The myth of nuclear deterrence via Beyond Nuclear

By Linda Pentz Gunter



In our new Deterrence pamphlet, we set out ten reasons why nuclear deterrence cannot possibly work. We conclude that the only way to be 100% certain of nuclear deterrence is not to have any nuclear weapons at all.


The concept of deterrence is that the possession of nuclear weapons by one country would deter another nuclear weapons country — or even non-nuclear weapons country — from attacking. This has led to countries justifying their production of nuclear weapons as a national security measure while claiming they would only be used if already attacked by another nuclear country.

On closer examination, this thinking quickly becomes convoluted and illogical. And in reality there are more realpolitik reasons for having nuclear weapons — to offset conventional imbalance, prevent regime change, retain a seat on the UN Security Council, and so forth.

Nevertheless, deterrence is at the heart of defense policy and the justification for massive military spending among all the major super powers. An estimated $100 billion is spent globally each year on nuclear weapons. This amount could solve most, if not all, the problems — including climate change, famine, poverty and disease — that cause transboundary conflicts in the first place.




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