The Immorality Of Nuclear Deterrence Essay, Research Paper
Few things are of a character so immoral that they must be rejected under any circumstance. The doctrine of nuclear deterrence, however, is one of these moral abominations, and its existence requires a cry for rejection, both in the religious world and in the non-secular world. Unfortunately, the status quo in the United States sees nuclear deterrence as entrenched. We work in the framework of nuclear retaliation. The United States once again rejected the development of a missile defense, meaning that we are locked in a deterrence mindset. The United States is not lowering its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. All of us should be outraged at the moral indignation of United States defense posture. One needs not even go to the Catholic, or even secular writings, to determine the immorality of nuclear deterrence. Risk calculus, after all, knows no religion. The non-religious advocates against deterrence are as numerous as are the religious. Indeed, the reasons as to why the Catholic Church opposes MAD are of a social justice base, and not necessarily contingent on a belief in Jesus. For example, Steven Miller, of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, draws a clear distinction regarding the risk of nuclear use. Deterrence proponents will, and do claim that any small risk that another nation will use nuclear weapons means that deterrence is justified. Miller, however, sees the world in a different and very reasonable light, writing that even a small risk that the outbreak of war will result from the existence of nuclear weapons makes the existence and the spread of nuclear weapons to be too dangerous to contemplate (80). That risk is an integral part of any deterrence posture. Without the risk of launch, there is no credible deterrent. Steve Fetter, a professor of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, further quantifies the level of small risk . Fetter draws the line at one percent, arguing that The key question is not whether deterrence can fail, but how likely failures are. If a one percent chance of a nuclear conflagration is too great a risk to run, then the fact that deterrence was successful in one or two crises is a completely inadequate basis for rejecting the logic of nonproliferation (177). This becomes particularly important considering the argument that deterrence advocates make about empirical proof of the logic of deterrence. The fact that deterrence is such a contentious issue means that there is no doubt that a one percent risk exists. Neither side, deterrence proponent nor detractor, can be entirely correct. Most of the non-secular arguments about the immorality of nuclear deterrence are summarized in the works of Jonathan Schell, a Professor at Wesleyan University, who begins discussing the subject of massive death, hostage holding, and lack of discrimination that are pillars of the deterrence mindset:Nuclear weapons are distinguished above all by their unparalleled destructive power. Their singularity, from a moral point of view, lies in the fact that the use of just a few would carry the user beyond every historical benchmark of indiscriminate mass slaughter. Is it necessary, fifty-three years after the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, to rehearse the basic facts? Suffice it to recall the old rule of thumb that one bomb can destroy one city. A large nuclear weapon today may posses a thousand times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima – far more than enough to annihilate any city on earth. A single Trident II submarine has the capacity to deliver nearly two hundred warheads, which could lay waste to any nation, giving another rule of thumb: one boat, one nation. The use of a mere dozen nuclear weapons against, say the dozen largest cities of the United States, Russia, or China, causing tens of millions of deaths, would be a human catastrophe without parallel. The use of a few hundred nuclear weapons, not to speak of a thousand, would raise the already incomprehensible losses by an order of magnitude, leaving the imagination in the dust (9). Schell goes on to compare nuclear deterrence to something worse than genocide (10). Nothing but nuclear weapons allows for the type of death that Schell describes, and only a deterrence doctrine makes that killing possible, or allowable. Even if one can make a case that nuclear deterrence perpetuates peace in some instances and even if one can prove that deterrence means that there is a smaller risk of a nuclear calamity, there will always be the propensity for a nuclear conflict if we rely on a deterrence posture. Against that there can be no argument. This truism of deterrence, the immorality of the risk of use, is precisely what Schell, Fetter, and Miller argue. Furthermore, the moral effects of nuclear deterrence are comparable to those of a nuclear war, because the intention to wage such a war is the same thing as waging the war in the moral sense. There are numerous other reasons in non-secular writing that nuclear deterrence is immoral. These usually consist of hostage holding, slaughter of innocents, and non-Catholic support of the just war teachings. MAD requires a type of hostage holding. All people in the world are always within the target range of nuclear weapons. Nuclear deterrence means that we are all hostages to all other foreign nations who have a nuclear capacity. Perhaps more frightening, we hold all people in the world hostage. There is not a single place on the face of the earth our nuclear weapons cannot travel. Steven Lee, a Rockefeller Resident Fellow at the Institute for philosophy and Public Policy, argues that hostage holding is immoral because it treats humans as a mere means to an end. Lee sees that this is true because the holding of a hostage is something that one does to further one s own ends without the hostages consent. This makes a human being a means (by being a hostage) to achieving an end (defense capability). Nuclear deterrence, Lee continues, is a perfect example of hostage holding because civilians are targeted and used as pieces in a geo-strategic defensive game. These civilians are