Friday, April 9, 2010

A world without nuclear weapons, part 2

By Donald Sensing

What would a world without nuclear weapons look like? We already know.

I posted yesterday my assessment of President Obama's new nuclear-weapons posture.

But by announcing new limits on the use of nuclear weapons, Obama has in fact severely undercut their strategic deterrent. Any foreign power examining the new posture can only conclude that there are really no circumstances that Obama would order their use short of an actual atomic attack on the United States itself - and frankly, I am far from certain he would so order even then. If anything, Iran's government's statements since Obama announced the new posture show that Iran has dismissed our military threat to their nuclear program.

The cause to be upheld is deterrence, not assurances of good will or self-assured feelings or moral superiority. The point of deterrence is to prevent nukes from being used by creating caution and uncertainty in the minds of potential enemies. This is done not by laying out specifics, but by the public policy that every president since Truman has followed - we have nukes, and we reserve the right to use them when we deem necessary. (This has not been our policy regarding chemical and bio weapons, by the way, which has been, respectively, "no first use" and "no use.")

I fear the world is now less secure, not because we still have nuclear weapons, but because our potential threats know it doesn't matter that we do. And this has in fact made their use, by someone and maybe the US, more likely.
But what would a world without nuclear weapons look like? I think that most of the "progressive" side of American politics thinks it would look like this:

But we already know what a nuclear-free world looks like.

It looks like this.

From the first world war to the second was only 20 years. World War II ended almost immediately after the first (and thankfully only) use of atomic weapons. It's been 65 years since the end of the second world war. There has been no third world war. I don't mean that the past six decades have been unicorns and rainbows, but can you imagine what a third world war might have been like even if fought with only conventional weapons?

Bookmark and Share


wolfwalker said...

can you imagine what a third world war might have been like even if fought with only conventional weapons?

No. Except that it probably wouldn't be anything like the first two. Certainly not like the Second. Postwar economic and technological changes rapidly made it impractical for any nation to equip WW2-size armies with modern weapons. We would be more likely to see large armies of poorly trained draftees with basic small-arms fighting to a standstill, as in the First World War.

But I think the most likely outcome of another large conventional-arms conflict would be the rapid victory of the dark side. At this time in history, the West does not have the willpower to raise enough of an army to defend itself against a large-scale attack.

JLawson said...

Being born in the mid-50s, I fully expected there to be a third world war by the '80s. Second was in the 40s, so.. by 1980 I figured we'd be in one.

The schedule's running late - and you think I'm complaining? No way! Nuclear weapons kept the Cold War from becoming a hot one through the threat of MAD.

Like it or loathe it - the reason I think we're running late IS because nukes were developed, and finally made war too terrible to contemplate.

Heck, look at how tensions have EASED between Pakistan and India since they both got nukes. It's forced them to stop their border skirmishing and actually try to get along - and they ARE, because they realize how much they've got to lose if they don't.

Gabriel Hanna said...

It would have looked a lot more Communist--let's not forget that the Soviet Union had a huge advantage in ground forces immediately after the war.

Anonymous said...

"How I learned to stop worrying and love the Bomb." The technology of killing had become so advanced by the end of WW II, the Bomb was the only thing that saved us.

Paul Hirsch

Theodora von W. said...

Excellent point. The era of conventional weapons led to miscalculations, with leaders underestimating the expected casualties. They were shocked when the Somme, Verdun, and Stalingrad turned into wholesale slaughter by machine guns and artillery.

Once nuclear weapons came into play, leaders understood terms like "megadeaths" and undertook efforts to prevent them. Nuclear weapons discouraged the superpowers from warring with each other, except by occasional proxy wars, saving millions of lives.

The system they created has worked until today. Rogue states threaten to undo the calculus of the Cold War. Poorly thought out policies like Obama's new anti-nuclear retaliation posture can only contribute to the danger.

Kevin said...

There was a Third World War, fought by proxies mostly - the "Cold War," which included such "hot" wars as Korea and Vietnam, plus a bunch of other stuff that didn't make big splashes of newspaper headlines.

We won that one, too.

What we're engaged in right now is WWIV, and I'm hoping that it won't go nuclear, but Obama's not giving me the warm fuzzies on that score.

Josh said...

fire bombing was just starting to become popular, so you can imagine how much worse things would get if every nation was being fire bombed

Leslie Bates said...

I would have grown up in time for the Fourth World War.

Anonymous said...


GM Roper said...

Bravo! Superlative post and your point was well made.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sadly, I belive you are correct. The thinking and actions of our current 'leaders' will sooner or later lead to war. I pray the coming war is not fought inside the boundries of the United States. Those pictures are horrible reminders of the past.

RebeccaH said...

I've been afraid for a while that something really bad was coming, and everybody told me I was just being paranoid. But everything this President does just seems to bring it closer.

"The Hammer" said...

Very powerful, and so true.

JR Hernandez said...

The progressive mentality of "making the world safer" by reducing our nuclear arsenal is the same as believing that you could make a community safer by reducing the number of its police officers.

Mike Lief said...

Perhaps the most maddening aspect of the Left's efforts to undermine our nuclear deterrent is the apparent inability to concede that MAD prevented a Third Word War.

The entirety of human history proves that aggression -- whether between individuals or nation states -- is reliably deterred only by the existence of a realistic threat of retaliation, of sufficient force and quantity to exceed whatever perceived benefit the aggressor might hope to gain from the intended victim.

Nuclear weapons, and the MAD doctrine, made the cost of a direct confrontation between the Great Powers of the late 20th Century too great to bear, insofar as the Soviets had no interest in destroying themselves, too; even at it's most brutal, the U.S.S.R. was still interested in survival.

Consequently, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. fought a series of proxy wars over 50 years, instead of squaring off in a global conflagration.

Obama is doing incalculable harm to this nation's ability to defend itself, to deter others from attacking us, because he is making the perceived cost of such an attack something less than apocalyptic.

As you've correctly pointed out, it's the threat, and the uncertainty as to whether those lunatic Americans are crazy enough to carry it out, that keeps us safe.

JAL said...

Thanks Mr. Sensing, for reminding us.

Anonymous said...

Nobody on the left wants a world without nuclear weapons. They want us disarmed so there can be chaos and destruction. The leftist mission isn't fulfilled until the cities are in flames and the streets are running with blood.

Fat Man said...

No Nukes is a slogan. It is not, nor can it ever, be a reality. Nuclear weapons are a fact of war and strategy, now and forever more.

The reason nuclear weapons did not exist before 1945 was that the fundamental physics did not exist until the 1920s. The physics now exists, it cannot be unlearned. Uranium is ubiquitous.

The good news is that it is not easy to build nuclear weapons. If it were, Iran would have tested one already.

Even if every nation in the world entered into a solemn treaty to disassemble all of its nuclear weapons, and adhered to the treaty. Nuclear weapons would merely be sleeping until someone aggressive enough, or in enough defensive trouble, decided to cheat on the treaty. Strategic planners, therefor, would be required to assume that nuclear weapons still existed, even if there were actually none then existing.

Anonymous said...

To be a completely accurate vision of a Lefty's view of a nuclear-free world, the unicorn would have to also have Obama in the saddle.

Floridan said...

Nujes are not going away, and there will be plenty enough when Obama leaves office to obliterate every major city and military facility in the world (with the aftermath taking care of 90 percent of the rest).

This is not about the balance of power, this is about getting the nuclear stockpile in Russia and other members of the "club" down to a manageable level -- manageable inthe sense of keeping them out of the hands of terrorists.