular case, history does provide some promise I think. Terrorist infiltration notwithstanding, there has been no evidence that Pakistan seriously tried to deploy nuclear weapons against India. This is in spite of the fact that the foundations of governments in Pakistan have been quite shaky. There have been coups, murders, and political instability in general. But no Pakistani general or commander in chief has dared to thrust the depraved possibility of nuclear warfare on his own country. In future conflicts, deterrence could be seen to keep on working. Again, one might argue otherwise, but there would be good reason to believe that even conflicts instigated by Pakistan would be kept in check because of not just Indian nuclear retaliation, but even because of the great power of India’s conventional forces. So in the limited case of India and Pakistan, yes, I do believe that nuclear weapons will help keep the peace.

Coming to the issue of accidents, I do agree with Sagan, that ‘normal accidents’ will always be quite common in complex systems. However, there have been and always will be technical advancements that will prevent such accidents. The simple installation of a hotline between the Kremlin and the White House assured that Khrushchev and Kennedy would keep in touch during vital moments and crises, and could prevent catastrophes arising from misunderstandings and false alarms. Better security, PALs, and well-trained personnel are really simple measures that will go a long away in averting apocalypse. I believe that the US should make a concerted effort in providing these facilities and services to India and Pakistan. For better or for worse, its vast nuclear arsenal produced as its byproducts, sophisticated detection technologies, safeguards, and training protocols, and it’s only fair that the US make these available for the world to use. Accidents always happen and we have lived with them, and they are always preventable. We faced accidents in the past, but learnt to avert them, and even if it won’t be easy, I think we can do the same in the future. That’s a much more general point which I think we can take care of.

I am quite taken by Waltz’s general belief that complex nuclear situations engender simple realities. The old and somewhat discounted framework of behaviorism may help us here. No matter how complicated human beings may be, each one of us responds to incentives and punishment, and each one of us has his weaknesses. I do believe that statesmen in any nation would instinctively try to preserve their objectives and the health of their country, in one way or the other. It does not matter if the nation is totalitarian or democratic. In fact, history has proved that punitive and affirmative incentives have worked even better for dictators than for democratic leaders. I would think that such incentives would be even more important for North Korea and Iran. After all, the leaders of both countries have worked hard to institute their hold on and respect in the population, whether by benevolent or malevolent means. Both leaders want power, have egos, and want to preserve their power, not just for themselves, but also for their future generations. Both leaders want to see an enduring influence of their political philosophies in their nations. Even assuming that they don’t care whether their countries progress or not, they won’t engage in policies that will hamper their own progress. Opening their country to nuclear attack is not one of these policies. Under such circumstances, it would be folly for them to pursue belligerent policies and especially to inflict any kind of nuclear aggression against another nation, especially when the other nation also possesses nukes. Iran may be pursuing nuclear enrichment, but that seems more like a defiant nationalistic policy that is actually whipping up public support and patriotic fervor. Deliberate, armed nuclear aggression is a completely different kettle of fish.

So I agree with Waltz to a large extent about the constancy of human nature. In the end, every leader of every kind is going to think about his survival. That would mean that there would be no ambiguity to the wariness of statesmen in sharing a common heritage of self-preservation and in limiting or eliminating nuclear belligerence.

All this is assuming that human beings are rational…

Which brings me to the question of nuclear terrorism

One of the senior officials who attended the 1990s Cuba conference was Robert McNamara, defense secretary during the missile crisis of 1962 and the Vietnam War. Confronting a pugnacious Castro, McNamara learnt that not only did the Soviets have almost two hundred nuclear warheads installed in Cuba, but also that Castro had strongly recommended their use against the US to Khrushchev, well knowing that the result would likely be total annihilation of his country. McNamara was aghast. For all the discussion above about rational leaders wanting to preserve their sovereignties, Castro’s policy turned out to be completely irrational. He did not care whether Cuba was destroyed. He was willing to become a martyr for his grand philosophy and dream, no matter how deluded they would have seemed to an outsider.

This is exactly what Jihadi terrorists are willing to do. The Acheson-Lilienthal report could not have predicted the danger of nuclear terrorism. That is because it did not predict the absolutely absurd number of nuclear weapons that the USSR and US would ultimately stockpile. It also did not predict the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the fact that this collapse would suddenly make hundreds of ‘loose’ nukes freely available for a short time. Many studies estimate that terrorists could have easily salvaged a hundred or so nukes in the short period of anarchy following the end of the Cold War. Terrorists could easily buy material from these devices and build their own bombs. They could easily build 10-kiloton bombs and smuggle them into the United States. They could even more easily build radioactive dirty bombs. Graham Allison has lucidly discussed the catastrophic pall of nuclear terrorism, and I have already talked at length about this and his book here.

When I first read about the Acheson-Lilienthal report long back as well as about Waltz’s stance more recently, my first question always was, “What about nuclear terrorism?” The problem is clear. Statesmen may have a lot to lose by engaging in nuclear conflict. But what do terrorists who have grand visions of martyrdom and virgin laden heaven have to lose? What do those who believe they are on a holy mission have to lose? For them, such kind of horrendous violence is in fact the perfect way to achieve their glorious goals. They don’t care about political motives, and they don’t care about diplomacy. They may care a little bit if they are state supported terrorists. But what about those who consider themselves messengers of god, unfettered by worldly considerations, politics, personal gains, or the continuation even of a self-centered life? For them, death itself is the ultimate form of life.

