Some interesting arguments and observations in an essay about nuclear weapons, NORKs, and the Soviets:
Kim Jong-un’s recalcitrance and unpredictability would seem to make an ICBM-armed North Korea the stuff of apocalyptic nightmares. But before engaging in a gloomy calculation of ballistic trajectories, we should also consider the historical legacies of the world’s most powerful missiles. After all, we have survived for six decades now with the unpleasant sense of wondering if someone out there, intentionally or by mistake, was about to push the figurative button and reduce our lifespans to half an hour or less.
Indeed, it may well be that Kim’s new ICBM portends an era not of chaos and apocalypse, but stability and peace. The possession of nuclear missiles have historically had two overarching effects upon states. First, they provide a kind of existential sense of security, because states understand that no other nation is likely to launch an attack, particularly in a war of conquest, when the response could be even one nuclear retaliation on a city. The costs aren’t worth it.
Second, ICBMs tend to make states wary of going to war at all, at least with other nuclear states and their close allies. Now that it has a nuclear missile, the North Korean regime faces the fact that a war that brings in the United States could become a nuclear war, an event that would mean the violent and immediate end of the Kim dynasty and its grim regime. Without a nuclear weapon, North Korea could fight the United States or another major power, much as Vietnam or Afghanistan did, for years. The stakes now have become infinitely greater.
These two factors—the security of deterrence, and the existential danger that looms if it fails—make nuclear states very interested in stability. Thus, the ICBM, in the greatest irony of all history, has so far been a force for peace. Indeed, the late international relations theorist Kenneth Waltz once suggested that it should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
Here was the Soviet Union, a nation formally bent upon the violent overthrow of world order and the defeat of American imperialism, now deploying a rocket that could destroy U.S. cities in a matter of hours. In the aftermath of Sputnik, Sen. Henry Jackson called for a “week of national shame and danger.”
But other Americans, including President Dwight Eisenhower, understood that the Soviets saw their new rockets as defensive weapons designed to deter a possible American attack. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev grasped this almost immediately. “We estimate, that the [two] blocs presently possess such means of destruction as to make war unthinkable, if not impossible,” Khrushchev announced in his famous “Peaceful Coexistence” speech of February 1956. It was either a peaceful Cold War “or the most destructive war in history,” Khrushchev said. “There is no third way.” Wasn’t war still possible? Khrushchev believed that nuclear weapons ruled that out. “The danger of a military conflict is absent,” he explained in July of that year.
Khrushchev was so certain that his new weaponry would protect the USSR and make war insane that in December 1959 he opted to unilaterally reduce the size of the Soviet conventional army. The military brass were not amused but Khrushchev believed that in a nuclear age conventional weapons were little more than “old junk, scrap metal, which hangs like pounds of weight on the necks of the people, distracting millions of working hands from creative labour.” Khrushchev argued that large armies were simply redundant, for “how can any country or group of countries in Europe invade us when we can literally wipe these countries off the face of the earth with our atomic and hydrogen weapons and by delivery of our missiles to any point on the globe?”
Khrushchev grasped something that no-one else has wanted to admit: conventional armies are now entirely obsolete, if everyone has nukes.
And THAT, of course, is why the Imperial American regime does NOT want Iran or the NORKs getting nukes. Not because they’re actually afraid of some madman deploying them. But because they can’t bully any nation that has them.
Iraq never actually had WMDs, and the American deep state permanent regime knew it; if they had, America would never have actually gone to war against them. Iran must not have them, either, hence America’s threatening rhetoric towards it.
America hasn’t gone to war against the NORKs, precisely because they have long feared the Kim dynasty either having nukes or having the capacity to develop them. And now we know our fears are true.
If every country on the planet got nukes, we could abolish all the world’s armies.
Think of it: if everyone has nukes, conventional armies become completely obsolete for war between states, because they could never be deployed, without the threat of a nuclear retaliation.
Remember, BTW, that in feudal times of yore, centuries back, there were no standing armies; they were called up as occasion demanded (i.e. as rulers wanted them). Modern-day permanent militaries are a relatively recent development, civilization-wise. And now they’ve been superseded. If everyone had nukes, we could officially abolish armed forces, and just have a force of technicians to drop nukes, chemical weapons and biological weapons, and for internal functions where the army might be used within countries to establish order if there were an uprising, etc., states could simply beef up their police, SWAT teams, etc., for internal matters.
MAD has worked so far; if nukes are a sword of Damocles, I think we’ve learned to forget about that sword hanging over us. Life goes on; our enemies mostly aren’t as batshit crazy as we fear they might be, generally. They want to live, too, generally, after all, notwithstanding some suicide bombers; certainly, the leadership likes living, in most cases.
(I’ve long wished Canada had nukes; then we could have a more independent foreign and trade policy, and not be so closely tied to America. That’s a side benefit of actually being able to defend yourself and not needing to rely on a superpower ally…)
Nukes are not ideal, but their existence hasn’t been as problematic as we’ve feared, thus far.
Of course, we must put our trust not in princes or technology, ultimately, but rather in the Lord.