With nuclear weapons, what could possibly go wrong? The short answer is: Everything.
Nuclear weapons could be launched by accident or miscalculation. There have already been several close calls related to false warnings nearly leading to actual launches, which would most likely have led to retaliatory responses. These false warnings are all the more dangerous for the US and Russia knowing that each side keeps hundreds of nuclear weapons on high alert, ready to be launched in moments of an order to do so.
The mere possession of nuclear weapons and the prestige in the international community associated with such possession is an inducement to nuclear proliferation. There are currently nine nuclear-armed countries. How much more dangerous would the world become if there were 19, 29 or 99?
Nuclear weapons are justified by a hypothesis about human behavior known as nuclear deterrence. It posits that a nation (with or without nuclear weapons) will not attack a nation that threatens nuclear retaliation. But nuclear deterrence is not foolproof and it does not provide physical protection. The security it provides is entirely psychological. It fails if one side does not believe that the other side would really engage in nuclear retaliation. It fails if one side is not rational. It fails in the case of a terrorist group in possession of nuclear weapons that does not have territory to retaliate against and additionally may be suicidal.
This article was originally published by truthout.