Cadet Kima Megorden

 “No previously conceived moral position escapes the fundamental confrontation posed by contemporary nuclear strategy.”[1]



Nature of Mankind:  Survival

Since the beginning of civilized society, man has established a natural proclivity towards ensuring survival.  This inclination has historically led to conflicts of interest, where wars are fought to ensure a civilization’s continued existence.  Wars have been the traditional arena where power struggles have led to the survival or demise of a nation. Power struggles have evolved significantly, from a time where a massive army constituted the military power to today’s technological basis for power.  Technology is the contemporary symbol of military power; and nuclear weapons represent the apex of technological power.

Currently, nuclear weapons contain the most powerful means of destruction – comprising the capacity to threaten the existence of not only our enemies, but also the survival of the entire world at large.  The aforementioned value of mankind – survival admixed with the mere presence of nuclear weapons creates a significant moral power problem.  When nuclear weapons are attained by a nation, they become a potent necessity to ensure survival of a nation: to deter an enemy from one’s own obliteration, one is forced to threaten the annihilation of the enemy. During the Cold War, the retaliatory nature of nuclear strategy led to the arms race, which in turn led to a nuclear buildup based on the fundamental goal of survival.  Herein the moral power problem resides:  to ensure one nation’s survival, one has to deter the opposing nation through a potent element of power – nuclear weapons.

Since the end of the Cold War, many groups within the civilian sector argue that the nuclear threat has decreased; consequently, disarmament should take place.  Nuclear disarmament has become a goal for many members of the civilian sector for moral reasons.  Disarmament is seen as the avenue towards the elimination of “the most “menacing threat...the world has ever known.”[2]  However, members of the military community see nuclear weapons as the crux of deterrence strategy.  Survival of a nation cannot be ensured if the retaliatory capability of nuclear weapons is eliminated.

The disarmament issue must not be evaluated independently from the issue of deterrence.  Just as there are moral reasons for and against disarmament; there are just as significant and moral reasons for and against nuclear deterrence.  For a nation to be secure, nuclear war must be avoided.  Therefore, the morality of nuclear deterrence must be evaluated on several levels that considers the efficiency of deterrence (avoiding war and destruction of innocents) and the nature of the morality / immorality of intentions.  The intentions of nuclear deterrence serve to prevent not only the destruction of mankind, but also the morally questionable intent to indiscriminately kill in order to ensure one nation’s own survival.



            This paper will analyze the epistemology of nuclear deterrence in a three-fold process.  First, it will go through the defining features of the ethical problem created by the morally problematic intentions of nuclear deterrence.  Next, it will examine several substantive conditions of nuclear deterrence in a post-cold war paradigm.  Finally, this paper will explore the limits of knowledge of the civilian and military sector, which perpetuate the debate.





            The morality of nuclear deterrence is analyzed on two indissoluble levels:  fundamental nature and practicality.  The fundamental nature of nuclear deterrence focuses on the intentions of deterrence.  The practicality of nuclear deterrence will focus on the necessity to prevent nuclear annihilation.  Through investigating the ethical quandary posed by nuclear deterrence, the fundamental tension between efficacy and questionable intentions is addressed in a manner, which recognizes the need to retain the practical ends reaped by the problematic intentions of nuclear deterrence.  In today’s nuclear world, is there a way to prevent the ills of nuclear war, without the morally convoluted nature of the intention to indiscriminately kill innocents?  Two conceptual solutions to the moral problems are analyzed:  Supreme Emergency and Bluff deterrence.


Nuclear Strategy:  Leftover Cold War Thought

Since the end of the Cold War, much of the civilian sector and international community has pressured the United States to disarm its nuclear capabilities.  This logic is in part a result of the destructive nature of nuclear weapons – the effects of a nuclear strike would affect more than simply the targeted nation.[3] The ratification of START II in Russia’s upper and lower houses shows progress in the nuclear disarmament process.  However, one must consider nuclear strategy alongside a simple reduction in numbers.  Nuclear strategy refers not only to numbers but also to the circumstances in which they would be used – when to use nuclear weapons and the proposed targets.[4] The power that nuclear weapons possess is not solely dependant on the numbers of nuclear weapons, but on the extent of destruction that a nuclear weapon will produce.  It can be argued that the more powerful a nation’s nuclear strategy, the more effective deterrence a nation can possess.

