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Nukes Are "The Only Peacekeeping Weapons the World Has Ever Known," Says Waltz

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the especially-when-we-drop-them-on-people dept.

The Military 707

An anonymous reader writes "Famed academic Kenneth Waltz for years has argued that more nukes around the world create peace. Why? Because the more nukes are around, the more people are afraid to start a war with a nuclear-armed state. Peace seems assured with a gun to the world's head. In a recent interview, he argues that Iran gaining nuclear weapons would be a good thing. He points out that 'President Obama and a number of others have advocated the abolition of nuclear weapons and many have accepted this as both a desirable and a realistic goal. Even entertaining the goal and contemplating the end seems rather strange. On one hand the world has known war since time immemorial, right through August 1945. Since then, there have been no wars among the major states of the world. War has been relegated to peripheral states (and, of course, wars within them). Nuclear weapons are the only peacekeeping weapons that the world has ever known. It would be strange for me to advocate for their abolition, as they have made wars all but impossible.'"

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707 comments

Inevitably... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566471)

...someone screws up.

Fewer, but more destructive (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#40566813)

Right. There is a plausible argument that nuclear weapons may have decreased the frequency of large-scale war. (That argument could be challenged [the data set is only 67 years, which may not be statistically significant] but it's a defensible proposition). However, nuclear weapons increase the destructiveness of large-scale war. So it is not at all obvious that decreasing the frequency but increasing the severity of war is a good result.

One small caveat (5, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 years ago | (#40566479)

His assumption requires that all the wielders of nuclear weapons are sane.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566531)

Imagine Caligula with nukes.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566533)

His assumption requires that all the wielders of nuclear weapons are sane.

EXACTLY what I was thinking. Re: Iran

Re:One small caveat (1)

Rakshasa-sensei (533725) | about 2 years ago | (#40566627)

Why Iran?

Do you have anything to support your supposition that they're willing to go through... Not mutual, but uni-directional self-destruction in order to lop a couple of nukes at western cities?

Re:One small caveat (4, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#40566723)

How about the statements of the leaders of the country, both the puppet president and the Clerical Council?

Never underestimate the suicidal tendencies of someone who is part of an apocalyptic death cult like fundamentalist Islam or fundamentalist Christianity.

Re:One small caveat (1, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 2 years ago | (#40566913)

> How about the statements of the leaders of the country, both the puppet president and the Clerical Council?

Nope, you are gonna get flamed for saying that. It is unacceptable to take the stated positions of madmen seriously.

Re:One small caveat (1, Troll)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#40566961)

Never underestimate the suicidal tendencies of someone who is part of an apocalyptic death cult like fundamentalist Islam or fundamentalist Christianity.

You can also add Israel, and certainly its more radical Zionist factions, to that list. When an entire culture celebrates the mass suicide at Masada [wikipedia.org] like it's a great thing, and has nukes (courtesy of the good old US of A), and it surrounded by states it stays at war with, and continues to build provocative settlements in regions they know damn well that they stole--well, that's a pretty bad formula for bad shit going down in the future. Anytime you have the potential for someone thinking that God wants them to nuke their enemies into non-existence rather than concede a fight, that's bad news.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566967)

I have to wonder why they haven't pulled the trigger yet then. They've had WMDs in the form of biological and chemical weapons, as well as the ability to deliver those weapons, for decades now. Yet the only major war they've been a part of in the last 30 years was started by their neighbor, Saddam Hussein (with the approval and backing of the US gov't at the time).

If they're a suicidal death cult, why have they held back from trying to "wipe Israel off the map" for the last 20-30 years?

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566779)

If the state makes all it's decisions based on religion, you don't need any other support.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566785)

Fanatical Religeous Zeal.

By offing the "infidels" they go to the good place. Last time I checked, they would be one of the few places with nukes run by Islamic Law.

Re:One small caveat (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | about 2 years ago | (#40566811)

Sanity doesn't seem to be the main property of the current Iranian government. The optimist in me hopes that, if Iran gets nuclear weapons, its people will be bolder than ever to overthrow the regime before it does something stupid.

Re:One small caveat (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | about 2 years ago | (#40566885)

Oh, after glancing at the original article, I realize that what I just said is close to the point Kenneth Waltz makes. Well, I'm wary of his theory, just like I'm wary of my own optimism.

