- Mar 3, 2011
- Reaction score
- Political Leaning
First, it's nearly impossible to say with 100% certainty that they are a deterrent because it's nearly impossible to know with 100% certainty why nations act or restrain themselves. Consequently, nuclear deterrence theory, like much of IR theory, is based in an understanding of humanity and in applying that understanding to the international system.Are nuclear weapons a deterrent?
It has been said by many that the primary reason the Soviets never used nuclear weapons on us is because they knew we had them too, and would use them on them in retaliation. May be a tad simplistic, kind of a 'nutshell' description, but I think there is merit to that point-of-view.
We often try to keep other smaller nations from getting nuclear weapons. The stated rationale has been what they might do with them against their neighbors. There might be a grain of truth to that, but I suspect that the real reason we don't want them to have nuclear weapons is because we don't want them to use them against us should we decide to attack them.
Second, yes, I think nuclear weapons are a deterrent. However, they are not a deterrent in the sense that they make a nuclear power immune to physical attack or other forms of aggression. While it may create such immunity in some cases, the real power of nuclear weapons is in their ability to deter states from escalating conflicts, particularly in ways that would engage states in another world war. Nobody rational is going to use nuclear weapons in any situation other than desperation which is why nukes don't make nuclear powers immune to aggression. However, everybody rational is going to stop themselves from pushing a nuclear power in a corner. So if you don't want people to try to overthrow your government or ignite a regional/world war, then you want nukes.