Why Nuclear Weapons may not help to keep the Peace

Essay, 2013
33 Pages, Grade: 73/100


Nuclear weapons undeniably constituted a powerful deterrent against the renewed outbreak of major international conflict in the past seven decades, yet it would be wrong to infer from that reality that they might consequently always serve as an unfailing source of peace, stability and mutual security. Supposing them capable of doing so by mere virtue of their destructive potential and/or presumed stabilizing powers1 is essentially to discount that whatever agency they may have for underwriting peace and stability ultimately does not issue from their physical presence alone, but rather from the distinct set of international arrangements and conditions under which they actually exist. Any major change in the basic fabric of that order likely stands to not only sharply decrease their capacity at deterrence, but may likewise turn them into a dangerous mechanism for undermining the very 'nuclear peace' which some neo-realists erroneously credit these armaments capable of maintaining irrespective of the historical circumstances surrounding them.2

More specifically, their assertions that nuclear weapons help stabilize state interactions can effectively only hold true when presupposing a variety of indispensable preconditions which, importantly, however, must not be mistaken for integral and continuously valid attributes of interstate relations. In so analyzing the merits and demerits of a nuclear world, significant aspects requiring critical consideration will primarily concern the assumed rationality of political actors; the necessity of distinguishing between weapons of deterrence and weapons of compellence; as well as the pursuit of national objectives in alternate strategic settings as opposed to the supposedly immutable nature of the international system.

By furthermore assessing current approaches to nuclear warfare and proliferation while also revisiting relevant cases of potential nuclear arms employment in the past, the essay will seek to demonstrate that atomic weapons can essentially only keep the peace when being handled by rational decision-makers for exclusively defensive/deterring purposes in a conducive strategic environment. As these vital conditions are, however, not perforce endemic to international relations, nuclear arms can accordingly only under very specific circumstances, and thus by no means as a general rule, help to preserve international peace and stability.

Irrational Behaviour

The only conceivable way how nuclear weapons might strengthen international peace and security is by presupposing that judicious reasoning will generally form a reliable attribute of international relations.3 However, such a presumption of strictly rational and responsible decision-makers is ultimately untenable in real-life international politics.4 In particular, one should not take for granted that cautious judgment will by default inform the actions and behaviour of individual state actors.5 A multitude of disparate, yet frequently interrelated factors might after all realistically cloud their thinking, most often as a result of such inimical influences as, among others, flawed and sketchy intelligence; misconceptions about the nature and intentions of a perceived adversary; institutional pressures; and, in particular, disproportional assessment of imminent threat risk.6

In that respect, a key argument in support of rational decision-finding being the norm in states' external affairs holds that political actors are deeply worried about the international balance of power7 and will hence not allow others to undertake any far-reaching steps to upset that balance to their own detriment.8 However, concerns about the international distribution of power are in themselves anything but a sure-fire guarantee for producing prudent and sensible decisions. First of all, rational choice could always fall victim to misguided approaches to a particular security challenge,9 especially in times of crisis management or when subjected to overly hawkish and narrow-minded influences. Internal pressures and rigid institutional structures may, moreover, in moments of grave national danger severely limit the scope of action of political actors, causing them to choose such means or strategies which may at the time appear most expedient to resolving their present situation, yet which on closer inspection might later turn out of not necessarily also having been the most rational ones.10

A valid case in point is in that regard the Kennedy Administration's handling of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, notably as the deployment of nuclear weapons after all constituted a not impossible eventuality throughout the nearly two weeks of intense debate within the small executive circle of cabinet members, political advisers and high-ranking military authorities working to eliminate the threat posed to American national security by the Soviet Union's recent installation of nuclear missile sites on Cuba.11 In retrospect, it may easily be overlooked over the eventual denouement of that highly dangerous situation that its potential escalation into open conflict had at times been anything but an entirely unrealistic possibility.12 That judicious reasoning in the end helped to forestall nuclear warfare should not derogate from the fact that less prudent judgments could ultimately just as easily have precipitated it. Above all, the fortunate circumstance that cooler heads eventually prevailed was altogether not the result of inevitably rational thinking alone, but rather the merit of sober circumspection by individual minds at crucial and potentially decisive moments during their internal deliberations, most notably in an attempt to resist the repeatedly advocated calls by civilian and military officials for much more rigorous action-including preemptive missile strikes against Russian defences on Cuba and thus, by implication, the prospect of an all-out atomic war.13 If less reasonable decision-makers had been in charge or unable to overcome the more belligerent opinions surrounding them,14 or had judged the intentions and motivations of their adversaries less perceptively,15 then the entire event might well have taken a much darker and less favourable outcome.