Re:One small caveat (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40566541)

His assumption requires that all the wielders of nuclear weapons are sane.

Even when they are, war still finds a way.

Re:One small caveat (4, Interesting)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | about 2 years ago | (#40566549)

I think the assumption is that, despite the religious fanaticism and/or grandiose visions of world conquest of some leaders, those in possession of nuclear weapons are actually motivated by self-interest and self-preservation.

Re:One small caveat (2, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 2 years ago | (#40566717)

I think the assumption is that war is intrinsically undesirable. Clearly, it serves an important purpose, or we would have set it aside long ago. I'd say the purpose of war is to destroy a state that has become a liability to the human race, and it's past time.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566561)

No, it doesn't. This is an historical look at the Nuke which clearly shows that warbetween states with nukes has been nonexistent. Your point is on target that it may not always be that way. In my opinion, you are arguing witha point that the author did not make.

-- MyLongNickName

Sigh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566631)

"This is an historical look..."

You expect us to take you seriously?

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566591)

Define sane.

Re:One small caveat (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566697)

George Dubya Bush is sane. GOD BLESS AMER1CA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hallelujah

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566703)

Umm, the opposite of unsane?

Re:One small caveat (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566609)

He also assumes that all nuclear states are politically stable. Civil war and government breakdown in a nuclear state could lead to some very undersirables (ie terrorists and criminals) getting hold of nuclear weapons. At that point all bets are off in term of if they will use them or not.

Re:One small caveat (1, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#40566615)

Not only that - it assumes that no one fucks up. Nuclear war was avoided for two reasons: both the USSR and the US were rational actors, and on both sides there were people who would rather die in a nuclear attack than press the button that started the nuclear war.

If every nation in the world has nukes - some more, some less - it is guaranteed that some nutjob will think that it is better to kill your enemy and be incinerated yourself than to tolerate the affronts for one more second.

There is a reason we don't build buildings by balancing them on a single pole, or that we don't.... wait, so that's one of the few examples left where we do not try to exploit some very small stable region in a chaotic system to extract some maximum profit out of it. Let's just not add one more major system that is just barely stable, and where instability results in humanity starting over.

Re:One small caveat (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566743)

If every nation in the world has nukes - some more, some less - it is guaranteed that some nutjob will think that it is better to kill your enemy and be incinerated yourself than to tolerate the affronts for one more second.

Reportedly Che Guevarra, during the Cuban crisis, had this exact opinion. He wasn't crazy, he just had the idea that it if he was going down, might as well take his enemy down also.

I've personally taken the exact same strategy while playing Rise of Nations.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566623)

He should see Fog of War with Robert McNamara, and quote:

"Rationality will not save us. I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today."

Re:One small caveat (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40566869)

He should see Fog of War with Robert McNamara, and quote:

"Rationality will not save us. I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today."

That's a heck of a movie. Frightening the prospect Cutis LeMay advocated just nuking the heck out of Cuba and being done with it, never mind the fallout blowing around the Caribbean, Gulf and ultimately Northern Hemisphere.

Re:One small caveat (3, Funny)

Snarfangel (203258) | about 2 years ago | (#40566637)

We can prove this scientifically.

First, assume a spherical dictator. For example, Kim Jong-un.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566683)

Agreed. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs to a radical sect that believes that by starting a war (presumably a nuclear war) with Israel that it will cause the return of the "Hidden Imam" -- their equivalent of the second coming of Christ. If someone were to act rationally, yes nuclear weapons definitely serve as a deterrent but for better or worse, religion isn't always rational. Many of Jim Jones' followers knew that their drink was laced with cyanide but they still drank the Kool Aid.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566831)

Do you have proof of any of this, as opposed to the idea that he is mostly a political creature playing to the national sentiments of the Iranian people? And, do you have any proof (or even strong evidence) that it would be his finger on the trigger if Iran were to develop and deploy nuclear weapons?