Two very basic nuclear strategies dominated Cold War nuclear thought:  countervalue targeting and counterforce targeting.  The former describes an attack on one’s cities, the latter comprises of attacking a state’s forces.[5]  These strategies have traditionally been to some extent number dependent.  During the Truman era, when numbers of nuclear weapons were low, a countervalue nuclear targeting strategy was dominant.  U.S. war plans “focused on destruction of population, government control centers, and industrial complexes, which meant targeting...cities.”[6]  In later administrations, when numbers of nuclear weapons were increased, a counterforce nuclear strategy was adopted.  The expansion of nuclear production facilities shifted nuclear strategy to focus on an ability to destroy “Soviet nuclear delivery capability.”[7] 


Moral Absurdity of Deterrence

            The present method of avoiding nuclear, biological, and/or chemical attack is deterrence strategy.  The indiscriminate nature of nuclear weapons contribute to the moral absurdity of nuclear deterrence reflected in the efficacy of the intention to indiscriminately kill another nation’s innocents to prevent the indiscriminate killing of a nation’s own innocents.  Basic nuclear deterrence is dependant upon on this threat of an immoral attack.[8]  This method of avoiding a morally problematic form of warfare has a significant moral tension in itself – between its evil intentions and the likely evil it is intended to prevent.  Nuclear deterrence prevents the deaths of innocents in general, yet its mere presence risks nuclear annihilation of those same innocents.


Bishops’ Letter

            The Bishops’ letter makes an important distinction between ‘peace of a sort’ and ‘genuine peace’. Peace of a sort is the type of temporary peace that results from deterrence.  However, genuine peace is the type of peace that is the ultimate moral goal – a lasting peace without the underlying threat of nuclear annihilation.[9]  According to the Bishops, this type of peace can only be brought about by disarmament.  This is the ultimate goal of the Bishops’ letter because it is the goal that has the most morality associated with it.  If there are no nuclear weapons, then there cannot be nuclear war.  The Bishops’ letter does concede that deterrence may have a short-term benefit of peace.  However, it is not the most ethical goal to be sought after: “Up to the present, we are told that nuclear arms are a form of dissuasion which have prevented the eruption of a major war.  And that this is probably true.  Still, we must ask if it will always be this way.”[10]

            But what about the road to ‘genuine peace’ by means of disarmament?  The Bishops’ letter is not an overly ambitious espousal of idealistic impossibilities.  It first admits that removing nuclear weapons “will require a major effort of intelligence, courage, and faith.”[11] It then describes the degrees of morality that have to be evaluated on different levels and scales during the nuclear debate:  “some elements have a permanent value; others only a transitory one.”[12]  The Bishops’ letter has to make an important dispensation:  “‘...deterrence’ based on balance certainly not as an end in itself but as a step on the wary toward a progressive disarmament, may still be judged morally acceptable.”[13]  In short, on the way to disarmament to ensure a genuine peace, the imperfect deterrence strategy that ultimately protects the killing of innocents might be seen as somewhat morally acceptable.  This morality is not to be likened to the goal of a genuine peace:  “...not every statement in this letter has the same moral authority,”[14] yet it might be a morality that holds only a transitory peace.


Fundamental Tension Left in Bishop’s letter

The fundamental tension that is left somewhat unresolved by the Bishops’ letter is the tension between fundamental nature and practicality.  The Bishops’ letter basically upholds that the practicality of avoiding war offsets the moral flaws in the fundamental nature of the intentions of deterrence itself.  It states that the “moral duty today is to prevent nuclear war from ever occurring.”[15]  Though this statement does indicate that deterrence is somewhat justified on a basic practical level, it does not help alleviate the problem of the problematic fundamental nature.  It seems that this argument only says that in a short-term manner deterrence is somewhat justified due to the amount of practicality it reaps in avoiding war.  This simply discounts the problematic nature of deterrence not as morally justifiable or even ‘more moral’ issue.  In summary, though the Bishops’ letter gives good insight into morality within the debate, it still leaves the fundamental nature and practicality of nuclear deterrence with elements of tension between the two.




