The logical inconsistency – and danger – of nuclear deterrence should be obvious, but it still forms the foundation of our national security strategy. Yet, once an international crisis has occurred where neither side can back down without losing face, for nuclear deterrence to work:
- we must be irrational enough for our adversary’s threats not to deter us, yet
- our adversary must be rational enough that our threats will deter them.
The problem is the same one faced by two adolescents playing “chicken.” They drive toward one other at high speed, and the loser is the first one who behaves rationally and swerves to avoid a collision.
How You Can Help If you agree that society’s complacency concerning nuclear may be unwarranted, please sign our petition asking Congress to authorize a National Academies’ study of that risk, and encourage friends to do the same. My paper, “How Risky is Nuclear Optimism,” provides a brief, but more complete summary of the reasons such a study is needed.