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C H A P T E R S I X Some Final Observations A final group of nuclear escalation scenarios might comprise cases in which attributes of the scenarios already described are mixed together in contradictory ways, making more difficult the sorting of priorities for American policy. These cases may run the greatest risk of catching us by surprise. What if nuclear weapons were employed by a state that no one had anticipated was a nuclear power? Burma and Burundi, when mentioned above, struck us as totally implausible, but the next several decades may see nuclear weapons in the hands of not just terrorists but states where their mere presence will startle the world. What if nuclear weapons were used suddenly, with no warning at all, with no conventional war or political crisis to set the stage, without prior brandishment ? Or, nuclear escalation might be launched by a democratic government friendly to the United States, defying our stereotypes of how domestic politics translates into international behavior. A nuclear exchange might be launched by the weaker side in a confrontation, in a war that seemed suicidal, just as the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor surprised most people, when the long-term odds seemed so totally against Japan if there were to be a war.1 Double Standards It is indeed a challenge to our normal intuitions and logic that the entire history of the nonproliferation effort has been one of double standards, as the superpowers applied major efforts to discouraging or preventing other states, even their allies, from acquiring nuclear weapons, while maintaining large nuclear arsenals themselves. It is not likely that an actual use of nuclear weapons would reduce the necessity for such double standards. However unfair it may seem for the United States and Russia to retain nuclear weapons while Japan and Germany and other states are pressured to forgo them, almost all of the policies that the United States would need to adopt after a nuclear escalation would continue this kind of discrimination.2 The judgment that the use of nuclear weapons in anger would somehow show the “moral flaws” in this double standard will not translate into serious policy guidance. For most of the imaginable cases, the American response to nuclear escalation would still be to seek to discourage non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons, and to discourage Israel from openly announcing possession of such weapons. With regard to states facing the risk of internal civil war, Pakistan being a prime example, the appropriate policy for the United States may have to be to press for a deproliferation, by a mixture of threats and bribes, much more urgently than was the case regarding the nuclear weapons left in Ukraine, Belarus , and Kazakhstan after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but with the same end-goal, that all the nuclear warheads be removed from this territory. Depending on the mode of delivery used for the nuclear attack, the United States might increase the urgency of its investment in missile defense systems . If the first nuclear warhead to be used since Nagasaki were delivered by a bomber or by a submarine or tramp steamer, the policy picture would be complicated by the need to mount other lines of defense as well. The attacks of September 11th were instructive. We now know that destruction can be in- flicted on the United States by many means other than nuclear weapons, by means that might not even be anticipated by American planners until the actual event, such that NMD systems could be too easily by-passed. But one can also note how the World Trade Center attack demonstrated the hatred for America felt by various adversaries, and how it demonstrated their willingness to inflict large numbers of casualties on the American population. The logical conclusion is that every kind of defense needs to be reinforced.3 With regard to defensive systems, the United States would not pursue a double standard in the aftermath of a use of nuclear weapons, because it would be willing, and perhaps eager, to bolster the defenses of other threatened states. The less damage an attacker was able to inflict in any subsequent attack, the easier the task of the United States would be in the aftermath. If some other country were attacked and could then be provided with better defensive mechanisms, it would be easier to restrain the victim from inflicting retribution, with its risks of open-ended escalation. If the United States...


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MARC Record
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