Re:One small caveat (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40566875)

Claims that Iran could do Israel serious harm are still dubious, but if it did launch any kind of a nuclear attack on Israel, all tacit support for Iran from China and Russia would evaporate instantly, and Israel's allies would be given pretty much instantaneous approval to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age. Let's remember for all Iran's big numbers of armed forces members, most are poorly equipped Basij "weekend warriors". They're navy, air force and major military installations are highly vulnerable to attack, and you can be damned sure that both Israel and US have detailed co-operative plans in place to basically render the Iranian military utterly impotent within a few days (there were hints of this when an Iranian general mumbled on about closing the Strait of Hormuz).

At the end of the day, no matter how powerful the Ayatollahs may be, they only rule because the Iranian Army remains loyal to them. If the Ayatollahs were to indeed go mad and order actual attacks on Israel, I can only assume the Generals would step in, overthrow the Ayatollahs and end any such plans, if for no other reason than they will not sacrifice their power, latent or active, for any mad ideal.

Re:One small caveat (4, Insightful)

Jiro (131519) | about 2 years ago | (#40566713)

Also, he assumes that the problem is that someone wants to start a war with a nuclear-armed state, rather than the nuclear-armed state starting a war with someone else.If Iran nukes Israel, it won't be because Israel started it.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566765)

This.

What's that? Everyone can have a gun to defend themselves?
Oh, why, it only caused the country to have some of the highest gun crime IN THE WORLD.

Weapons are weapons, they will get used by someone, eventually.
America is a large simulation of what would happen if the whole world had nukes, someone would slip up and cause a catastrophe.

Re:One small caveat (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#40566781)

And that false positives never happen. From my understanding, back during the cold war a weather satellite was mistaken for a launched nuke and a retaliatory strike was recommended.

Re:One small caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566837)

or that if we allow nuclear weapon proliferation the weapons will always be in the hands of people who have something to loose in a nuclear war.

Correction (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40566517)

Preventing large scale conflict between Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Western Europe, United States.

Meanwhile, we've had almost non-stop wars, revolutions, invasions and a few instances of genocide since Nagasaki & Hiroshima

I don't think it's working...

Now sharks with lasers, that might do the trick...

Re:Correction (-1, Troll)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40566701)

Did you read it? No, just jump to your stupid post completed ignoring the fact that he mentions between smaller states and within those states.

He is correct in his assertion.

Re:Correction (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 years ago | (#40566849)

nonsense, the superpowers fought massive proxy wars with millions of casualties. The superpowers bully and wage war against smaller states. Nuclear weapons, enabling warfare, genocide, theft of resources.

Re:Correction (1)

Pope (17780) | about 2 years ago | (#40566863)

"Since then, there have been no wars among the major states of the world. War has been relegated to peripheral states (and, of course, wars within them). Nuclear weapons are the only peacekeeping weapons that the world has ever known. It would be strange for me to advocate for their abolition, as they have made wars all but impossible."

Fucking LOL. Typical academic. "Wars are impossible, as far as my own narrow definition of a war goes!"

Re:Correction (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40566931)

Did you read it? No, just jump to your stupid post completed ignoring the fact that he mentions between smaller states and within those states.

He is correct in his assertion.

Yet nuclear powers did, via proxy. Also, smaller states have been at war with nuclear armed states. The risk of being labeled The Next Nation To Use Nukes To Kill People has had more, IMHO, to do with the reluctance to actually employ them. Nukes were considered for use in North Korea and North Vietnam, but saner minds prevented that.

Re:Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566749)

Meanwhile, we've had almost non-stop wars, revolutions, invasions and a few instances of genocide since Nagasaki & Hiroshima

And in a history awash in world wars (protip: World War I was not the first world-encompassing war), we've had precisely zero global conflicts since.

You can cry up tiny sparks all you want - frankly, I agree that they're terrible events regardless of scale - but pointing to genocide in the ass end of nowhere and crying about nuclear deterrent not working makes no sense whatsoever.

Re:Correction (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#40566819)

It's a matter of scale. Nukes can prevent full-scale war between the countries that hold them. It cannot prevent smaller wars and genocides, just as it cannot prevent gang-wars or serial murderers. There is a minimum threshold before nuclear weapons would even be considered (i.e. an amount beyond which the use or threat to use a nuclear weapon is less than the damage that would be caused by not using one).

Maybe if we eliminated (4, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | about 2 years ago | (#40566519)

Kings, emperors, priests, dictators and all other types of power-seeking politicians, who drag a country to war seemingly over little more than a bad case of butthurt, maybe then we could have some sort of peace without the MAD.

