If Trump doesn’t want a nuclear war with North Korea, a ‘No First Use’ pledge might work better than threats via The Washington Post


Some analysts claim that MAD prevented nuclear war between the superpowers, although it did not prevent several non-nuclear proxy wars, supported by each side, elsewhere. The fact that none of the seven countries that have acquired nuclear weapons since the 1950s have used them — even between such rivals as India and Pakistan — would seem to validate MAD.

But this is a debatable claim. The world has seen several close calls, involving accidents and last-minute decisions not to launch nuclear weapons. We may just have been lucky so far.

An alternative might be for the United States to draw a bright line, requiring verifiable information that a nuclear attack has occurred, before nuclear weapons would be used. Such a policy of No First Use, or NFU, of nuclear weapons has long been advocated by many prominent government officials and foreign policy analysts, both during and after the Cold War.

To be sure, this might undermine U.S. ability to respond to an imminent nuclear attack, including from a major power like Russia. But because it can so powerfully strike back, especially from its relatively invulnerable nuclear-armed submarine force, the United States could credibly promise to retaliate, even against a massive first strike, with devastating force.


The logic of NFU has been recognized by three nuclear states: China, India, and Israel. Each has indicated, albeit with some qualifications, that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in conflict.

If the United States declared an NFU policy, that might well induce other nuclear states to adopt one as well. Such a domino effect might even persuade North Korea that using nuclear weapons would threaten its very existence. If more and more nuclear states adopted NFU policies, the world might banish the threat of nuclear war, bringing a new global equilibrium.



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