Similarly, rational decision-making could also have succumbed to impulsive overreaction when Soviet warning systems incorrectly reported on 26 October 1983 the launch of several American ICBM's headed towards Russian territory.16 If only lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov had strictly followed his instructions that night to advise his superiors of any critical radar activity instead of accurately suspecting it to be a mere computer malfunction,17 it is widely agreed that Soviet leaders would in all likelihood not have adhered to standard protocol procedures calling for confirmation of the registered threat by additional sources first, but owing to wide-spread distrust of American intentions in general, would instead have reacted to it in strict accordance with their predefined contingency plans, i.e. with a strategy which envisaged nothing less than countervailing enemy aggression with equally destructive force.18

Various individual factors such as miscommunication or internal disagreement might thus not only compromise the finding of a sensible solution to nuclear threats, but there can also be no certainty that they will invariably result in a unitary reaction across all nation-states,19 regardless of which policy-makers helped to devise it or under which cultural and/or ideological environments they operated while doing so.20 The historical record simply does not bear out the assertion that states view matters of international import all more or less along the same lines and thus ultimately also deal with them in roughly the same way.21

Such a realization, in turn, has significant implications for states' principal attitude towards the international balance of power.22 For one, there may well exist varying interpretations as to how exactly the structures of a mutually beneficial balance would have to look like, in particular though what type of state interaction and international norms would need to inform it.23 Accordingly, international actors may not per se accept the purported virtues of a continuously stable balance of power.24 Yet if rationality and common sense can in general not be guaranteed of unfailingly governing national decision-making processes, they may arguably be even less so with revisionist powers bent on modifying substantial features of the existing order from the outset,25 let alone with such elements as would willingly dismantle it in its entirety. When such intent is central to their motivations, any means capable of helping them effect the kind of dramatic and convulsive change they seek is by definition an acute and imminent threat to peace, security and regional stability itself. Nuclear weapons may then be the single most dangerous instrument for undermining peace on a global scale, and this essentially not only on account of their obliterative force, but also since they might likewise act as an added incentive to irrational behaviour in international politics itself by prompting actors to take excessively bold and counter-productive action in pursuit of their national objectives.

Again, the Cuban Missile Crisis serves as an instructive example, albeit this time in relation to Soviet leaders' decision for bringing it about in the first place. In so doing, nuclear weapons ultimately figured on two separate accounts as a possibly disastrous usurper of world peace. For one, American nuclear missiles in Turkey and thus in close proximity to Russian territory constituted an important reason why Nikita Khrushchev undertook his perilous gamble on Cuba to begin with.26 Secondly, the Soviet Union's own nuclear arsenal had emboldened its leadership to gradually adopt an ever more daring stance in international politics, notably by instilling in them the belief that out of 'existential fears', atomic weapons would invariably act as a reliable means for discouraging American countermeasures against Soviet enterprises.27

The overriding objective of the Soviet Union's dangerous adventure of political brinksmanship evidently was to redress the international balance of power in her favour, albeit at an exceedingly high and all but unacceptable hazard to her own national integrity.28 Altogether, the episode clearly shows that although power may indeed beg to be balanced,29 this ultimately doesn't mean that its pursuit necessarily also has to occur in a strictly rational fashion. Instead power may at times spawn itself irrational behaviour and decisions in interstate politics, notably by deceiving its wielders into believing that any sharp increase in national power invariably stands to outweigh the risks initially involved in its acquirement.

Undeniably, states worry deeply about their rivals military prowess, yet those very same concerns might occasionally also induce them to embark on bold ventures in their foreign affairs which blatantly defy any logic of sound and judicious decision-making. This is all the more true with such actors, notably fatalistic terrorists, who basically do not even care about balance-of-power relations to begin with, but instead view the international order's eventual disintegration as an explicit aim of their own agenda.30 Consequently, if either of these actors were to possess the means for inflicting wide-scale mayhem and destruction,31 then there simply does not exist any legitimate and conclusive basis for assuming that sensible reasoning and rational choice will without fail prevail in their interactions with other political entities.

Nuclear Compellence

Even before imprudent judgment might threaten to exacerbate the outcome of an already dire strategic situation, there arises, however, the seminal question as to individual actors' general attitude and distinctive approach towards issues of atomic warfare. For even more than the fallacy of supposing states to always make rational calls, the arguably most prominent flaw inherent in 'nuclear peace' theory is the erroneous assumption that nuclear weapons serve the exclusive purpose of a powerful deterrent against external aggression.32 Strangely enough, however, such arguments only insufficiently account for the possibility that nuclear weapons might actually constitute themselves the mainspring and primary cause of transnational conflict. Put differently, they thus essentially fail to distinguish between weapons of deterrence and weapons of compellence, notably as they do not allow enough for the alternative that the atomic bomb might not only be seen as a defensive instrument for discouraging assaults on countries, but also as a decidedly offensive and coercive tool of statecraft itself.33

Consequently, nuclear weapons could effectively only make for a reliable stabilizing force in international relations on the understanding that all actors were to consider them an implement of diplomatic deterrence. Given, however, that there will de facto always remain some uncertainty as to whether every single nation-state will irrevocably pledge itself to such a policy, a sudden shift from deterrence to nuclear compellence thus represents a not immaterial hazard in a system of frequently unpredictable actors. In such event, it is not outside the realm of possibility that nuclear weapons might be misappropriated by individual governments as a powerful extension of their diplomatic leverage in transnational affairs,34 a scenario which might then also witness the eventual self-defeat of nuclear weapons' quintessential purpose by no longer having them serve as a primarily deterring force in international politics. That very temptation for states to deliberately hold out the prospect of nuclear warfare as some form of influential bargaining chip in their dealings with other nations ultimately constitutes a very real concern which it would simply be a folly to ignore or dismiss as an unfounded objection to the idea of a 'nuclear peace.'35