Re:Maybe if we eliminated (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40566671)

Kings, emperors, priests, dictators and all other types of power-seeking politicians, who drag a country to war seemingly over little more than a bad case of butthurt, maybe then we could have some sort of peace without the MAD.

What have you against Alfred E. Neuman?

Problem is, leaders often look perfectly sane, outright popular while they are running around building up support (or the people are so busy with trying not to starve they have little time or energy for politics), but once in position of power it goes to their heads and they get all messianic about themselves.

Keeping a regular rotation of leaders, particularly of alternating views, may seem inefficient, but it often proves to be a stablizing factor.

The world where all leaders were wise and caring, which was promised to me by 1970's television cartoons, has yet to materialize.

Re:Maybe if we eliminated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566777)

Except when you get rid of the people in power, you just get others who will replace them.

Re:Maybe if we eliminated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566815)

Let's elect our leaders by a lottery, every adult is a candidate whether they like it or not, including criminals etc... (to prevent those in power from excluding individuals or groups of people by crininalizing them) and only excluding those who have been "elected" before.

After office they all stand trial. Then they go to prison (if they were corrupt) or they get enough money to live comfortably (so they don't need to be corrupt in the first place).

I think this is close to Aristotle's idea of democracy.

Kind of an obnoxious sentiment (1)

TorrentFox (1046862) | about 2 years ago | (#40566535)

Or quite possibly after two world wars, people simply got so fed up with annihilating each other that they made an actual effort to avoid it for once?

Re:Kind of an obnoxious sentiment (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 2 years ago | (#40566689)

You're as insane as the OP. There is no 'world peace,' there's a different political atmosphere. Rather than fighting other countries, the politicians realized they can all live comfortably in power by oppressing their own people and helping each other oppress their own people. Instead of trying to rule the world, they're trying to keep knives out of their backs and grudgingly working together to make sure they're not deposed out of their own kingdom ever.

Re:Kind of an obnoxious sentiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566903)

You're as insane as the OP.

Translation:

I'm a smug Slashdotter. I'm way smarter than you and everybody else. Admire me while I prance around! Why won't you admire me? Why?

Re:Kind of an obnoxious sentiment (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about 2 years ago | (#40566725)

Or quite possibly after two world wars, people simply got so fed up with annihilating each other that they made an actual effort to avoid it for once?

Throttling the country, or region, where it all erupted had quite a bit to do with it. Cold War did lead to a long, uneasy peace, even if some poor innocent people had to pay for it with their lives being crush beneath a few soviet tanks.

Meanwhile, smaller and very bloody conflicts still were (and are) waged, ironically the invasion of Iraq, was on the assumption someone had nukes and was hiding them. Crazy man, crazy.

Re:Kind of an obnoxious sentiment (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#40566797)

Except that seems highly unlikely, give the fact that this also involves people who ahd nothing to do with either WW, and we we don't have a generation who really remembers them.

Re:Kind of an obnoxious sentiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566887)

Democracies don't go to war with one another. At least not volatile, hot, deadly wars. The theory is that when the politicians on both sides serve at the will of the people, even if two countries really hate each other the politicians won't be able to start a war. The people, on average, won't support it because they know what it means in terms of life (and economic) loss in their own country. The people will vote into power those that will negotiate endlessly and perhaps engage in trade wars, they won't let a true warmonger stay in power. The country that starts a real war is always an undemocratic country where a crazy few can lead the country into an action the populace doesn't at all support.

Hence the whole US long term foreign policy about reforming irresponsible states into democracies. If you can get the whole world operating like that, then reducing stockpiles and standing armies becomes realistic.

The Main Problem (4, Insightful)

loteck (533317) | about 2 years ago | (#40566539)

The main problem is that the first time there is an exception to this trend of peace, it could conceivably be the last exception for everyone, period.

Re:The Main Problem (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about 2 years ago | (#40566649)

Nuclear technology is verifyable and in a reasonably stable world it is possible to enforce a ban. So we should. Bioweapons and cyberwarfare isnt verifyable so we should be working on that.

Re:The Main Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566653)

You're right, that's why we should go for complete disarmament. We're kinda short on resources now so maybe we should wait till after we win the War on Drugs.