Supreme Emergency

In Just and Unjust Wars, Michael Walzer states that nuclear weapons may have caused supreme emergency to become a permanent condition. This state of supreme emergency is declared when danger is both imminent and serious.  Both criteria must be met for this state of necessity.  “Close but not serious, serious but not close – neither one makes for a supreme emergency.”[16]  In a sense, the state of supreme emergency extends the traditional rules of war.  Though the killing of innocents is never truly a moral choice, the state of supreme emergency regretfully embraces the immorality typically associated with the consequences of a nuclear attack that indiscriminately kills.  It can be argued that the nature of nuclear weapons makes the world to be a perpetual state of supreme emergency.  Nuclear weapons clearly meet the criteria of supreme emergency that centers on the nature of the danger.   The question of whether nuclear weapons are a close or imminent threat is one that is both debatable and one that can vary for numerous reasons.

However, assuming that nuclear weapons do meet both criteria, and the world is in a state of supreme emergency, the questionability of the intentions of deterrence are not addressed.  Therefore the dubiousness of the intention cannot be resolved, or even mollified because it is simply not addressed.  Supreme emergency is limited because it only addresses the end consequences associated with nuclear weapons.  At a crude level, supreme emergency is an imperfect in discussing the morality of intentions.  It is tragic that mankind reflects on a morally questionable act by claiming a reduced sense of morality based on a survivalist justification.  At what point, is a nation simply avoiding the issue of the moral power problem posed by nuclear weapons?  How much is a nation simply hiding behind the childish claim: “But, I had to do it!”  Perhaps this is not the best moral solution in a post-cold war world.

Deterrence is based on the premise of a threat – the philosophy of supreme emergency only concedes a bit of morality to the end consequence of a failed deterrence.  Supreme emergency does provide a token of moral justification for the action, but does not solve the moral quandary of the simple threat of deterrence.  The evil intention in itself is not resolved by supreme emergency.  No matter how imminent or serious the situation, the problem of the immorality of the threat itself is not resolved.  Supreme Emergency does make progress in the search for moral justification by providing a form of a moral scapegoat that claims ad hoc necessity.  Clearly, supreme emergency is an imperfect way of making an action seem a bit more moral.  However, there must be work done in the area of intentions to alleviate the sense of immorality in the intention to kill innocent civilians, no matter what the ad hoc justification for the killings are.


Bluff Deterrence

It can be argued that the morality of the threat or intention itself can be resolved by likening the intention to kill to a bluff.  Why is it that some people are so willing to concede to a nuclear strategy that has an indiscriminate nature?  Perhaps it is because we have become used to the fact that “not only don’t we do anything to other people, we also don’t believe that we will ever have to do anything.”[17]  Walzer suggests that the secret of nuclear deterrence is that it is a kind of bluff.  The bluff seems to solve the problem of intention because one does not truly intend to kill others.  It also seems to solve the problem of the likely consequences of nuclear war because other nations will still fear our nuclear strategy, which provides effective deterrence.

Though this bluff deterrence strategy seems appealing, it does very little to actually solve the problem of ill intentions, and it can be very undermining to end results.  Though it curtails the evil intention by avoiding the declaration of an outright intention to kill others, its efficiency is based on a lie.  It is based on the perception of doing what a nation does not intend to do.  Instead of remedying the previous evil intention, it simply replaces it with a seemingly less morally offensive intention.  But how much more morality does bluff deterrence give to traditional deterrence strategy by basing the defense of a nation on a falsification?  It seems that there is little morality added to the nature of intentions; bluff deterrence simply replaces the fundamentally morally flawed intention of traditional deterrence with its own fundamentally flawed intention based on a lie!