Waltz’s argument becomes a little shaky when we consider nuclear terrorism. If acquisition of nuclear weapons were limited to leaders, all the arguments about rational self-preservation would apply. But how will they apply to terrorists who are so deluded that their actions cannot fit into any rational framework? How can the importance of self-preservation apply to those for whom self-destruction is the noblest goal? Sagan is on strong ground when he argues that nuclear proliferation to states makes nuclear terrorism much more possible. Waltz’s arguments about terrorists also being long-term goals oriented and thereby being reluctant to expose themselves to sudden actions and risks may in fact usually be the case. There is reason to believe that even terrorist organizations run like corporate networks, with their own interests in staying alive and fighting. For those with long-term goals, self-preservation may be an important objective, but what about those who set out on holy crusades? All logic is lost upon such mortals, and they won’t stop at anything to inflict maximum damage. For all our purposes, their behaviour is completely irrational. Also, it does not matter that 9/11 type incidents are instigated only rarely. As Allison has noted, one detonation of a 10-kiloton bomb in Manhattan would result in a scenario too horrendous and sickening to imagine. One can only shudder at the thought of terrorists with 200 loose nukes, contemplating Jihads. Ominously, Allison wonders that a terrorist nuclear attack has already not occurred on US soil, at least with a dirty bomb.

In any case, Sagan’s viewpoint is simple; the more the number of nuclear states, the more the outlets for terrorists to acquire nukes. Whatever Waltz and similar minded people say about statesmen, that logic cannot apply to terrorists, because their thinking is bound to be illogical and even more unpredictable. Also, the problem with nuclear weapons is that even a minimalist and rare scenario is quite horrible to imagine, and one would want to prevent it at all costs. This is a complicated matter and it’s hard to see a clear way out of it. Again, heightened security may be the only palliative for now.

Interestingly, there are good grounds for hope even in this scenario, again based on historical evidence. Consider the fact that loose nukes have been available for 25 years now, and yet there has been no nuclear terrorist attack. More hope comes from an assessment of the use of chemical weapons, which are in a class by themselves, since they are much easier to manufacture than either nuclear or biological weapons. Sagan correctly cites the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway attack with Sarin that was orchestrated by the Aum Shinrikyo cult, but that is still one of the exceptional examples. Countries have always possessed cheaply deployable chemical weapons, and yet the instances of large-scale mass attacks on civilian populations have been non-existent, and ‘small-scale’ attacks (like the Tokyo attack and Saddam’s gas attacks on the Kurds) have been rare. I am reading Jonathan Tucker’s comprehensive history of chemical warfare, and find it surprising that in World War 2, even the nonchalant mass-murderer Nazis did not use a single drop of the lethal and horrifying Tabun (similar to Sarin) on the allies, even though they had the distinct advantage of being the only ones to posses the weapons at the time. Historical anecdotes seem to side with Waltz. All these instances indicate that even terrorists using nuclear weapons may not be an obvious and ominous conclusion. In any case, new protocols for security would make the possession, transportation, and use of nukes by rogue terrorists much less likely.

So what do I think about this, finally? Being a pacifist, I would ideally like to see nuclear weapons disappear from the face of the earth. But in that respect, I am a realist like Waltz. I know and believe that we will always have to live with nuclear weapons. It is a product of our Faustian bargain for knowledge that we cannot rid ourselves of. Although it is difficult to pass a final value judgment, I would say that if we could take care of the nuclear terrorism problem, and if we could set good standards of security for loose as well as secure nukes, then Waltz’s stance may be a sober and realistic one. The real long-term problem with that, however, is that deterrence is not really a solution as such; it does not actually solve the problem, but only sweeps it under the rug. Countries that are deterring each other have a tense and uncomfortable relationship, and the peace that exists between them is a rather imposed form of peace. Such nations could find it hard to be true allies. But even if this is the case, if we have to live with nuclear weapons, then we may live this way rather than live in an atmosphere of overt distrust and aggression. I also believe that nuclear neighbours would limit conventional conflict, unless an irrational ‘holy missionary’ happens to be the steward of one of those nations. However, we have already lived with that possibility, and I don’t see how we cannot live with it in the future, no matter that it is an uncomfortable one.

Sagan’s views of nuclear terrorism are better taken, and we will always have to be careful about nuclear weapons getting into their hands. In any case, terrorism has nothing to do with nuclear weapons, but is surely the product of forces beyond those of war, involving politics, poverty, and social upheavals and disturbances. The problem of nuclear terrorism boils down to the problem of terrorism itself, and that problem is one which we will face long after the missile cones have rusted and the fins have become unhinged.

In the end, like it usually is with such matters, what are going to really solve the problem are dialogue, transparency, and constant efforts to achieve the middle ground, no matter how untenable it may look. What we look forward to in this era of nuclear mistrust, is really Niels Bohr’s ‘open world’…


Blogger Krishna said...

Justifying nuclear weapons as a deterrent is logically flawed, for nuclear power is asymmetrically distributed. If countries A and B are at war and only A has nuclear weapons then there is nothing to deter A from bullying B, or even using nuclear weapons against them. Leaders of A being rational is not going to help. And in my opinion, the suggestion that nuclear proliferation be encouraged so that all countries have access is as impractical as wishing there weren't any nuclear weapons.

On another note, I believe that producing nuclear weapons (or anything for that matter) in the most ultimate sense is to make use of them. Making use of nuclear weapons is morally, existentially, practically unwise.

9:55 AM  

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