The sheer gravity and scope of the issue will become even clearer when further considering the substantial difficulty in not only determining what states might apply their nuclear arms in an offensive rather than defensive capacity, but essentially even more so in establishing how, when and under what circumstances they might do so. On that note, a central argument advanced by 'nuclear peace'-theory maintains that atomic weapons are inherently capable of ensuring stability by simple virtue of their employment after all entailing the unacceptable prospect of mutually assured destruction.36 Yet need such a dismal eventuality always be the case? Isn't it conceivable that states might still resort to nuclear warfare yet ultimately stay just beneath the threshold of total annihilation?37

More specifically, decision-makers could well reach a point where they might seriously consider the tactical use of their nuclear weapons in order to attain a predefined objective.38 Here too the Cuban Missile Crisis holds as a pre-eminent example, notably as the Soviet Union had after all not only moved nearly 100 tactical nuclear missiles to the island, but also since it was ultimately at the discretion of local Soviet commanders alone to decide whether to make use of them in the event of an American invasion, and this essentially without being required to wait for final approval from Moscow first.39 Had they chosen to do so, then this would most certainly have resulted in an American riposte with tactical nuclear warheads as well.40

Eleven years before during the Korean War, there had already been voiced similar intentions for using tactical nuclear weapons by senior American military and civilian officials.41 In that particular instance, President Truman eventually rejected the execution of any such plans, notably out of acute concerns over the incalculable and potentially disastrous ramifications that such an ill-advised and utterly disproportional course of action might have, in particular the fear of provoking a massive retaliatory response by the Soviet Union and/or Communist China and thereby contributing to a possible escalation of the conflict well beyond the Korean peninsula.42 Importantly, however, the fact that American policy-makers after Hiroshima and Nagasaki always refrained from a tactical usage of nuclear weapons even as less far-sighted minds held that option able to accomplish limited short-term objectives should not detract from the possibility that other governments might ultimately fail to display an equal measure of rational reasoning and prudence as to the unforeseeable long-term consequences of their employment.

The key point to retain here is that there is simply no telling whether states will take a unitary stance to the subject of atomic warfare. How could the international community ever guarantee that governments will invariably give precedence to atomic weapons as an instrument of deterrence rather than of compellence, or that fundamentally different views over their basic purpose and possibilities of use will not in the end rather endanger instead of bolstering international peace and stability? After all, if tactical nuclear warfare should become a reality in international relations, there can be little doubt that other states would not before long see their own security and vital interests at grave risk by such an alarming and deeply worrying probability. Neither would they simply let themselves be intimidated by fears over nuclear annihilation. Instead they would react to such dangers in an adequate and expedient fashion;43 and although their response need not necessarily involve a nuclear retaliation, it might nevertheless come about in the form of a comparably destructive counter-strike with conventional weapons.44 At any rate, it stands to reason that the cause of peace and stability would hardly be benefited by such or similarly grim developments.

True, western powers have traditionally viewed the atomic bomb as a device of distinctly deterring character; and going by their present national strategies, they may reasonably be expected to continue doing so.45 In like manner, nations such as China and the Russian Federation arguably seek to maintain a nuclear striking capability for predominantly defensive purposes as well.46 Importantly, however, such professed intentions are not in themselves a perpetual guarantee that all prospective nuclear actors will likewise abide by such a rationale. After all, past events have shown that nuclear compellence was at times assigned a not so inconsiderable role in the foreign policy designs of some nations; nor is it entirely inconceivable that it might not at some point re(gain) currency in the international affairs of future atomic powers.

History itself altogether substantiates the time-proven validity of these concerns. Thus in 1999 the mere existence of a nuclear shield ultimately couldn't prevent the resurgence of territorial conflict between India and Pakistan, and this essentially despite the ever looming threat of their differences potentially degenerating into nuclear warfare.47 Quite to the contrary, the atomic bomb may actually have encouraged Pakistani generals to go through with their operations in the Kargil-region,48 while some civilian leaders later even publicly hinted at its potential tactical usages.49 In 1962, the Soviet Union also explicitly regarded nuclear compellence as an appropriate strategy for challenging the United States pre-eminent standing in international affairs by directly threatening her own territorial integrity. Certainly, America's nuclear superiority served as a root cause for why Nikita Khrushchev attempted to alter the bipolar balance of power in the first place,50 so that an evener distribution of power may indeed have lead to a higher degree of stability between their two nations.

Ultimately, however, it is extremely doubtful that a roughly equal nuclear striking power could have achieved that end on its own, notably as the outbreak of 'conventional warfare' after all still represented a not implausible eventuality at the time.51 In particular, Khrushchev didn't regard nuclear parity merely as an assurance against American aggression, but rather also as a powerful means of compellence for obtaining his own objectives in Western Europe.52 Altogether, Soviet actions therefore clearly illustrate the difficulty in accomplishing a true 'nuclear peace', i.e. the idea of having atomic weapons solely act as a defensive tool against rather than an offensive implement of state aggression.