If it could be shown that bluff deterrence was essentially ‘more moral’ in intention than traditional deterrence, then perhaps ethical progress would have been made. However, there would only be some sense of progress if this idea of bluff deterrence reduced the problematic nature of intentions without compromising the effectiveness of deterrence strategy itself.  It is important to remember that the success of deterrence in preventing the killing of millions of innocents has a tremendously important role in the moral justification of deterrence itself.  In short – if bluff deterrence could be viewed as just as effective, (i.e. preventing the destruction of the world) then it could be considered more moral than a simple deterrence strategy because it lessened the dissolute nature of the intentions of deterrence.

However, bluff deterrence is problematic because there is always the chance that the bluff is called and the effectiveness of deterrence strategy itself is undermined.  Once the bluff is called, the world will see that the nation has no intention of retaliating, therefore undermining the ‘peace’ or stability established by traditional deterrence.  It is very problematic to base the future existence of a nation’s population on a bluff.  Bluff deterrence is not effective because it does little to solve the problem of intent.  Moreover, it is based on a perception that is shakier in the ends than the original deterrence.  It is morally problematic to try and appease the ill intentions of nuclear deterrence by basing the future of mankind on an espoused and only ‘hopefully’ efficient perception.




The Nature of Fear

Though the bluff does not solve the problem of intentions in deterrence, it does have some implications that can be analyzed.  The fundamental downfall of bluff deterrence is the fact that other nations might see through the bluff, thus rendering it ineffective.  However, it cannot be denied that there are times when bluff deterrence is effective in preventing war.  But this effectiveness is not dependent on the true intention of the nation to retaliate with countervalue of counterforce measures.  Rather the effectiveness is based on the amount of fear the nation perceives from the rival nation.  This notion of fear is quite problematic.  Too much fear might cause a nation to see a rival strike as inevitable, thus the psychology behind a first strike.

On the other hand, too little fear might cause a nation to take a chance against another.  If they do not perceive any possible losses, then they may go forth with an attack.  Clearly, whether it is bluff deterrence or a state of supreme emergency – fear is the underlying element that unifies the effectiveness of deterrence.  One question arises:  Is there a way to ensure an effective nuclear deterrence strategy without the problematic intentions of indiscriminate attack?

During the Cold War, fear was maximized through the threat of retaliation.   This was deterrence based on the fear of the numbers of nuclear weapons would outdo the adversary.  Today, the United States maintains a reduced but survivable, highly capable nuclear force. The nuclear force is available in the event it is needed against Russia or China neither of which is now an enemy state, but both of which have significant arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. The ability to upload a number of additional weapons is also retained as a hedge against an unexpected surge in Russian nuclear capabilities. Nuclear weapons have not been ruled out as a response to the use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons against the United States, and we still deter aggression against U.S. forces and allies overseas in part with nuclear forces.

Perhaps the problem with the intentions of nuclear deterrence is the perception that national deterrence strategy places the retaliatory element of nuclear strategy as the basis of national deterrence?


National Deterrence:  Three Traditional Elements

The following three elements of deterrence strategy are the elements used in the last half-century by United States security strategy.  According to the Center for Counterproliferation Research, effective deterrence will continue to depend on both real capabilities and the perception of a national will to respond to aggression.  The relative importance of these criteria changed over time in response to political, military, and technological considerations.  These traditional elements are of utmost importance.  If we get to a point where nuclear deterrence strategy is ineffective in preventing nuclear war, then it is not only impractical, but also unethical.

Retaliation is the element of deterrence strategy that was central to U.S. deterrence policy throughout the Cold War.  During the Cold War, massive retaliation was the term that was used to describe the prospect of a prompt and unacceptable level of retaliation in response to nuclear or conventional aggression.  Deterring war through the concept of retaliation by convincing the Soviet Union that it could not possibly win any military conflict that it initiated.[18]  The logic of deterrence required that the United States be able to retaliate Soviet targets that were considered most valued by the Soviet Union:  conventional and nuclear forces, leadership, and industrial facilities.  After the early 1960’s, the U.S. strategic force was embodied in the TRIAD:  bombers, ICBM’s and SLBM’s.  This ensured the United States’ security; if one leg became vulnerable, then the remaining three legs could deny the Soviet’s the advantage of a first strike.

