Oh goody

Bush has now come out with some tangible proposals for strengthening international nonproliferation agreements. How nice for us. After two and a half years of strict adherence the the name-calling/check out what I did to your friend school of nonproliferation strategy, Bush has decided that perhaps structural reform may not be such a bad idea after all. Of course, during this period Pakistani scientists were able to get away with spreading weapons technology and North Korea was able to go nuclear more or less unchecked by a decisive global response. But don't worry, its ok now.

See, the trouble with nuclear weapons is that they don't follow the same rules as conventional arms proliferation. Intimidation is a crude but not unreasonable strategy for keeping nasty countries' militaries in their place. By demonstrating the dominance of our F-16s, troops, and precision guided bombs, we send a message a war of attrition with our superior military would be a fool's contest. But a nuclear contest is not a war of attrition, it is a war of annihalation, where the use of a single nuclear weapon is an utterly unacceptable outcome for either side.

That's why early speculation about the bomb predicted that it would end war as we know it. And if one compares the unfathomable price of the World Wars to the conflagrations of today, it is clear that is basically the case. How that came to pass has little to do with conventional intimidation, however, and everything to do with hard fought diplomacy. The unacceptable prospect of mutual annihalation is such that standard military posturing, which of course leaves wide open the possibility that escalation may lead to real conflict, if that is the only possible resolution, no longer applies. We create diplomatic regimes that defuse the conflict and manage the mutual annihalation option rather than exploit it.


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