In addition, the prospect of nuclear compellence also helps to expose another inherent weakness of the argument that national nuclear deterrents will invariably strengthen regional stability,53 namely its failure to adequately consider the sheer infinite cycle of nuclear rivalry likely to be set in motion by an increase in atomic countries.54 For how else than in a climate of deep mutual distrust and massive armament build-up is such a world populated by nuclear countries to end? And where or when exactly would such an evolution stop? Will it really only take one additional nuclear power to restore stability to some particularly volatile regions?55 Will Israel really buy into the idea that a nuclear Iran could actually reduce political tensions in the area; or China, Japan and South Korea believe the same with regard to North Korea? And what about other regional actors? Isn't it legitimate to assume that some might want to launch their own nuclear programme in response, ostensibly out of purely defensive concerns?56

In short, there will always be countries that might, rightly or wrongly, dread the thought of having yet another state join the club of atomic nations, especially when it is situated in immediate range of their own borders. And the by far most important reason for this is that it might ultimately not even matter at all whether some nations would actually harbour thoughts of nuclear compellence. Rather the mere fact alone that other states may with good cause not believe them to follow such declarations is already reason enough for why nuclear weapons might not indefinitely preserve international peace and security.57

Irrespective of how Iran and North Korea will develop, it will nevertheless be a very tough sell for most other nations to simply accept the notion that they might yet after all be trusted to keep the atomic bomb solely for its supposedly innate stabilizing powers in international relations. The fact that the global community in general, and their regional neighbours in particular, already perceive in both their rhetoric and actions a certain reluctance for complying with international norms and standards ultimately makes these states a source of potential instability to them which likely stands to endanger peace even further if they were to actually obtain the means for waging nuclear warfare.58

In that case, it would be all but impossible to allay fears that in spite of assurances to the contrary, the new nuclear powers might still come to regard the threat of nuclear warfare as a coercive method for pursuing their own national objectives.59 Such a reality, in turn, could easily result in pre-emptive counter-measures by other nations to anticipate or outright eliminate any such threat, regardless of whether it was imminent or not.60 All the same, profound mutual suspicions as to the other side's 'real' intentions would likely accompany political interactions for years to come, and as history has demonstrated time and again, it may then well take but a minor and seemingly insignificant incident to spark large-scale aggression and thereby effectively break up whatever superficial state of peace and stability had hitherto existed.61 That is to say with one not inconsequential difference, namely that nuclear weapons and not conventional warfare might this time around bring the conflict to a sudden and possibly catastrophic end.

Finally, nation-states might by then also no longer be the only actors in possession of nuclear materials. Precisely because terrorists and other irreconcilable groupings may, however, not be dissuaded from violence and aggression,62 they could ultimately pose an even greater challenge to international peace and security than nuclear rogue states do, all the more so as they are often entirely indifferent to the survival of any one particular country.63 Yet once the prospect of wide-scale devastation, regardless of self-destruction, essentially becomes unable to deter individual actors from employing nuclear arms, but may instead actually spur them into such action,64 then the basic concept of MAD will simultaneously be deprived of its elementary legitimacy and general applicability as well. Eventually, the question of nuclear deterrence vs. nuclear compellence would then likewise no longer even present itself to begin with, given that atomic weapons would by that point have been assigned an infinitely more sinister end, namely as a means of wanton nuclear destruction.

Systemic Environment

By recognizing irrational behaviour and nuclear compellence as major obstacles to an enduring 'nuclear peace', it will likewise become apparent that its practical realization is also significantly hampered by the one central characteristic of international relations which its proponents believe to act as an independent and immutable given of any international system, namely anarchy itself.65 Yet in a system in which self-help and aggression are presumed to inevitably shape the interactions of states, it is highly improbable that nuclear weapons could ever serve as an infallible preserver of peace and stability. Such a view might perhaps be reconciled to some extent with the ideas of defensive realism, though certainly not with those of offensive realists.66 For if the anarchical structure of the international system indeed forces states to continuously expand their relative power, then there simply is no logical basis for supposing that nuclear compellence might not sooner or later take up a pre-eminent role in the foreign-policy strategy of a particular power.67 If anything, the prospect of more nuclear states existing under anarchy may only function as an accelerator of conflict, and thus not as a perpetual safeguard against it.68

Neo-realists would also do well in appreciating that the primary reason why the world has been spared large-scale conflict these past few decades was ultimately anything but the merit of nuclear deterrence alone. Rather the nuclear age also concurred with an era in which anarchy, though still a predominant and formative aspect of international politics, essentially came to bear upon interstate relationships in a more restrained and less aggressive fashion than in previous decades.69 Accordingly, it may not only have been the spectre of atomic warfare which precluded powerful nations from engaging in acts of sustained aggression, but also the realization that under the present order they simply didn't stand to gain quite as much as earlier powers had done by reverting to all-out warfare. Put differently, there existed less incentive for seeking major international change, let alone for substituting the established system with a fundamentally different order of international organization.70