innocent. They are not the ones pointing nuclear warheads at another nation. Thus, both countries locked into deterring each other hold millions as a kind of prisoners of peace, ever living with the threat of annihilation (45-46). Lee further argues the hostage holding argument on an implication level, by indicating the scope of the injustice wrought by nuclear deterrence. The deontological stakes in the case of nuclear deterrence are very high. The number of people the policy holds hostage is very large – in the hundreds of millions – and the injustice against each of these victims is significant, for they are put at a substantial risk of death or severe suffering, and the risk is not temporary, but continues over long periods of time (67). Keep in mind that these people, everyone on the planet really, have done nothing to deserve living with this risk, and can do nothing to stop it as long as there is a nuclear deterrence doctrine. Immoral policy is guaranteed. Lee s argument naturally follows into the argument regarding the slaughter of innocents. Deterrence relies on the perceived threat that total destruction will occur if a first strike occurs. This destruction is not merely limited to the military, but is instead wreaked upon the populace. Phillip Lawrence, a Senior Lecturer of politics at the University of Wolverhampton, in defense of the just war tradition, argues that all deterrence is revenge, and there is certainly no place in the just war teachings for revenge. Not only does deterrence rely on revenge, which is immoral, but relies on revenge against an innocent party, also being immoral (163-164). Furthermore, a deterrence doctrine undermines the rights of a civil society. As professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, Daniel Deudney argues that deterrence renders the ability for a state to perform its basic functions impossible by making it seem illegitimate. Both the American right and the American left oppose deterrence, the right because the international deterrence mindset left U.S. citizens susceptible to destruction and death, and the left because of deterrence arguments similar to those above. The calling into question of deterrence and nuclearism can accurately be labeled a legitimacy crisis because these disputes touch upon primal state apparatus functions (112-113). Undermining these basic functions is unacceptable from any point of view, and the loss of the ability of the state to perform its basic functions ought to be rejected. That is only reasonable.Also and unsurprisingly, there is little ambiguity in the Catholic Church s position regarding nuclear deterrence posture. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, writing during the cold war, define nuclear deterrence and the risk of the use of nuclear weapons as the greatest violation of the ideas of non-violence and non-lethality they see as critical to a Catholic worldview. Any notion that deterrence is legitimate for reasons of retaliation is quickly dispelled by the Conference, because there is little hope of ever using nuclear weapons in a selective or restrictive manner (Challenge of Peace 143). The Conference goes on to say that there is also little chance that such a nuclear exchange would be limited, due to the massive amounts of testimony by government officials (Challenge of Peace 144).
The fact that the Conference wrote during the cold war is irrelevant, and all of their arguments still apply today because the east-west institutional restraints made that kind of deterrence more stable. In the post cold war world, there are no such restraints on nations such as Iraq, Iran, or Libya, and there are always third parties involved in crises that have a nuclear capacity. Deterrence being stable during the cold war does not mean that it will hold stable given that other nations have nuclear weapons (Dunn 39). The Catholic Church answers the idea that a limited nuclear conflict could occur quite succinctly. She believes, as above, that this option would simply not occur. There are numerous reasons the Bishops cite for this, including that lack of information regarding an enemy, insufficient time and the massive pressures and stresses in a crisis, misperception, and a breakdown in rigorous counter-force targeting all mean that a nuclear war would not be a limited event. Indeed, if one must rely on the use of a nuclear arsenal for defense, there is no barrier to massive use of those weapons, and no reason why one would refrain should a situation arise that would make the leader feel it necessary to launch (Challenge of Peace 158). In addition to the impossibility of limited nuclear conflict, the Conference explains why the idea of counter-force targeting is woefully insufficient to justify status quo nuclear doctrine. The U.S. Bishops point out that military targets are often widespread, meaning that numerous nuclear weapons would have to be used to achieve any military objective. In addition, the Bishops cite the fact that the radioactive fallout from so many blasts would kill indiscriminately, anyway. Radiation does not draw a distinction between military personnel and the civilian population (Challenge of Peace 145). Furthermore, counter-force targeting is often joined with a declaratory policy which conveys the notion that nuclear war is subject to precise rational and moral limits. This is mutually exclusive with the Catholic just war doctrine. Counter-force also raises the risk of conflict, again proving the immorality of nuclear doctrine, because it would threaten the viability of other nations retaliatory forces, making deterrence unstable in a crisis and war more likely (Challenge of Peace 184). Counter force targeting, even, isn t just counter force. The United States recognized forty thousand military sites throughout the Soviet Union including sixty in Moscow alone (Peacetalk 14). There are numerous reasons why the church is so adamantly opposed to MAD doctrine, all of which are at the heart of the teaching of just war theory. The Catholic Church simply does not condone such a loss of life that a nuclear retaliation doctrine allows. Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or of extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man itself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation (Challenge of Peace 147). One does not need to go very far to realize that nuclear weapons, because of their sheer destructive capability, are weapons whose use, or threats of use, fit the above description. It is important to describe the applicable portions of the just war teaching here. The primary pillars being, for deterrence, that of indiscrimination and of disproportionality. Nuclear weapons, the use thereof or the threat of that use, are entirely indiscriminate. This is shown by the counter force-counter value distinction above. These weapons do not only attack opposing military forces; they attack everyone in a nation. This is unacceptable. Indiscrimination means killing of innocents, means hostage holding, means the risk of massive destruction, and means revenge. The Catholic Church certainly supports none of those things. Nuclear weapons are disproportionate because there is nothing that legitimizes such massive destruction, and because there is nothing that allows for the loss of innocent life to justify nuclear weapons use. The just war tradition assumes that in order for a war to be fought, the means by which that war is won must be justified. The Church does not feel that the use of nuclear weapons is ever justified, and therefore neither is deterrence, except if it is used as a stepping stone to something else. The Church s position is very clear on this matter No use of nuclear weapons which would violate the principles of discrimination or proportionality may be intended in a strategy of deterrence. The moral demands of Catholic teaching require resolute willingness not to intend or to do moral evil to save our own lives or the lives of those we love (Peacetalk 13). It should be noted that most of the arguments to this point as to the immorality of deterrence are of a deontological nature. Unfortunately, a full evaluation of the merits of deontology cannot be made in these pages. Suffice to say that deontology is a very defensible position, and one can easily be convinced of its merits in turning to the works of John Rawls, Immanual Kant, and numerous other writers. However, all purely deontological assessments aside, nuclear deterrence is still immoral, even if one chooses a utilitarian calculus. The nuclear risk in the world stems from one of two things from an American standpoint. Either the United States is attacked by another nation or another nation attacks a different nation. And, there are arguments as to why U.S. nuclear deterrence increases or decreases that risk. What most do not evaluate, especially in the United States, is that no U.S. deterrence would mean that the risk is exactly zero that the United States would kill massive amounts of people with its nuclear capacity because of accidents, retaliatory action, or first strikes. Whether or not U.S. deterrence means that other countries are slightly more or less likely to fight given no U.S. deterrence is overwhelmed by the reduction of U.S. launch risk factor to zero. This is especially compelling considering that the United States s the only nation who has ever used nuclear weapons (Lackey 157-158). The final action that must be taken is clear. Nuclear deterrence must be ended. This rejection of this grossly immoral policy exists on two levels, that of personal advocation and that of state action. Rejection on the individual level takes simple forms. As Lee again argues, each one of us has the ability to live our lives and believe that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence is wrong, and to not be willing to use it in any way, shape, or form. He continues what is required is the instilling of habits of thought and action that would insure that they (nuclear weapons) would not be used, because their use would not be seriously entertained (327). This crying out about nuclear doctrine is a moral obligation. Lawrence writes again: If the passive acceptance of nuclear deterrence continues this will show that we have handed the future control of our intentions and actions to the state. We will have surrendered the right – as autonomous beings – to make a moral choice (129). There is no conceivable way that there is a justification to give up our ability to make choices. That is also morally reprehensible. Also, deterrence is evil and we have every obligation to reject evil, simply because it is evil. Fighting evil is a thing which all can do, and it helps one to appreciate basic human freedom, and often results in an ending of the evil. In no way is this a bad thing (Gordon 209-210). A rejection of deterrence means a rejection of the use of the most force as possible. The Catholic Church is in support of this idea, and their advocation is that we would rethink, because We cannot have peace with hate in our hearts (Peacetalk 1). We can all live our lives and not assume that might makes right and not think that if we have a problem that violence is the automatic solution. These actions send the signal to the government that we are no longer going to accept the nuclear deterrence mindset, that we will no longer allow ourselves to be hostages, and that we refuse to hold them. We will no longer allow for the ever-present risk of nuclear annihilation. This personal advocation posture simply says that we will no longer take it. The final solution is that the nations of the world disarm their nuclear weapons, and that they do it in a verifiable way. This is the advocation of the Catholic Church, and the advocation of each of the authors above. There is a consensus of deterrence opponents that disarm is the final product. The only contention is how we would get to that product. Again, that is not a subject for this paper. Suffice to say that we should all reject nuclear deterrence, and that we should all live in a way that nuclear use would never happen, never be justified, and never be allowed. We need to take an active stand in telling our government that we no longer accept deterrence, and that it must be changed. Nothing else would restore the world to true peace, and allow us all to live in moral harmony with one another. That is our obligation.