Argument: Nuclear weapons deter even rogue states

Issue Report: Abolition of nuclear weapons


  • Jeffrey Record, former staffer of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Nuclear Deterrence, Preventive War, and Counterproliferation”. Policy Analysis. July 8th, 2004 – “There is no evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein was anything other than successfully deterred and contained during the 12 years separating the end of the Gulf War and the launching of Operation Iraqi Freedom.[…] Naval Post Graduate School’s Jeffrey Knopf before the Iraq War, ‘implies an assumption that all evil individuals will act alike, meaning the analogy creates an expectation that Saddam will act on his hatred for the United States in the same way that bin Laden did.’ On the contrary: Saddam Hussein’s position is very different. Saddam is the ruler of a state and has influence over others only by virtue of being a state leader. Territory is therefore essential to him. If he ceases to control Iraqi territory, he becomes nothing. Moreover, Saddam’s primary goal is to maximize his personal power, with the secondary goal of creating a dynasty he can pass on to his sons. . . . The threat he poses is an old-fashioned kind: a lust for power so great it leads to an expansionist program for his states. Despite a very real animus toward the United States, he is not so fanatically devoted to any abstract cause that he would sacrifice his grip on power or his own life to advance that cause.’
Indeed, neither Saddam Hussein nor any other rogue state regime has employed WMD against enemies capable of utterly devastating retaliation. They have threatened to use them against such enemies, just as the United States and the Soviet Union exchanged nuclear threats during the Cold War, but they have never used them. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against helpless Kurds and Iranian infantry in the 1980s and threatened in 1990 to make Israel ‘eat fire’ should Israel attack Iraq, but when war came in 1991 and he faced credible threats of nuclear retaliation, the Iraqi dictator refrained from employing his massive chemical weapons arsenal against coalition forces or Israel.
[…]Military primacy is of course a necessary prerequisite for preventive war. For the United States, however, preventive war can rarely if ever be a more attractive policy choice than deterrence—unless one has completely lost confidence in deterrence. Yet that seems to be just what has happened. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 persuaded the Bush administration that nuclear deterrence was of little use against fanatical nonstate terrorist organizations and insufficient to prevent rogue states from using WMD, including nuclear weapons, against the United States. The view is that such weapons are, for both terrorist organizations and rogue states, weapons of first choice rather than last resort, and therefore that anticipatory U.S. military action is the safest policy response.”
  • Paul Robinson, President and Director, Sandia National Laboratories. “A White Paper: Pursuing a New Nuclear Weapons Policy for the 21st Century”. March 11, 2001 – “Defenses have always been an important element of war fighting, and are likely to be so when defending against missiles. Defenses will also provide value in deterring conflicts or limiting escalations. Moreover, the existence of a credible defense to blunt attacks by armaments emanating from a rogue state could well eliminate that rogue nation’s ability to dissuade the U.S. from taking military actions. If any attack against the U.S., its allies, or its forces should be undertaken with nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction, there should be no doubt in the attacker’s mind that the United States might retaliate for such an attack with nuclear weapons; but the choice would be in our hands.”
[…]Even in the post-Cold War environment, deterrence remains important. The Cold War arsenal must be adjusted, in numbers and types of weapons, to provide deterrence in a new and dynamic situation. And the U.S. needs to be able, more than ever before, to respond to dramatic changes.”