Re:The Main Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566769)

That's too unlikely to even be worth a talking point. Even if there were an exception, it would likely be a one-off scenario. One or two, or at worst a handful, of nukes would be lobbed, and one or two cities rendered uninhabitable for a hundred years or whatever. And it would put the genie back in the bottle for another century or two at the least.

The real problem is lone crazy idealists with nukes. They won't trigger wars, but nuclear terrorism is a big problem. It's again a one or two cities per incident sort of thing, but it can just keep happening repeatedly. I'm not talking about NK/Iran acting as states, I'm talking about what happens when irresponsible and/or unstable states start leaking nukes to small terrorist groups, even accidentally. As human technological progress continues to advance, the mountain one must climb to reliably manufacture nukes shrinks, and so it may eventually even be in the grasp of a well-funded terrorist organization to manufacture nukes with a little help from such a leaky state.

I buy the argument that we shouldn't disarm modern responsible states, and by that I mean a state with some real semblance of a democratic process. They're arguably the only legitimate states anyways, the rest are just fiefdoms at the whim of a ruling few who might turn crazy at any point. The way to avoid war in general and nuclear doomsday specifically is to go ahead and arm the responsible states, and try to bring the irresponsible ones up to the level of a rudimentary functional democracy (because we can't actually stop them from developing nukes in the long run).

The problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566547)

The problem is with a lot of nukes around, it is easier for a splinter group to steal one and create havoc. Granted the major superpowers serve as a deterrent against mass nuclear warfare, but what are we going to do when crazy religious group #432 obtains a nuclear weapon they stole from a superpower?

Oh my (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566589)

I guess he means that warmongers like US can wage illegal wars without any danger for them if the 'enemy' has no nuclear weapons.

Re:Oh my (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566647)

Or he means that warmongering cultures like Islam and the IRA can wage illegal wars on unarmed civilians without any danger because the enemy would never use their nuclear weapons.

...Until there is a war between major states. EOC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566595)

EOC - End Of Comment

false (1)

demonbug (309515) | about 2 years ago | (#40566599)

Gandhi's threats of NUCLEAR WEAPONS never kept me from going to war with him, so clearly this premise is false.

Wrong (4, Insightful)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#40566605)

The 2.25 million people that died in the Korean War, and the ~ 2 million people that died in the Vietnam War would beg to differ.

Re:Wrong (5, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about 2 years ago | (#40566861)

That's exactly what he said, wars have been relegated to "peripheral states", not major states. Proxy wars between major states inside a third-party country is not the same thing as a direct war between the two major states.

Wars are impossible? (2, Insightful)

psydeshow (154300) | about 2 years ago | (#40566611)

If nuclear weapons have made war so unlikely, then why does the USA spend so much time and money fighting wars?

Heard this one before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566645)

This is a rehash of the old phrase "Peace through superior firepower." It always sounds a bit Orwellian, but the statistics do potentially bear it out. Two little nagging problems with this are Hiroshima/Nagasaki, which weren't very peaceful as about 135,000 people died in two flashes of light.

Re:Heard this one before (1, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | about 2 years ago | (#40566877)

How is that a problem? The use of nuclear weapons ended the war and saved the tens of millions of lives that would have been lost in a ground invasion of the major Japanese islands.

Re:Heard this one before (2)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 2 years ago | (#40566957)

...Two little nagging problems with this are Hiroshima/Nagasaki, which weren't very peaceful as about 135,000 people died in two flashes of light.

I will remind you that the war in the Pacific was killing that many people per month, so if the bombings hastened the end of the war by as little as 5 weeks, they saved as many lives as they took. (Not even accounting for those who would die by starvation due to the fact that the Japanese had drafted all the farmers into the war effort.)

With or without nuclear weapons, the war was brutal.

Ozzy thought of that decades ago (3, Interesting)

proslack (797189) | about 2 years ago | (#40566651)

Nothing new. "If that's the only thing that's stopping war then thank God for the bomb" ---Ozzy

problem is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566661)

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, everyone else around them will, too. I don't think the current Iranian regime will use them unprovoked, but....