Undoubtedly, nuclear weapons played a crucial part in preventing the recrudescence of major international strife. Importantly, however, that fact alone cannot insure future generations against their presence potentially still expediting such conflict, especially once the benefits for operating in conformance with international norms and standards cease to appeal to states in sufficient measure-or are being resented altogether.71 That international actors might then be inclined to take more belligerent approaches in pursuit of their national interests is after all not only predicted by offensive realism itself,72 but anyone familiar with the history of interstate relationships may likewise discern how contrary to prevalent realist assumptions, intra-national developments in conjunction with distinctive ideological, cultural and/or nationalist influences may at times also leave a profound and lasting mark upon the formulation and implementation of decidedly less pacific foreign policies.73 Hence, there can be no telling if, when or how a state might attempt to rectify the international distribution of power in its favour. In such event, however, peace and stability could only escape wide-ranging damage with aggressors who ultimately dispose of but limited means for effecting the change they seek, and that explicitly excludes the possession of nuclear arms.


1 Tom Sauer, Nuclear Inertia: US Weapons Policy after the Cold War (New York: I. B. Taurius, 2005), p.7.

2 See in particular the works of Kenneth N. Waltz, 'The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better', Adelphi Papers, Number 171 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1981); Robert J. Art and Kenneth N. Waltz (eds.), The Use of Force (Lanham: University Press of America, 1983); John . Mearsheimer, 'Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in Europe”, International Security, Vol. 9:3 (Winter 1984/1985), pp. 25-26; John J. Mearsheimer, 'The Case for a Ukrainian Deterrent', Foreign Affairs, Vol. 76:2 (Summer 1993), pp. 50-66; David J. Karl , 'Proliferation Pessimism and Emerging Nuclear Powers', International Security, Vol. 21:3 (Winter 1996-1997), pp. 87-119.

3 On rationality in international relations see: Charles L. Glaser, Rational Theory of Internal Politics. The Logic of Competition and Cooperation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010); Miles Kahler, 'Rationality in International Relations', International Organization, Vol. 52:4 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 919–941; D. Landa, 'Rational Choices as Social Norms', Journal of Theoretical Politics, Vol. 18:4 (October 2006), pp. 434–453.

4 Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Gross Stein., ‘Rational Deterrence Theory: I Think, Therefore I Deter’, World Politics, Vol. 41: 2 (Jan, 1989), p. 224.

5 The limits of 'rational actor' models and their supplementation with psychological models focusing on the 'human condition' in transnational interactions are addressed at length by Jacques E.C. Hymans, 'The Arrival of Psychological Constructivism', International Theory, Vol. 2:3 (November 2010), pp. 461-467; Jonathan Mercer, 'Rationality and Psychology in International Relations', International Organization, Vol. 59:1 (Winter, 2005), pp. 77-106.

6 Robert Jervis, “War and Misperception”, in: Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb, The Origins and Prevention of Major Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University, Press, 1989), pp. 101-126.

7 Respectively the balance of threat. See Stephen M. Walt, 'Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power,' International Security, Vol. 9:4 (Spring 1985), pp. 3-43.

8 Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press Inc., Reprinted in 2010), pp. 116-128. On balance of power conceptions across different IR school of thoughts, see in particular: Richard Little, The Balance of Power in International Relations: Metaphors, Myths and Models (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

9 George H. Quester, 'Crises and the Unexpected', Journal of International History, Vol. 18:4 (Spring, 1988), pp . 703-704.

10 James G. Blight and David A. Welch, 'Risking “The Destruction of Nations”: Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis for New and Aspiring Nuclear States’, Security Studies, Vol. 4:4 (Summer 1995), pp. 817-819.

11 On the Cuban Missile Crisis, see in particular Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (London: Longman, 1999); David R. Gibson, Talk at the Brink: Deliberation and Decision during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); Norman Polmar and John D. Gresham, DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the Cuban Missile Crisis (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006).

12 Barton J. Bernstein, 'Reconsidering the Cuban Missile Crisis 50 Years Later,' Arms Control Today, Vol. 42:8 (October 2012), pp. 39.

13 Marc Trachtenberg, 'The Influence of Nuclear Weapons in the Cuban Missile Crisis', International Security, Vol. 10:1 (Summer 1985), pp. 140-156.

14 Michael Dobbs, 'Why we should study the Cuban Missile Crisis', Special Report 205 (Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, June 2008), p. 10.

15 James G. Blight and David A. Welch, On the Brink: Americans and Soviets reexamine the Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: Harper and Collins, 1989), pp. 310-313.

16 Dave Webb, 'On the Edge of History: the Nuclear Dimension”, in: Mark Levene, Robert Johnson and Penny Roberts (eds.), History at the End of the World: History, Climate Change and the Possibility of Closure (Penrith: Humanities-Ebooks, 2010), pp. 176-177.

17 David Hoffmann, 'I had a funny feeling in my gut', The Washington Post, 10 February 1999, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/coldwar/shatter021099b.htm [accessed 9 November 2013]; Anna Libak, 'Nuclear War: Minuteman', Weekendavisen, 2 April 2004, http://www.brightstarsound.com/world_hero/weekendavisen.html [accessed 9 November 2013].

