Imagine what the world would be like if we woke up tomorrow morning without nuclear weapons.
It would be a world where every crisis was a potential nuclear exchange. The first nation to rearm would dominate. Beware of the man not with the thousand nuclear bombs but with one.
When there is one nuclear bomb, its use can be contemplated. When there are thousands, first use is suicide. Only a few missiles in a second-strike need get through to devastate your country.
Noble prize-winning nuclear strategist Thomas Schelling pointed out in 1960 that nuclear disarmament was not possible unless there was universal brain surgery eliminating the knowledge of both nuclear weapons and the principles of physics behind their construction. An impossible dream.
This is true – you can’t uninvent something.
There can be no peace unless both sides are better off not fighting. There must be a set of negotiated settlements that both sides prefer to war.
This need for a bargaining range is the fundamental flaw of peace activists. When they call for talks, peace activists never explain what will be discussed in a world where everybody does not share their good intentions. There can be no diplomacy in wars of annihilation such as with Isis or Nazi Germany.
Peace activists in the 1970s demanded the West unilaterally disarm, which would have left the USSR as the major political and military power.
Stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fleets of bombers in the air 24/7 during the Cold War prevented a hot war from starting. If you are ready for war, you will not need to fight. If you cry “peace, peace, peace now” you end up fighting. What brings war is signalling weakness and concessions.
It is still a harsh truth that if you want peace, those tempted to make use of nuclear weapons must know they will pay a terrible price in retaliation. That is what kept the peace even with volatile characters like Khrushchev and Mao. It is the only language North Korea and Iran understand.
It is why North Korea will probably never use their nukes. It would be suicide.