Post-Nuclear Strategy

Everyone wants them, but no one can use them. What's the point of nuclear weapons?

Issue: Summer 2005

Nuclear weapons are overrated. They are no magic talisman that, by simple possession, can guarantee the survival of a regime. After all, the Soviet Union, the world's second-largest nuclear power, lost not only its sphere of influence, but ultimately its very existence as a sovereign nation. Currently, Israel, the world's sixth nuclear power, is locked in a protracted struggle with the Palestinians, a conflict with the most serious economic, political and psychological implications for Israel's fundamental sense of national security--and the possession of nuclear weapons makes not one iota of difference. Nor do nuclear weapons give a state any advantage in dealing with other foreign policy challenges. The United States experienced more than 50,000 fatalities and a searing defeat in Vietnam while possessing tens of thousands of nuclear weapons that were useless white elephants in dealing with the Viet Cong. The same might be said of biological and chemical weapons.

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