Denial is the element of deterrence strategy that blunts or negates the effectiveness of the enemy’s forces.  Before the advent of ICBM’s, air defenses against Soviet bombers played a large role in denial.  The 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile treaty codified strict limits on strategic defenses, which accepted the vulnerability of the U.S. population to Soviet nuclear attack.  During the Cold War, the advent of large numbers of long-range ballistic missiles and the adoption of the mutual assured destruction doctrine and its successors – defenses were given a much-reduced role.  Today’s present debate on missile defense is a Post-Cold War effort at maximizing the denial element of deterrence strategy.

Dissuasion is the element of deterrence that helps the United States convince potential adversaries of the ultimate futility of large-scale military aggression.  Dissuasion describes the impact of the total U.S. deterrent posture, including infrastructure, in shaping the security environment.  U.S. economic strength, political leadership, research and development, production, technology, and industrial base of the United States enabled deterrence strategy to perception of a national commitment to counter any threat.  Former Soviet officials have cited the computer revolution coupled with export controls, and the expanding Western economy as factors that helped convince the Soviet leadership that sustaining the strategic competition for an indefinite future would ultimately result in a situation they would find untenable.[19]

It is important to note that national security does not solely depend on nuclear deterrence.  In Cold War, nuclear deterrence was the only effective means because it increased Soviet fear by maximizing the retaliation concept.  Hence the Cold War term ‘massive retaliation’.  However, effective deterrence in a post-cold war world does not solely depend on nuclear deterrence.  There were two other elements of deterrence strategy (denial and dissuasion) that were not effective during the Cold War era.  However, if these other elements of deterrence strategy had been effective, and they (in their nature) were not as morally problematic as the nuclear retaliation element of nuclear deterrence, then they should / would have been utilized.  In short, the reason that nuclear deterrence is considered to be morally acceptable in the environment of the Cold War is because the severity of the environment was one where deterrence was maximized by the fear of a massive retaliation.  The US has reduced to Supreme Emergency, which rendered morality almost incapable of addressing the problematic intentions of nuclear deterrence through threatened retaliation.

There is much debate in our Post-Cold War world about how to best maximize deterrence strategy with fewer numbers of weapons.  Much of the civilian sector proposes a reduction of the nuclear arsenal to zero focusing solely on conventional weapons as the basis of our deterrence strategy.  However, all of these debates seem to forget that the fundamental element of deterrence strategy is fear.  After the Cold War, an undeclared "general" approach to deterrence returned to American security policy in a new guise.  This general deterrence strategy focuses less on retaliatory methods, and more on methods of dissuasion and denial.  Either way, effective deterrence strategy is maximizing the principle of fear, today with less emphasis on retaliatory action.





            In the new and rapidly evolving post-Cold War geopolitical reality, the role of United States military members has become less and less clear.  In large part due to these uncertainties the relationship between the military and the civilian apparatus of the government has also become less clear.  A now commonly accepted and worrisome notion is that of an existing and widening gap between the U.S. military and civilian society.  This civil-military gap is seen in the nuclear debate.  Most of those who propose more drastic cuts in the nuclear arsenal, dealerting, and even elimination of the nuclear arsenal are mostly members of the civilian sector.  Those who view nuclear weapons as absolutely necessary to deterrence strategy, and wish to keep the nuclear weapons as the basis of National Security are members of the military sector.  This gap is seen in the public sector, in the press, and in debate over nuclear strategy.