18 Scott Shane, “Cold War's Riskiest Moment”, Baltimore Sun, 31 August 2003, http://hnn.us/article/1709#bombs9-5-03 [accessed 9 November 2013].

19 Kerry Kartchner draws specific attention to the fact that what one type of society may normally define as irrational action might at the same time very well be considered less so by another culture. Kerry M. Kartchner, “Strategic Culture and WMD Decision Making”, in: Jeannie L. Johnson, Kerry M. Kartchner and Jeffrey A. Larsen, Strategic Culture and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009), p. 57, 62.

20 Caroline F. Ziemke, Philippe Loustaunau, and Amy Alrich, Strategic Personality and the

Effectiveness of Nuclear Deterrence (Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses, 2000), pp. iii-viii.

21 Robert 0. Keohane, "Realism, Neorealism and the Study of World Politics", in: Robert O. Keohane, Neorealism and Its Critics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), p. 14.

22 In this context, 'balance of power' refers to the even distribution of power between the major powers of the international system. On the various definitions of the 'balance of power'-concept see: Vesna Danilovic, When the Stakes are high. Deterrence and Conflict among Major Powers (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2002), p. 73.

23 Randall L. Schweller, Unanswered Threats: Political Constraints on the Balance of Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), p. 28.

24 Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 185-187.

25 Schweller,, Unanswered Threats, p. 29.

26 Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers: The Glasnost Tapes (trans. and ed. by Jerrold L. Schechter) (Boston: Little Brown, 1990), pp. 170-177; Raymond L. Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1989), pp. 10-11.

27 Vladislav M. Zubok and Hope M. Harrison, “The Nuclear Education of Nikita Krushev”, in: John L. Gaddis, Philip H. Gordon, Ernest R. May and Jonathan Rosenberg, Cold War Statesmen confront the Bomb: Nuclear Diplomacy since 1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 141-170.

28 Nikita Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers (Boston: Little Brown, 1970), pp. 493-494; „The Malin Notes: Glimpses inside the Kremlin during the Cuban Missile Crisis“, in: James G. Hershberg and Chrisitian F. Ostermnann, Cold War International History Porject Bulletin: The Global Cuban Missile Crisis at 50, Vol. 17/18 (Wilson Center, Fall 2012), p. 299. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/CWIHP_Cuban_Missile_Crisis_Bulletin_17-18.pdf [accessed 26 Nopvember 2013].

29 Kenneth N. Waltz, 'Why Iran Should Get the Bomb', Foreign Affairs, Vol. 91:4 (July/August 2012), pp. 2-5.

30 See Gregory L. Keeney and Detlof von Winterfeld, 'Identifying and Structuring the Objectives of Terrorists' (California: CREATE Homeland Security Center, 2009), p. 10. http://create.usc.edu/publications/KeeneyReport.pdf [accessed 27 November 2013].

31 In that regard, there can effectively be no assurance that terrorists will be barred access to nuclear technologies indefinitely. Fissile materials might after all be acquired in a number of different ways, most notably by engaging in black market arms trade or by filling the political vacuum created by the civil chaos and disorder in the wake of a nuclear society's recent state failure. See Graham Allison and Douglas Dillon, 'Nuclear Terrorism Fact Sheet' (Harvard: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2010). http://www.nuclearsummit.org/files/FACT_SHEET_Final.pdf [accessed 23 November 2013].

32 This view is in particular advanced by defensive realists such as Kenneth N. Waltz, whereas offensive realists, notably John J. Mearsheimer, believe that nuclear weapons might not always deter states from aggressive action. On their respective views on nuclear warfare, see in particular Ariel Ilan Roth and Zanvyl Krieger, 'Nuclear Weapons in Neo-Realist Theory', International Studies Review, Vol. 9:3 (2007), pp. 369-384.

33 Kyle Bearsdley and Victor Asal, 'Winning with the Bomb', Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 53:2 (April 2009), pp. 278-301; Richard K. Betts, Nuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance (Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1987).

34 North Korea arguably being the foremost example in this regard. See Christopher Bluth, 'Norms and International Relations: The anachronistic nature of neo-realist approaches', POLIS Working Paper No. 12 (Leeds: School of Politics and International Studies, 2004), pp. 17.

35 Michael Horowitz, 'The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: Does Experience Matter?', Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 53:2 (April 2009), pp. 251; Erik Gartzke and Matthew Kroenig, 'A Strategic Approach to Nuclear Proliferation', Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 53:2 (April 2009), pp. 158-159.

36 Waltz, 'Why Iran should get the bomb', pp. 2-5.

37 Michael Sheehan, The Balance of Power: History and Theory (New York: Routledge, 1996), pp. 174-177 .

38 Alistair Millar and Brian Alexander, Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Emergent Threats in an Evolving Security Environment (Dulles, VA: Brassey's Inc., 2003).

39 Graham Allison, 'The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50', Foreign Affairs, Vol. 91:4 (July/August 2012), p. 11.