Most of those states in the middle east are unstable. Dictatorships are always unstable (Democracies are unstable too, but they have a release valve built in, that allow the regime to change without violence). Even the Saudi regime will eventually be changed out. When they do, who will replace them? Will it be someone as crazy as Pol Pot? When an old regime is being kicked out, will they launch the nuclear weapons in a fit of rage and revenge? Will they do a scorched earth scenario, like the president in Babylon 5?

Finally, in a technical sense this guy is wrong. Nuclear weapons are NOT the only peacekeeping weapon the world has ever known, or to even be called that. For example, there's a reason the Colt single-action got the name Peacemaker.

World peace could be a nightmare (1)

0olong (876791) | about 2 years ago | (#40566667)

Let's assume for argument's sake that nukes really do give these assurances, then not only would they prevent war between nation states, they'd likewise within those nations protect the powerful few and their military from ever being truly accountable to their own populace. All hail our permanent overlords.

Ultimate Time Bomb (5, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | about 2 years ago | (#40566669)

Sorry to be blunt but anyone who thinks this is a moron.

The lack of wars involving countries possessing nuclear weapons does not demonstrate that it is a good peacekeeping measure. It demonstrates that it's a good _TEMPORARY_ peacekeeping measure. The problem is, eventually, at some point, someone will push the button. And the button has drastic results that will instantly eradicate any concept of "peace" in an instant as well as plunging the planet into the stone age. Just because a weapon _temporarily_ prevents violence does not mean it will _permanently_ prevent it. We are, in the end, human. We will, eventually, fight. Someone will sling insults and then, eventually, someone will throw a punch. The problem is the punch will wipe out an entire city and be followed by hundreds of other punches.

Anyone who thinks nuclear weapons are a peacekeeping tool is an idiot. They are the ultimate ticking time bomb. They are a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

To be blunt.

Re:Ultimate Time Bomb (1)

Grave (8234) | about 2 years ago | (#40566921)

The non-use of nuclear weapons is a temporary solution to the problem. The use of nuclear weapons is a permanent solution.

Misses a key point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566677)

This may all work just fine with applied to cold war era US and USSR, none of which was a theocracy.

I tried this on a micro-scale once... (3, Funny)

UltimaBuddy (2566017) | about 2 years ago | (#40566693)

... and everyone got all uptight about me handing out guns indiscriminately to known & repeat violent offenders.

Why can't they see that I'm trying to keep them safe?

Ponder This (5, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40566719)

In May, 1945 as Germany collapsed completely, the Soviets had over six million troops in Eastern Europe. War planners in Britain and the US had already been planning for WWIII. To my mind, one of things that stopped the Red Army in its tracks and ended any possibility of trying to take advantage of the numerical superiority in that theater was the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The unconditional surrender of the Japanese to the Americans after those attacks also meant that the Soviets only managed to grab the Kuril Islands, and never made it as far as the Japanese main islands (there are some who theorize one of the reasons that Truman gave the go ahead was to convince the Japanese to surrender quickly before the Soviets could start moving south from the Kurils).

Re:Ponder This (3, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#40566933)

(there are some who theorize one of the reasons that Truman gave the go ahead was to convince the Japanese to surrender quickly before the Soviets could start moving south from the Kurils).

Which is nonsense. The USSR didn't even attack Japan until August 18, which was after both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.

Truman making the decision to drop the atomic bombs to prevent the Soviets from grabbing more than Kurils when the Soviets didn't have the Kurils till after the bombs were dropped would be an amazing example of prescience....

Flawless logic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566729)

(with fingers in his ears) "NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH, I can't hear those people dieing in iraq"

Winning strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566731)

Convince everybody to get rid of their weapons, but keep yours.

Iran (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566735)

The main problem is that Iran won't use nuclear weapons in their own right. They'll use them via a proxy like Hezbollah. So it doesn't quite fit into the scenario he is describing.

Several problems (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 2 years ago | (#40566755)

First, MAD assumes that nobody involved is, er, mad. If a true loony got their hands on a nuke, they might set it off to get their 72 virgins.

Second, there's the risk that Iran might think they could blow Israel first and destroy their ability to strike back.

Third, there's the danger of a miscalculation. Given how close Iran & Israel are, there's not much time to verify that that flock of geese overhead really is a flock of geese.

