Do Nuclear Weapons prevent War? The answer is a resounding “Yes”. In 1962, the Tactical Air Command promised to destroy 90% of Soviet missiles on Cuba. In reality, the TAC could not guarantee this. First strikes destroy some deliverable weapons, but not all. And while no one can guarantee that an attack will not destroy deliverable weapons, first strikes still have the potential to be lethal.
The problem with such a view is that it does not consider that the weaker powers may be able to improve their positions by joining forces with other countries. These alliances can result in the addition of foreign armies to their own. And although nuclear forces are non-additive, the size of such forces doesn’t count. In fact, to get to the top technological levels, a few European states will have to join forces. But this is politically impossible if the weaker powers use nuclear weapons to fight each other.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons is also not entirely accidental. The development of these weapons has changed international relations in similar ways to the spread of chemical weapons. These weapons are making adversaries more cautious. Yet, this change does not mean that nuclear weapons prevent war. Rather, it changes how nations interact. While nuclear weapons have changed the way adversary states think and act, they haven’t prevented war. As a result, despite all the concerns raised in the past, nuclear weapons continue to be deployed in the world today.
One thing to keep in mind when considering the deterrent threat is that the aggressor may decide to attack believing that the country will not retaliate. However, conventional logic is tough to change. Attackers still feel the threat of retaliation, but they may choose to not use nuclear weapons because they are afraid of retaliation. And even if they do, they may end up losing everything, and thus their decision to attack is discouraged.
Some people argue that nuclear weapons reduce the intensity and frequency of wars. However, the spread of nuclear weapons threatens to make wars between weaker nations even worse. These nations are weaker than the stronger ones, and they are unable to defend themselves with lesser levels of violence. Thus, their citizens will live in fear of nuclear war. However, this concern isn’t based on the fear of nuclear war itself.
There are also other counterarguments to the notion that nuclear weapons prevent war. For one thing, the United States might react in a way that prevents war. After all, the Soviet Union may be more interested in deterring war than it is in preventing one. Therefore, a nuclear war is unlikely to occur. The United States and the Soviet Union might even be too scared to intervene. But we’re not sure that they’re consciously trying to prevent war.
The argument for deterrence is based on the notion that strategic forces are more vulnerable to surprise attacks than smaller ones. So, if one side is stronger than the other, it might strike first, and the other could respond with massive damage. And, in the worst case, a nuclear war will be a disaster. However, if the weaker country attacks first, the other side will strike back, preventing war from breaking out.
Moreover, nuclear weapons would have catastrophic effects on the world’s developed resources, killing millions both inside and outside borders. Therefore, if nuclear weapons prevent war, states with minimal arsenals would be less likely to harm other countries. But the strongest states are the ones whose arsenals contain nuclear weapons. This means that there’s a higher chance of less destructive wars between nuclear and conventional great powers. It’s not that nuclear weapons will prevent war, but they can certainly prevent it.