The existence of a gap between the military and society in general in the United States cannot be contested.  The primary concerns of citizens and scholars revolve not around whether or not there is a gap, but among other things, on nature and extent of the gap, and the difference, if any, between common perception and reality.  A 1999 project commissioned and completed by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies in North Carolina investigated the extent and implications of a civilian-military gap, and is one of the more prominent recent academic works on the subject.  Both the Triangle Institute study and a twenty-year study analyzed by Ole Holsti indicate that the gap between the military and civilian society manifests itself, for the most part, in partisan political leanings.  Studies show “strong support for the proposition that: 1) members of the military have become increasingly partisan, 2) they are significantly more Republican and conservative than civilians holding comparable leadership positions”[20] This apparent trend away from political neutrality on the part of the nation’s professional military officers is disconcerting to some.  However, the Triangle Institute is quick to note that “the partisan ideological differences do not necessarily spill over into the full range of domestic and foreign policy issues, and the gap appears to be wider in the realm of ideas and values than on more specific policy issues.”[21]

More polling established that, generally, military members are pessimistic about the moral health of the society that they serve, and worry over the perceived degradation of morality and values in American society.  This can be explained by the fact that the military has a distinct role and mission, which requires it to embrace values, which run contrary to those, cherished by late 20th century and 21st century American liberal democracy.


When You Lose Your Best Enemy

Among these differences is the changing and uncertain role of the military in a multipolar post-Cold War environment, without a clear and monolithic enemy against which to posture forces, determine policy, and base structural decisions.  This environment has lead to the maintenance of a large, peacetime standing army.  A large military establishment was acceptable during the Cold War because of the large and immediately apparent threat posed by the Soviet Union.  With the disappearance of America’s “best enemy,” however, the American populace and civilian leadership has reverted, to some extent, to its traditional discomfort with a large standing army.  This discomfort can be historically traced to the Founding Fathers and their determination to avoid a large, tyrannical, British style army that oppressed the citizenry rather than serving and protecting it.  For two centuries Americans heeded George Washington’s advice in his Farewell Address: it is not necessary or prudent to maintain a large standing army in non-wartime situations, as it could be threatening to the republican form of government.  However, if cut back to the citizen-soldier militia, a dominant model that often has constituted America’s peacetime defenses, the U.S. would be woefully unprepared to meet or defeat any of the challenges in the post-Cold War security environment.  This, in turn, would leave American citizens vulnerable not only abroad but also at home.  In the uncertain world the U.S. now faces, an undersized, under equipped, and out muscled military establishment might be unable to adequately protect the government and nation it is sworn to defend.  This could be far more hazardous to the U.S. government, security, and society than the perceived costs of or threats from maintaining a larger-than-usual peacetime army.

The military is doing more and is involved in more operations around the globe than ten years ago.  However, because most of these conflicts are small, not of any pressing interest to the average American and do not greatly affect the economy, general awareness of the military is declining.  This decline of awareness is reflected in Congressional action seeking to cut some parts of the military budget even further.  The military is asked to go more places and do more, with less, and its performance of these missions is less visible to the American citizenry.

Another factor in the gap between the military and the civilian sector, as already mentioned, is the decreasing contact between the military and the civilian sector.  Fewer and fewer civilian leaders, both in the executive branch and the legislature, are veterans of the nation’s armed forces.  Individuals who have never served increasingly determine military policy, structure, and budgeting, and this is bound to create a certain degree of misunderstanding.  The lack of contact, moreover, is not confined to the governmental level.  Most American citizens have no extensive contact with or knowledge of the military, since military service is now becoming an exception rather than a norm, and since 1973 has not been a requirement for the nation’s young people.  As a consequence, general consciousness of the military’s missions, roles, peculiarities, needs, and opportunities is at a low-point.  This lack of consciousness for the military multiplied by the perceived lack of values by military members for civilians makes this gap much more apparent.


In the Nuclear Arena

As stated by the Triangle Institute of Security Studies, the civil-military gap appears to be wider in the realm of ideas and values than in specific policy issues.  Civilians tend to propose reductions in the nuclear arsenal whereas military members tend to want to keep the force structure status quo.  This diversion is a product of the Cold War mentality of effective deterrence.  It is problematic on the part of civilians who, for the most part, fail to understand both the complexities and efficacy of nuclear deterrence strategy.  However, it is problematic on the part of some members of the military community who think that a focus on nuclear deterrence alone can best provide for national security.

