Misconception of Nuclear Deterrence

Before we deep dive into this subject, please ask yourself whether there is anything you love on this planet: children, family, friends, maybe your job, animals, nature, games, cars, computers... something or someone, really anything that immediately pops into your head is good.
I would like to ask you to bear that image of someone or something in your mind while you read the following lines.

What is “deterrence”?
Deterrence is a strategy intended to dissuade an adversary from taking an action not yet started or to prevent them from doing something that another state desires.

Original photo source: "Trident Nuclear Submarine HMS Victorious" by Defence Images 

In the words of Bernard Brodie, “A credible nuclear deterrent must be always at the ready, yet never used.” He wrote these lines almost 60 years ago, and, as Brodie was an American military strategist well-known for establishing the basics of nuclear strategy, he probably knew what he was talking about.

So, how does deterrence work?
When opposing sides both have nuclear weapons, MAD (mutually assured destruction) will prevent them from carrying out attacks on the other country, because of the fear that attacking them will result in destroying themselves, as well.

Now, there are very important bits and bobs in order for this to work.

    Deterrence will work only if:
  • opposing sides are NOT developing defences against attacks and
  • also do NOT have a policy of “First Use” (also called “preemptive strike” or “first-strike”).

By developing anti-ballistic missiles and by having a policy of first use, one country is basically opening the possibility of a surprise attack, while the other country is losing its possibility of retaliating. That creates a imbalance of power and effectively leads to fuelling more paranoia and fear, creating a very fertile ground for a Nuclear War to emerge as a result at any moment.

That is the same reason why Russia and the U.S.A. signed a few ‘Nuclear Disarmament Treaties,’ and Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaties were common things within the pages. Historically, Russia never had sophisticated and precise technology like the U.S., but, despite what they could not make in accuracy, they substituted with crude power. The U.S. had good aiming systems, and Russia created the “Tsar Bomba” (the only tested 50-Megaton bomb).

Taking that into consideration, it is not difficult to understand why Russia is anxious when America first started developing anti-ballistic capabilities and then started installing missile defences all around the Russian border — regardless of the stated excuse for doing it. This is especially nerve-wracking when you realize that those same launchers can launch nuclear warheads!

As Russians felt that NATO is entirely ignoring their complaint about missile defence, not having as strong an economy as the U.S.A., they have returned to developing Megaton weapons, like the RS-28 ‘Satan 2’ (although treaties should limit its power to 375 KT) and hypersonic weapons (that can hit any corner of the world in less than an hour; in most cases, this means they will reach a target between 5 and 20 minutes — the average time to drink a cup of tea is around 15 min.).

Original photo source: "170503-F-DB969-0001" by Lisa U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos 

Finally, there are increasing numbers of drums about some NATO countries openly changing their policy on “First Use,” and that should be extremely worrying for the entire world.

Let’s imagine that our enemy and threat is North Korea, as they are, and that we really want to carry out a sneak attack and remove them as danger — permanently.
After the first minute of attack, not North Korea but China and Russia would need to retaliate.
Why? Simply because a nuclear weapon was used on their borders, and they cannot risk not responding in kind. Russia has a big naval base at Vladivostok, and the capital of China, Beijing, is not very far either.

Just imagine what America would do if someone attacked a neighbouring country — let’s say Mexico or even Cuba — with a nuclear weapon. Would America stand still and do nothing?

Thinking in this way, we can imagine that just one nuclear missile can lead us to global nuclear war. And, we are not talking about millions of deaths but billions — actually, all the billions we have — in the form of humans and other mammals. As explained in a previous article, full-fledged nuclear war is unsurvivable. Yes, even if you have nuclear bunker.

Speculation about “limited” nuclear war is almost nonsensical, knowing that many of our leaders would not be able to contain their urges to retaliate! Furthermore, all possible missiles would be fired even those we do not know about, (publicly-available numbers are just an approximation) in order to secure the retaliatory attack will penetrate trough an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defence.

“First use” policy is not just dangerous: if I need to make analogy, I would say — it is more like lighting a match while swimming in a pool of gasoline.

In a recent debate on BBC Question Time, Adam Murgatroyd kicked off a discussion about UKs nuclear readiness by asking Jeremy Corbyn, "If Britain were under imminent threat from nuclear weapons, how would you react?”

Mr. Corbyn answered the same as Bernard Brodie, with the only sane answer: "The most effective use of it is not to use it, because it is there." (1:07:59)

This does not mean that UK will not retaliate; that is implied, even without asking.
Many countries have developed Russia’s “Dead Hand” system, which will retaliate automatically.
So, do you really need someone to explicitly tell you, “We will all die”?

What should send shivers of terror through your spine is the fact that all men-made systems break, and all electronic systems can be hacked. Terrifying part is that even without new cold war, we already seen multiple near - Nuclear Weapons accidents, where only sheer luck saved humanity. (Google “broken arrows incidents”)

Now, people may say, “North Korea is becoming more dangerous each day! We have to react!”

It is clear that North Korea will not give up its nuclear desires; simply because they saw what happened to Libya, and this is probably the same reason Russia does not trust us. We have to ask whether our NATO alliance would have attacked Muammar Gaddafi’s regime if he had not given up their nuclear potential in 1968.

What Jeremy is trying to say at the beginning can be summed like this: “We should sit and talk, and we had better be good at that talking, as, if we do not succeed, we are all gone.” But a true leader will never say that, because a true leader needs to give hope, even when the chances of success are very slim.

The same rules apply to the IRA, Lybia, North Korea... If we want peace, we have to find a way to create peace and prosperity, so it is necessary to communicate.

Ask yourself when you go to the pub, would you punch people in the face as a way to make friends?

Equally, there is no reason why we should think it is possible to go and destroy half of someone’s country without making few enemies in the process — enemies that will be very keen to get their revenge. Terrorists see their act not just as revenge but as rightful revenge. Although we see it as a mindless and evil act, there is logic in their thinking process. When someone loses his or her entire family and is trained in the spirit of “an eye for an eye”, that is what happens — rage and anger have blinded their ability to live and think normally, and, the same like with any mental condition, if you do not help those people issue will become even more problematic.

The sad truth is that we have created those monsters. So, the rhetoric that we need to go there and fight even more will only create even more monsters. By not supporting their democratic governments after the attack, we only create fertile ground for extreme terrorism.

Even more concerning with recent presidential debates is that there is an increasing trend of talking about using nuclear weapons as a primary part of a political campaign.

Think about it: how did we get to the point that, instead of schools, nurseries, food, quality of life, hospitals, elderly care, prosperity, housing, and many other subjects, we spend a great portion of time talking about using nuclear weapons that would lead to human extinction?

It is a sad and pitiful site when you see people, especially the old ones, who have reach the ends of their lives and, faced with their own mortality, fear, and loneliness, the only thing they can think of is to pull everyone else with them into death.

Do you remember, I asked you at the beginning to think about things you love?
Caring for someone means leaving the world in a better condition than we found it, for the future generations of all life forms to come. Ask yourself what kind of world you’d like your children to live in. This will tell you what kind of leaders you should choose.

And, if you still think you will be the only lucky one to survive a nuclear war, please think again...

Does all this mean we should simply give up our nuclear arsenal?
No, it does not. As Jeremy said, nuclear disarmament process could take a very long time, and we could always end up in fear that other side is maybe hiding some of its nuclear potential, and we will continue that struggle until we become truly global village — and getting there could take a quite some time.

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