The most deadly thing now in this world is nuclear weapon. We all can imagine its capability of destroying human civilization for thousands of times. But it is undeniable that nuclear weapon helps to prevent another all-out war like World Wars we faced in the last century within 20 years. No major power fought directly against each other after the Second World War. Nuclear weapons helped to maintain this status quo in the world system. Obviously nuclear deterrence has an enormous contribution here. Optimists about nuclear weapons argue it has ensured the world peace. It should not forget that it is not the task of weapons to create peace rather to preserve peace. Nuclear weapons have some lacking like recycling nuclear waste, system loss, and possibility of handed over to terrorist organizations, etc. All these are probabilities not inevitabilities.
Nuclear deterrence is extremely robust because even irrational or unintelligent leaders are also likely to recognize the exceedingly high cost of nuclear war. For saying once Trump used to scold North Korean leader Kim as calling him rocket man.
Nuclear deterrence enabling world peace:
Second World War was the founding stone of atomic age by USA through Manhattan Project. USA could take revenge against Japan without dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This historical event is condemned over time but undoubtedly those deaths have become a symbol of horror for living beings on this earth. Till now after the Second World War, seven states declared their nuclear capability along with USA. Israel is also suspected to have nuclear capability. Surprisingly no state has used nuclear weapons except USA on Japan. Leaders try to threat, deter, frighten adversaries through nuclear option but do not dare to use it as a defense value.
The strategic concept of deterrence aims to prevent war. It is the justification virtually every nuclear state uses for maintaining nuclear arsenals. Nuclear deterrence is extremely robust because even irrational or unintelligent leaders are also likely to recognize the exceedingly high cost of nuclear war. For saying once Trump used to scold North Korean leader Kim as calling him rocket man. But now they are taking seats together at a same table. Second meeting between US and North Korean leaders expected to take place in Da Nang or Hanoi very soon.Obviously this is nuclear weapon which brought these two leaders for further peace process. North Korea survived against US pressure. It could preserve its sovereignty through its nuclear option, not exclusively conventional military power. If Saddam Hussein could acquire nuclear weapon, it would have been unlikely for USA to operate its military intervention in Iraq. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had to pay the cost of abandoning its nuclear program by US assurance. In world politics, no friend is forever. No rational state can solely rely on commitments from outsiders. So it is unlikely for North Korea to be totally denuclearized as simply Trump says. If Korean peninsula achieves perpetual or temporary peace, obviously it is through nuclear option.
Realist scholars are very optimistic about the potentiality of nuclear weapons in enabling peace. Kenneth Waltz said that “the probability of major war among states having nuclear weapons approaches zero.” It is very true that having nuclear weapons from both sides, they did not go to direct confrontation. Dynamics of deterrence have changed over time. Nuclear possessed countries have modernized their nuclear weapons extracting the most advanced technology. Deterrence shifts but rapidly restores. For example, if Russia develops a new weapon, immediately USA responses with another exclusive weapon. USA developed anti-missile patriot while Russia responded with S-300 and recently S-400. So, endless balance is continued. No country dares to pose nuclear attack first against another nuclearized country because it is suicidal (Mutually Assured Destruction) for first striking country. Attacked country will retaliate in a massive scale. So counter value dilemma makes both sides patient and calm.
India-Pakistan conflict in Nuclear Age:
‘Pakistan will always find it difficult quantitatively to keep peace with India but qualitatively we have maintained a balance in the past and will have to continue to maintain it in the future for survival. If India developed an atomic bomb, we too will develop one even if we have to eat grass or leaves or to remain hungry because there is no conventional alternative to the atomic bomb’ said by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972.
This single statement from former Pakistani Prime Minister is enough to justify fierce military rivalry between India and Pakistan. In India, approximately 195.9 million People live in hungry everyday according to FAO estimation in 2018. At the same time India spent Rs 2.95 lakh corer with almost 7% increment in comparison 2017. Pakistan is also no more exception than India. Military might is the center of Pakistan. Both countries successfully acquired their nuclear capability in 1998.
Positive or negative role of nuclear weapon can be understood by historical conflict of India-Pakistan. Both countries fought large scale war in 1947, 1965 and 1971. Though, limited scale conflicts have always been a common feature in border areas. Surprisingly after the nuclear acquisition of India and Pakistan in 1998, conflicts have exclusively confined within limited war with fewer casualties unlike death toll in 1965 and 1971.
Deterrence shifts but rapidly restores. For example, if Russia develops a new weapon, immediately USA responses with another exclusive weapon. USA developed anti-missile patriot while Russia responded with S- 300 and recently S-400.