40 See in particular: “Memorandum from Chairman JCS Maxwell Taylor from the President, "Evaluation of the Effect on US Operational Plans of Soviet Army Equipment Introduced into Cuba," , 2 November 1962. (National Archives, Record Group 218 (Joint Chiefs of Staff), Records of Chairman Maxwell Taylor, box 6, October 1962). Digital Copy available at: http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB397/

41 James F. Schnabel, United States Army in the Korean War: Policy and Direction: The First Year (Washington D.C., Center of Military History, 1992), pp. 283-284; R. Dingman, 'Atomic Diplomacy during the Cold War', International Security, Vol. 13:3 (Winter 1988/1989), pp. 53.54, 66-67; Max Hastings, The Korean War (London: Pan Books, 2010), pp. 257-258, 266, 272.

42 Harry S. Truman, Memoirs Vol. II (New York: Doubleday, 1955), pp. 394-395; Dingman, 'Atomic Diplomacy during the Cold War', pp. 75, 90; Schnabel, United States Army in The Korean War, pp. 287-290, 324.

43 Barry D. Watts, 'Nuclear Conventional Firebreaks and the Nuclear Taboo'

(Washington D.C.: Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2013), pp. 71-73.

http://www.csbaonline.org/about/contact/ [accessed 26 November 2013]; Ali Ahmed, 'India,

Nuclear Weapons and “Massive-Retaliation”: The Impossibility of Limitation', IPCS Article No.

4135 (New Dehli: Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, 2013).

http://www.ipcs.org/article/india/ipcs-debate-india-nuclear weapons-and-massive-retaliation-the

impossibility-4135.html [accessed 27 November 2013].

44 Tod Lindberg, 'Nuclear and Other Retaliation after Deterrence fails' (Pennsylavania: Strategic Studies Institue, September 2004), http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&lng=en&id=94828 [accesed 27 November 2013]; Tom Nichols, 'The Case for Conventional Deterrence', The National Interest, 12 November 2013. http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/the-case-conventional-deterrence-9381 [accessed 26 November 2013].

45 National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington D.C.: The White House, May 2010), p.14, 23. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf,[accessd 30 October 2013]; Nuclear Posture Review Report (Washington: United States Department of Defense, April 2010), http://www.defense.gov/npr/docs/2010%20nuclear%20posture%20review%20report.pdf [accessed 28 October 2013]; A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainity: The National Security Strategy (London: October 2010), p. 30. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/61936/national-security-strategy.pdf [accessed 28 October 2013].

46 Russia's National Security Strategy to 2020 (Moscow: May 2009), http://rustrans.wikidot.com/russia-s-national-security-strategy-to-2020 [accessed 28 October 2013]; David M. Finkelstein, "China's National Military Strategy: An Overview of the "Military Strategic Guidelines", in: Kamphausen, Roy and Scobell, Andrew (eds.), Right Sizing the People's Liberation Army: Exploring the Contours of China's Military (Pennsylavania: Strategic Studies Institue, September 2007), p. 125, 130. Document available at: http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=cab359a3-9328-19cc-a1d2-8023e646b22c&lng=en&id=48439 [accessed 28 October 2013].

47 The armed forces of both countries would, moreover, again directly face each other for a second time along the Kashmir Line of Control for nearly six months in 2002. Stanley Wolpert, India and Pakistan: Continued Conflict or Cooperation? (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010), pp. 71-76,78-79; Neil Joeck, 'The Indo-Pakistani Nuclear Confrontation: Lessons from the past, contingencies for the future' (Center for Global Security Research. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (September 2008), pp. 1-41.

48 S. Paul Kapur, 'Ten Years of Instability in a Nuclear South Asia', International Security, Vol. 33:2 (2008), pp. 71-94; Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, 'The Great Debate: Is Nuclear Zero the Best Option?', The National Interest (Sept-Oct 2010), p. 94.

49 Wolpert, India and Pakistan: Continued Conflict or Cooperation?, p. 76.; “Pakistan May Use Any Weapon,” The News (Islamabad), 31 May, 1999; Bruce Riedel, 'American Diplomacy and the 1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House', Policy Paper Series 2002 (Philadelphia, University of Philadelphia Center for the Advanced Study of India, 2002), p. 3.

50 Allison and Zelikow, Essence of Decision, pp. 92-95.

51 In August of the previous year, an escalation of the Berlin Crisis into major conflict had after all only narrowly been avoided. See Frederick Kempe, Berlin 1961. Kennedy, Khrushchev, and the most dangerous place on earth (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group, 2011).

52 Notably control over West Berlin. Allison and Zelikow, Essence of Decision, p. 105.

53 Kenneth N. Waltz, 'Peace, Stability and Nuclear Weapons', IGCC Policy Papers PP15 (Berkeley: Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, 1995), pp. 11-14. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4cj4z5g2 [accessed 27 November 2013].

54 Scott D. Sagan, 'Why Do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three models in Search of a Bomb', International Security, Vol. 21:3 (Winter, 1996-1997), pp. 57-59; Bearsdley and Asal, 'Winning with the Bomb', pp. 25.

55 Waltz, 'Why Iran Should Get the Bomb', pp. 2-5.

56 Bradley B. Bowman, 'Chain Reaction: Avoiding a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East', (Washington D.C.: United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, 2008). http://www.cfr.org/world/chain-reaction-avoiding-nuclear-arms-race-middle-east/p15721 [accessed 27 November 2013].

