Argument: Nuclear weapons deter rogue states from giving WMD to terrorists

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 – “If Saddam Hussein was effectively deterred from using WMD against enemies capable of inflicting unacceptable retaliation, he was also most unlikely even to have contemplated transferring such weapons to organizations that were not so deterred. There is wide agreement on this point among those who have studied the Iraqi dictator. ‘The idea that Saddam Hussein would develop weapons of mass destruction and then give them to al Qaeda is staggeringly farfetched,’ contends W. Andrew Terrill, one of the U.S. Army’s leading experts on Saddam. ‘Saddam remained in power for 20 years partially because of his unwillingness to trust even family members more than circumstances dictated. It would be completely out of character for him to trust an enemy like Osama bin Laden to take control of these weapons, and then implement Saddam’s agenda in a way that leaves the Iraqi regime blameless.’
The conflation of rogue states and terrorist organizations—especially Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda—into an undifferentiated threat was a strategic error of the first order because it ignores critical differences between the two in character, political agendas, and vulnerability to U.S. military power, that is, susceptibility to deterrence via credible threats of retaliation. Although few dispute the inherent difficulty of deterring terrorist attacks by suicidal fanatics, deterrence directed against the use of WMD so far appears to have worked against rogue states. Deterrence, when it works, is certainly cheaper than preventive war waged for rogue-state regime change.”
  • “Nuclear Deterrence in the Age of Terrorism”. The Yankee Sailor. April 28, 2006 – “with the vexing problem of anti-state actors rendering deterrence by denial and existential deterrence dead letters, deterrence by punishment seems to be the only remaining option for America. This would entail warning the most likely cooperative sources of a terrorist bomb or bomb technology – Iran, Pakistan and North Korea – that if an unexplained nuclear detonation takes place on the territory of the United States, Tehran, Islamabad and Pyongyang would pay a heavy price. Ten years ago this kind of policy would have been unthinkable, but the brave new world of atomic proliferation seems to demand it.”