Thinking About Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Problems, Prospects
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The book reflects the author's experience across more than forty years in assessing and forming policy about nuclear weapons, mostly at senior levels close to the centre both of British governmental decision-making and of NATO's development of plans and deployments, with much interaction also with comparable levels of United States activity in the Pentagon and the State department. Part I of the book seeks to distill, from this exceptional background of practical experience, basic conceptual ways of understanding the revolution brought about by nuclear weapons. It also surveys NATO's progressive development of thinking about nuclear deterrence, and then discusses the deep moral dilemmas posed - for all possible standpoints - by the existence of such weapons. Part II considers the risks and costs of nuclear-weapon possession, including proliferation dangers, and looks at both successful and unsuccessful ideas about how to manage them. Part III illustrates specific issues by reviewing the history and current policies of one long-established possessor, the United Kingdom, and two more recent ones, India and Pakistan. Part IV turns to the future, examines the goal of eventually abolishing all nuclear armouries, and then discusses the practical agenda, short of such a goal, which governments can usefully tackle in reducing the risks of proliferation and other dangers while not surrendering prematurely the war-prevention benefits which nuclear weapons have brought since 1945.
This book is a project of the Oxford Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War.
within these constraints, to have the FRG involved enough in the Alliance’s nuclear-weapon capability to feel conﬁdent that that capability was unequivocally committed to its protection. From early on in its participation in NATO the FRG, like several other European members of the Alliance, owned and operated delivery systems—initially aircraft, and subsequently also land-based missiles—to carry nuclear warheads. These warheads remained, however, in US ownership and custody, and there were fears
menacing even if carefully unspeciﬁc warnings against such use. An NFU promise, if believed at all, could only lighten a potential aggressor’s perception of risk and so stand to weaken deterrence. Yet it would have done nothing dependable to diminish real risk. NATO and others always recognized this truth in relation to the NFU promise about CW conveyed by the terms of widespread qualiﬁed accessions, including that by the Soviet Union, to the 1925 Geneva 2 Lieutenant-General Kamal Hassan
such foundations of common understanding are sketched in the following paragraphs. Each country has a right to secure deterrence—that is, to be conﬁdent that the other has no easy options for inﬂicting grave harm on its vital interests by force. In other words, each is entitled to feel assured that it could, if ultimately necessary, impose penalties that would outweigh any beneﬁts which forcible change to the status quo damaging its vital interests might have hoped to achieve. This might be
were regular demands that abolition negotiations be initiated without delay. The other pole, that of 153 The Abolition of Nuclear Armouries? the dismissive realists, asserted that complete abolition was fanciful dreaming. They recalled the truism that nuclear weapons can never be disinvented, and maintained that the world must expect to have to concentrate on managing their existence for the rest of human history—or perhaps, to put the matter slightly less starkly, that successful abolition
need do no harm to Alliance cohesion and conﬁdence provided that its presentation evidently and explicitly maintained three key principles. The ﬁrst would be that the full military capability, both conventional and nuclear, of the United States remained unequivocally committed to the defence of all NATO allies, and to the agreed NATO strategic concept (whether the present one or a new one if, as is understood to be under consideration, a revised version is commissioned in 2009 or thereabouts when