Even in India-China relation has been revised by nuclear capability. India faced inexpiable humiliation in war of 1962 with China. If India had no nuclear weapon, border conflict escalation might turn towards full scale war for many times. According to nuclear deterrence hypothesis, one nuclearized country does not go to attack another nuclearized country. Historically it is true and well justified. Here nuclear weapon has generated at least to some extent relaxation for China, India and Pakistan. Conflicts are protracted in nature among these countries. One way or another conflict will prevail. Obviously nuclear weapons can take some credit for this balance of power. The father of the Pakistani bomb, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan said, “The nuclear weapon is a peace of guarantor. It gives peace to Europe; it gives peace to us. I believe that my work has saved this country from many wars.”
A nuclearized Iran may bring a stable Middle East:
Trump has abandoned Iran Nuclear Deal recently despite full compliance and cooperation from Iranian authority. UN officials have assured that Iran has obliged all principles but USA denied calling Iran Nuclear Deal as the worst deal in history. There is a fierce debate in scholarly world about nuclear issue on North Korea and Iran. Western world argue that Iran is an irrational country to have nuclear weapon. After all Iran is a signatory country of NPT (The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons-1968).
West is blaming Iran for its nuclear energy program. Though there is no clear evidence about Iran’s aspiration of having nuclear weapon capability. West imposed sanctions on Iran for years. Iran clarified its reluctance position on nuclear weapon after Iraq-Iran war. Though, West and Israel have always suspected Iran. If now Iran moves to nuclearisation that would not be surprising to us.
USA is now going to build mid-range nuclear missile after abandoning INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) with Russia. Even USA sponsored NPT treaty violating countries (Israel, Pakistan, and India) are the closest ally of USA. This double standard maintenance of USA and western countries make other power aspired countries uncomfortable. Kenneth Waltz wrote an article named, “Why Iran Should Get the Bomb: Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability” on Foreign Affairs in 2012 arguing that it is not Iran but Israel who is most potential destabilizing country in the Middle East. He also argues that if Iran acquires nuclear weapon it would lead to a greater stability in the Middle East. Iran also has suspicion about USA. Bush administration has already seized its neighboring Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 in the name of war on terror. USA also tried to take chance over Iranian internal dissatisfaction in many anti-government protests. At the same time Arab world is also hostile to Iran after Islamic Revolution in 19879. Iran also has potential regional enemies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Israel and Saudi Arabia will not take easily a nuclearized Iran but current realities force Iran to emerge as a nuclearized country above all. For the sake of stability in the Middle East, military balance is predetermining. There is no tight balance of power in the Middle Eastern region that is why this region is highly vulnerable to conflict. Outsiders get chance to intervene very easily. To ensure balance in the Middle East, Iran can take the driving seat at this moment.
So, endless balance is continued. No country dares to pose nuclear attack first against another nuclearized country because it is suicidal (Mutually Assured Destruction) for first striking country. Attacked country will retaliate in a massive scale.
Edward Said’s concept of orientalism can be employed here to justify West’s firm undermining reservation on Islam. Western countries do not like to acknowledge that Iran is the land of Cyrus the Great of Persia. Iran will not use its nuclear option as first striker like other countries. Iran may seek nuclear weapon for its own security, not for defensive purpose. Even countries having nuclear bombs become more calm and quite. For saying Maoist China became very cool after its acquisition of nuclear weapon in 1964. India and Pakistan also have also become very careful about their military activities after 1998. West often criticizes Iran that it will supply nuclear weapons to terrorist group which nothing but a part of their propaganda. Analysts argue that if Iran acquires nuclear weapon, then others will follow Iran resulting massive arms race in this region. History of nuclear arms race shows no sign of domino effect of nuclearization. Most of the countries find it costly and sensible not to have nuclear weapon. That is why states abstain from building nuclear armament. Foy saying South Korea did not build up nuclear weapon despite living under immense threat of North Korea. South Korea knows that nuclear weapon is not a just a kid to grow up simply. If there were no aggressor like Israel in the Middle East, there would have been no question nuclearization. According to the nuclear deterrence hypothesis, no nuclearized country does go to war with another nuclearized country. So, if Iran can manage its nuclear armament even in small amount, them there is possibility of peace in future. Israel will accustom to respect its neighbors’ sovereignty. Greater balance of power is very crucial for the long term preservation of peace.
Nuclear weapons possession has some pitfall that is undeniable. Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster was one of the events to fuel anti-nuclear technology. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is another horrible event occurred in the wake of earthquake in Japan in 2011. Nuclear technology is very risky but there is no way of escaping from security concern. Nuclear weapons have generated negative peace in the age of the Cold War in Europe. There was no direct confrontation with Russia. Tight bipolarity helped at least to create stability. In this realist world we will have to live with nuclear weapons unless another breakthrough of technological development shifting current balance of power in future. Whatever we want or not this is nuclear weapon who can assure to some extent relaxation if we quote Mr. Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan.
Imran Nazir is studying International Relations at University of Dhaka.