The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence

While society treats nuclear deterrence as an established fact, a compelling new video explodes that myth in literally five minutes. Produced by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence is currently at the top of their home page, but should that change, it can also be accessed directly on YouTube. My June blog post Does Deterrence Really Deter? makes the same point, but NAPF’s professionally produced video adds a powerful emotional element.

While watching the video is the best way to take in its arguments, they are listed below so you can integrate them more fully and explore further:

* Although often advanced as if it were a proven fact, nuclear deterrence is really an unproven theory about human behavior. That it works is a myth, and there is significant evidence to the contrary.

* Nuclear deterrence cannot deter terrorists. Unless we start to take that threat more seriously, former Secretary of Defense William Perry has quoted the odds of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next ten years as being roughly 50-50.

* Nuclear deterrence assumes rational leaders. That is a questionable assumption when war looms. One of my posts from last year made a similar point, “Only by pretending to be insane enough to use its nuclear weapons and invite its own destruction can either side preserve the limited value that those weapons possess.” Along exactly those lines, in 1969 Richard Nixon purposely tried to convince the Soviets that he was a madman with an itchy finger on the nuclear trigger.

* If, as advertised, nuclear deterrence ensured peace, we would encourage global nuclear proliferation. World peace would follow.

* If military leaders really believed that nuclear deterrence worked, they wouldn’t be so concerned with missile defense.

* Belief in the myth of nuclear deterrence creates a false sense of security that hampers efforts to solve the real problem. We need to move from Mutually Assured Destruction to Mutually Assured Survival. The critical, first step in doing that is to dispel the myth of nuclear deterrence. This blog and my related web site make that same point. I hope you’ll consider taking the four, simple but effective actions listed under “What can I do to help?” at the end of that site’s home page.

Thank you.

Martin Hellman

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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2 Responses to The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence

  1. Abisshek Lakshman says:

    hi my name is Abisshek Lakshman. I’m writing a a research paper on Nuclear Deterrence. I was wondering if you could possibly send some more evidence on how nuclear deterrence does not work and jeopardizes the security of a nation.

    Thanks,
    Abisshek

  2. Abisshek Lakshman says:

    oh and sorry my email is abissheklakshman@yahoo.com

    thanks, abisshek

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