Maybe none of those scenarios would happen if Iran got the bomb. But having the bomb doesn't guarantee stability either, even if it has diminished war so far. It just takes one exception.

game theory - rational players (2)

cslewis2007 (1120851) | about 2 years ago | (#40566823)

I think the fatal flaw in the dogma of MAD is that it is predicated on the notion that the actors act rationally and share the same root common values. I don't think that's the case with Iran or other countries with unstable, immature, leaders.

proxy wars (2)

PancakeMan (530649) | about 2 years ago | (#40566833)

This "peripheral state" idea strikes me as naive. Was, say, the Vietnam war just between North and South Vietnam? Wasn't it a war, staged in Vietnam, between bigger (nuclear) powers?

All it takes is one Joker (Batman reference) (2)

davidwr (791652) | about 2 years ago | (#40566871)

The North Korean leaders are as close as we have today to a "Joker with the bomb."

But imagine if anyone or any organization with a few million dollars could get the materials to build a bomb big enough to kill almost everyone within a quarter-mile radius and severely injure almost everyone within a half-mile radius.

It would only be a matter of time - years or less - before some idiot who didn't care if he or even humanity lived or not used one.

Heck, he'd probably try to make it look like some other country was behind it just to start a real war.

No, a world with large numbers of countries or worse, non-governments or individuals with the bomb is NOT a safe place to be, at least not if there's any real chance someone will use one just for kicks.

No wars... right... (3, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#40566879)

So the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Dominican Republic wars, the Arab-Israeli and Yom Kippur wars, the Soviet and American invasions of Afghanistan, two Persian Gulf wars, the Falklands War, the Invasion of Grenada, the Serbia-Bosnia war, and too many more to list... those are just what, "police actions"? Some of them you can discard as "non-major countries", but too many of them had major, nuclear-armed powers on at least one side.

In fact, you could argue that nukes have produced *more* wars. Just look at Wikipedia. They obviously don't have a single page listing every war that ever was, but they've got it broken up by dates:
List of wars before 1000
List of wars 1000–1499
List of wars 1500–1799
List of wars 1800–1899
List of wars 1900–1944
List of wars 1945–1989
List of wars 1990–2002
List of wars 2003–2010
List of wars 2011–present

Weird how roughly 40% of all wars happen *after* 1945, when he says war basically ended. That assumes that all sub-lists have approximately the same length, which isn't precisely true, but it's close enough for our purposes (in fact, the longest seem to be the 1900-1944 and 1945-1989 lists). So you could easily argue that, while nukes may prevent major wars, they do so by converting them into numerous small wars.

And even his premise of "no major wars" is not proven. Sure, we haven't had a World War since '45. That's 65 years or so. They've had wars that *lasted* longer than that. Having a peace that lasts that long in "Western and Northern Europe and North America" isn't exactly uncommon. I can imagine people made the same argument about the rifle in pre-Napoleonic Europe, and I know people said such things about machine guns after WWI.

The Fallout games had it right - war never changes.

Re:No wars... right... (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#40566941)

Considering the Western Hemisphere, there were several "general wars", involving the major powers of the day. The Seven Years War could probably be considered the first actual world war, as it involved the Great Powers and their overseas empires.

That is considerably different than regional or civil wars. Yes, there have been more of those, but when you compare them to the sheer losses of massive conflicts like the Thirty Years War or WWII, it's hard see how your comparison is all that fitting.

He is absolutely right (4, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | about 2 years ago | (#40566881)

Love it or hate it, MAD is the most successful peace program this world has ever known. I know a lot of the anti-nuke zealots out there while immediately shout "but, they could kill whole cities, hundreds of thousands of millions could die".

History will tell you that conventional arms are leading that race by well over a hundred million just in the last century alone. Because of nukes the cold war remained cold and never became hot. Pick a body count site and look at the body count from the number of people killed before, during and after the cold war.

I'm on the pro-nuke side of this argument and my body count is many, many millions less than the other side of the argument. The bottom line is that the cold war with it's policy of MAD was the most peaceful period in human history.

It really boils down to one idea, and you have to make a simple value judgement to know which side of the argument to sit on. Is the concept of nuclear free /peace/ in the air more important than the reality of millions of dead bodies in the ground? Try as you might, the one thing you can never change is human nature.

