Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Restarting the nuclear arms race

When the Cold War ended fifteen years ago, we all felt that the world had become a safer place. Tensions lowered, nuclear arsenals were reduced, and the threat of nuclear war and Mutually Assured Destruction receded. In the time since, an economically strapped Russia has allowed its nuclear forces to decay, while the US pressed on with further upgrades to its weapons systems - and now this threatens to cause problems. In a pair of articles in Foreign Affairs (The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy) and International Security (The End of MAD? [PDF]), Keir Lieber and Daryl Press warn that the imbalance is now so great as to allow the US to launch a disabling nuclear first strike with no fear of retaliation. And they warn that countries such as Russia and China could respond to this situation by beginning a new nuclear arms race.

The Russians, at least, seem to have got the message. They're currently deciding exactly what to do about it, but it seems certain that they will embark on a nuclear modernisation program of their own to reduce their perceived vulnerability. Which will encourage the US to expand its forces to maintain supremacy, which will in turn require the Russians to have even more missiles. It's not Dreadnaughts, but its the same stupid game: an arms race. And the effect will be to destabilise international relations at precisely the time we thought that such disputes between large countries were over. The only way out of it is by a massive, mutual reduction in weaponry through a new arms control treaty - but I can't really see the US agreeing to surrender its advantage anytime soon.


I’m not sure how that addresses your problem.

Think about military strength.
Give or take - China is now already strong enough to crush what the US was 20 years ago. Israel would slaughter what Russia was about 40 years ago. One day a country like Somalia may be stronger than Israel is now.

I.e. in a sense a nuclear war between Iran and Israel would be like a war between Russia and the US not all that long ago. The main differences would be the probability of a miss match (which is much greater now take the gulf war for example) which means one side might beat the other easily enough to not kill too many people or one might be to scared to fight. But that is the opposite of your point.

Do you see the trend?

And it isn’t one that is solved by treaties because it isn’t just having an army it is about how fast you could make one and how secretly and the dominance of offensive weaponry and lack of reliance on manpower.

1) Speed --- The lead time for developing big weapons will get less and less as will the resources required to make them and their destructiveness. Even now countries like Iran and nth Korea can develop in secret very powerful weapons.

2) Offensive weaponry --- smaller nukes longer distance missiles better planes suicide bombers biological weapons - I note it is dominated by offensive weaponry and weapons that dont require much man power (ie a small country can use them effectively).

3) Power vacuum -- If you disarm the US and Russia and the EU then you just make China the boss of the world. if you disarm china and the EU you make Israel south Korea and India the boss, disarm them and its Iran and Pakistan and nth Korea.

I am not pushing a particular position here except to note that we have a serious problem that "both sides" seem to recognise in it's simple form but seem under some illusion is being addressed or can be addressed by whatever is their pet set of policies.

Posted by Genius : 4/26/2006 09:08:00 PM