57 Witness in particular Israel and NATO members' anxieties regarding a nuclear Iran. Jean-Loup Samann, 'The Day after Iran Goes Nuclear: Implications for NATO', NATO Research Paper No. 71 (Rome: NATO Defense College, 2012), pp. 1-8.

58 In particular wide-spread Israeli fears of Iranian leaders actively seeking to destroy the state of Israel. Colin H. Kahl, Melissa G. Dalton, and Matthew Irvine, 'Risk and Rivalry: Iran, Israel and the Bomb' (Washington: Center for a New American Security, June 2012), p. 13. http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?lng=en&id=144190 [accessed 26 November 2013].

59 Roslyn Warren, 'Miscalculating Nuclear Deterrence in the Middle East: Why Kenneth Waltz gets it wrong', Global Security Studies Review, Vol. 1:1 (December 2012), p. 36-38.

60 Colin H. Kahl, Melissa G. Dalton, and Matthew Irvine, 'Risk and Rivalry: Iran, Israel and the Bomb', p. 24.

61 World War I is in that regard perhaps only the most prominent example. Altogether, modern history is rife with peripheral incidences ultimately ending in supra-regional territorial conflict, arguably reaching as far back as to the origins of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) while furthermore including, among others, the Crimean War (1853-1856), the French-Prussian War of 1871; and also the Marco Polo Bridge Incident igniting the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). See in particular Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb, The Origins and Prevention of Major Wars (Cambridge: Cambridge University, Press, 1989); Dale C. Copeland, The Origins of Major War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000); Kagan, Donald, On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace (New York: Doubleday, 2009).

62 Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz, 'The Great Debate: Is Nuclear Zero the Best Option?', The National Interest (Sept-Oct 2010), p. 89; Robert Galluci, 'Averting Nuclear Catastrophe: Contemplating Extreme Responses to U.S. Vulnerability', Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 607 (September 2006), pp. 51–58.

63 Evidently, there exists substantial disagreement as to how or if terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda could ever use nuclear weapons. Thus whereas academics like John Mueller argue that their intent for unleashing nuclear warfare has been grossly exaggerated, relevant government agencies and research groups routinely assess such a threat much more urgent and real. See John Mueller, Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism from Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 161-216; “The U.S.-Russia Joint Threat Assessment of Nuclear Terrorism" (Harvard: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, May 2011). http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/Joint-Threat-Assessment%20ENG%2027%20May%202011.pdf [accessed 23 November 2013].

64 William Walker, “The troubled quest for international nuclear order”, in: Chandra Chari (ed.), War, Peace and Hegemony in a Globalized World. The changing balance of power in the twenty-first century (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), pp. 58-59.

65 'Anarchy' typically refers to the absence of a superior body or authority for governing the interactions of international actors. On the central significance attached to anarchy in IR scholarship, see: Helen Milner, 'The Assumption of Anarchy in International Relations Theory: A Critique, Review of International Studies, Vol. 17:1 (Jan, 1991), pp. 67-85; Robert Powell, 'Anarchy in International Relations Theory: The Neorealist-Neoliberal Debate', International Organization, Vol. 48:2 (Spring, 1994), pp. 313-344.

66 According to defensive realism, states merely aspire to obtain such power as they require for preserving the international balance of power, while offensive realism sees them as power-maximizing actors seeking to perpetually increase their own relative security at the expense of others. See Robert Jervis, 'Realism, Neoliberalism and Cooperation: Understanding the Debate', International Security, Vol. 24:1 (Summer 1999), pp. 48-50.

67 Warren, 'Miscalculating Nuclear Deterrence in the Middle East', pp. 36-40.

68 Peter R. Lavoy, 'The Strategic Consequences of Nuclear Proliferation: A Review Essay', Security Studies, Vol. 4:4 (Summer 1995), pp. 695-753.

69 Bluth, 'Norms and International Relations', pp. 4-8.

70 Richard Ned Lebow, 'The Long Peace, the End of the Cold War, and the Failure of Realism', International Organization, Vol. 48:2 (Spring, 1994), pp. 269-273; John D. Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday. The Obsolescence of Major War (New York: Basic Books, 1989); Carl Kaysen, 'Is War Obsolete: A Review Essay', International Security, Vol. 14:4 (Spring 1990), pp. 42-64.

71 Kerry M. Kartchner, “Strategic Culture and WMD Decision Making”, pp. 58-60.

72 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001), pp. 131-133.

73 Joe D. Hagan, 'Domestic Political Systems and War Proneness', Mershon International Studies Review, Vol. 38:2 (Oct, 1994), pp. 183-207; Michael C. Howard, 'Ideology and Internal Relations', Review of International Studies, Vol. 15:1 (January 1989), pp. 1-10; Mark L. Haas, The Ideological Origins of Great Power Politics, 1789-1989 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005).

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Why Nuclear Weapons may not help to keep the Peace
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Joe Majerus (Author), 2013, Why Nuclear Weapons may not help to keep the Peace, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/284044


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