Nuclear deterrence has not prevented non-nuclear states from attacking allies of nuclear weapon states. Examples include China entering the Korean War when the US had a nuclear monopoly in 1950; Argentina invading the British Falkland Islands in 1982; and Iraq invading close US ally Kuwait in 1990. In all these cases nuclear deterrence failed. The US in Korea and Vietnam, and the USSR in Afghanistan, preferred withdrawal to the ultimate ignominy of resorting to nuclear weapons to secure victory or revenge against a non-nuclear state.
Reliance on nuclear deterrence perpetuates security threats. It also provokes proliferation. Canada’s main security problems – climate change and resource depletion – require co-operative, non-military responses. As competition for resources spreads to new regions like the thawing Arctic, the Canadian Pugwash Group have therefore taken an admirable initiative to promote an Arctic Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.
For the above reasons, all but about thirty-five states feel more secure without depending on the delusions of nuclear deterrence. Most are in nuclear weapon free zones; and many are pushing for legally binding security assurances that the nuclear-armed states will not use nuclear weapons against them.
Courageous ordinary British, American and French citizens mobilised unstoppable public and political support for their campaign to replace slavery with more humane, lawful and effective ways to create wealth. The analogy holds for nuclear deterrence, which can and must be discarded for graduated, minimal conventional deterrence in the short term if civilisation and the Earth’s ecosystems are to survive.
In a period of rapid changes towards a multipolar world community, Canada needs to embrace regional, non-provocative defence under UN auspices. Its first priority should be to press the US and Russia to stand down their combined total of 4,000 nuclear warheads from high alert – another irresponsible legacy of nuclear deterrence dogma.
The key is to see nuclear disarmament as a security-building process, moving from an outdated adversarial mindset to a co-operative one where nuclear weapons are recognized as an irrelevant security liability, and almost any non-nuclear security strategy is safer, more credible and more cost-effective.
See “Former nuclear weapons officer rejects nuclear deterrence” for information on Commander Green’s book launch in Ottawa on March 1st (Commander Green has had to return home because of the earthquake in New Zealand, but the book launch will still be held).
U.S. government photo