The gap in nuclear ethics is rooted in the civilians’ discomfiture of the size of the military in the Post-cold war world.  The civilian sector does not see nuclear deterrence as an element of US national security; it sees it simply as piece of military weaponry.  Naturally, if there is no longer a monolithic enemy like the Soviets, then why have the weapons that were built up strictly for that enemy?  The deterrence that is provided by nuclear weapons is seen as unnecessary by the civilian sector if there is no enemy.  With a less visible, peacetime force, much of the civilian sector sees nuclear weapons as simply an instigator, not a deterrent to nuclear war.

However, the civilian sector is stuck in a Cold War mentality just like the military sector.  The Cold War nuclear paradigm was very numbers based.  Retaliation naturally called for a numbers based philosophy.  However, in a post-cold war world, it seems that the debate continues to focus on numbers.  The civilian sector wants drastic reductions or even an elimination of nuclear weapons; the military sector wants to keep them.  In a multi-polar world, is there a way to definitively say that we can set an exact number that will eliminate the moral dilemmas and keep national security?

Both sides seem to be missing the fundamental nature and mission of nuclear deterrence.  Nuclear deterrence is a means to prevent other nations from questioning our power, thus creating stability and even saving lives.  It does this by instilling fear into other nations.  It is other our adversaries’ fear of the intention of our nation to pose nuclear retaliation if they violate a set of conditions that prevents certain horrific attacks. Political scientists define this fear as power politics or cost-benefit evaluations; most philosophers define it as a morally imperfect means to preventing an even more morally problematic end.  However, in a post-cold war environment, it is feasible to say that we are in a time where other elements of national deterrence (dissuasion and denial) are more effective in instilling fear in other nations, therefore more effective and ethical in ensuring our survival.

Members of the civilian sector that propose elimination of nuclear weaponry need to realize the lower emphasis of nuclear deterrence in national security strategy.  They need to realize that the reason that nuclear deterrence had the lead role in Cold War was because it was the most effective avenue at the present time.  However, a complete reverse is not possible.  Pandora has been let out of the box, and cannot be put back in.  The most moral way the United States has of reducing immoral intentions of national deterrence is to maximize other elements of fear instilled by denial and dissuasion.  This puts the immoral intention of nuclear retaliation lower on the list of deterrence options.  The military and civilian sides of the debate need to learn to extend their discussions beyond those of reductions – yes or no.  If not, both sides will be stuck in a bi-polar debate over numbers while the opportunity to reduce nuclear retaliatory intentions pass us by.



[1] U.S. Bishops, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (Washington DC:  United States Catholic Conference, 1983), 27; available from http://www.osjspm.org/cst/cp.htm; Internet; accessed 17 April 2000. 

[2] Ibid., 1.   

[3] I concede that disarmament may potentially bring about instability, thereby bringing about destructive ends whose negative effects might be worse than the ‘stability’ that nuclear weapons / deterrence has brought.  However, this is not explored in this essay; it is a question that needs to be evaluated by practitioners and experts in weaponry and international relations. 

[4] Joshua S. Goldstein, International Relations, (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1996), 258.

[5] Ibid., 258.

[6]Richard A. Paulson, The Role of U.S. Nuclear Weapons in the Post-Cold War Era (Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, September 1994), 1. 

[7] Ibid., 3.

[8] Walzer, Michael.  Just and Unjust Wars (United States:  Basic Books, 1977), 269. 

[9] U.S. Bishops, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response; 1.

[10] Ibid., 76. 

[11] Ibid., 1. 

[12] Ibid., 2. 

[13] Ibid., 73. 

[14] Ibid., 9. 

[15] Ibid., 39. 

[16] Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 252. 

[17] Ibid., 251.

[18]. Center for Counterproliferation Research. US Nuclear Policy in the 21st Century  (National Defense University Press:), 6.

[19]. Ibid., 7.

[20]. Holsti, Ole R.  “A Widening Gap Between the U.S. Military and Civilian Society?  Some Evidence, 1976-1996.”  International Security, vol. 23, no. 3, Winter 1998-99.

[21]. Feaver, Peter D. and Richard H. Kohn.  “Digest of Findings and Studies.”  Triangle

Institute for Security Studies.  October 1999.