357 magnum peace keeper, now Nuclear Rocket (2)

na1led (1030470) | about 2 years ago | (#40566899)

Doesn't mater how powerful a gun someone has, they will eventually find reason to use it.

Neo-Realism is useless in Middle East Politics (1)

alinuxguruofyore (1117973) | about 2 years ago | (#40566917)

Waltz' infatuation with neo-realism does not serve him well when looking at Middle Eastern politics.
.
.
He turns a blind eye to the India-Pakistan skirmish over Kashmir, neatly dismissing the idea that both nations have nuclear weapons. .
.
He assumes that Iran would act rationally, and would not destroy Israel out of religious zealotry and the conviction that their actions and own inevitable mutually assured destruction would make them martyrs. A nuclear Iran would not remain nuclear at all. It's mullahs would fulfill their religous obligations as quickly as they possibly could. .
.
He assumes that the Sunni nations, like Saudi Arabia would not feel threatened by a Shia nuclear superpower in their backyards and would not start up their own nuclear programs..

Nobody would think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566935)

lets say countries A, B, and C have nukes. A makes a couple nukes with the signature of country B, sneaks them in, and shoots them off to country C. Voila, C nukes B, and A takes over.

Waltz is an idiot.

Yes and no (4, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#40566943)

Nuclear weapons have eliminated wars between major powers, yes. But this does not mean they are peacekeeping weapons. Instead what they do is effectively put a ceiling on the scale and intensity of a conflict. The US doesn't want to get in a major set-piece battle with Russia, because everyone knows if that happens, there won't be a US, Russia, or probably a Europe either. Most wars these days are very low-intensity, and many of them involve proxies of some sort or another: Vietnam, Afghanistan(1980s), Iraq (2003). In all 3 of these cases you have major military powers fighting an enemy that is not as well equipped or armed, but has external backing of another major power to one extent or another. In Vietnam you had the Soviets arming, training, and in some cases fighting for the North Vietnamese; Afghanistan has mujaheddin funded and armed by US money and weapons, and in Iraq you had Syria and Iran assisting the insurgents. Here's an analogy: if you dislike a guy, but you know he carries a gun with him, you aren't going to walk up to him and punch him in the face: you're going to get shot. But you can get at him by paying a kid $20 to go slash the guy's tires while he's sitting in a bar or something. You two are not exactly "at war", but you are also not at all at peace. So what nuclear weapons do is basically force you, as a leader, to draw the line at how far you are willing to take a conflict, and who you're willing to fight against. But hostile action is, and mostly likely always will be, a major and vital part of statecraft. And this would be true even if every state had nuclear weapons.

That being said, I have read Waltz numerous times, and I know I've cited him him several times while in grad school. And he is right that we still need to keep nukes around, because even a bunch of low-intensity conflicts are "better" (ie, not as costly in terms of human life and money) than just one major conflict between large nations like the US and Russia (partly because any conflict of this magnitude would certainly draw in other states, while a low intensity conflict is more likely to stay isolated).

India and Pakistan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40566951)

This is from the article, "India quite naturally did not want Pakistan to become a nuclear state. A second nuclear state cramps the style of the first. It is hard to imagine one nuclear state acquiescing easily or gracefully to its adversary going nuclear. But certainly in the long run, the nuclear weapons have meant peace on the subcontinent. This is in GREAT contrast to the expectations that most people entertained. Statements abounded by pundits, academics, journalists that suggested that nuclear weapons would mean war on the subcontinent. These experts all denied that the nuclear relationship between India and Pakistan could be like that between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. When two countries have nuclear weapons it becomes impossible for either to strike at the manifestly vital interests of the other. It remains very possible, however, for nuclear states to engage in skirmishes, and those can of course be deadly. A historical example is the Soviet-China border disputes (1969), and a more recent one is the Mumbai attacks. But never have any of these skirmishes gotten so out of hand as to escalate to full-scale war."

Mr Waltz missed something very important - the Kargil War [wikipedia.org] (or Incident or Debacle as it's also known). At one point, Pakistan moved nuclear weapons forward. President Clinton contacted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, who was unaware of this according to his autobiography. Prime Minister Sharief then ordered General Musharraf to stand down.

Here's a more detailed explanation of the incident - http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/kargil-99.htm [globalsecurity.org] .
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