Strategic Value of Nuclear Weapons essay

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Nuclear weapons became a tool of American policy that goes far beyond protection of national interests, for American national interests depend on the propagation of American ideals. The United States is, in the words of Harold Lasswell, a "garrison state;" a crusading nation that seeks to combat all enemies real and imagined and to remake the world in its own image. (Flint 86-87) Under the new doctrine, nuclear strategy becomes a means of enforcing an ideology - all dissent, or supposed dissent, is rooted out through the threat of ultimate and complete destruction. Terrorism is made the defining characteristic of immorality. States that support terrorism become the ultimate evildoers. The Bush Administration redefined international relations in terms of an axis of good led by the United States and its allies, and an axis of evil consisting preeminently of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea and their terrorist associates. Alone among these states, North Korea actually developed nuclear. Yet, America pursued a diplomatic strategy against Kim Jong-Il, proving once again the power of nuclear strategy as a mutual deterrent - the Bush Administration saving face by crediting North Korea with more benign intentions than the other members of Bush's Axis of Evil. (Record) the desire to build nuclear weapons is a manifestation of evil intentions. North Korea showed its "moderation" by allowing in American inspectors, and at various points in time, dismantling its nuclear program (though this was later reconstituted). Nations remove themselves from the roster of evildoers by going all the way - giving up their nuclear ambitions entirely, as did Libya's Muammar al-Qadhafi. In fact, a major factor in Libya's decision to end its nuclear program was fear of the very terrorism that the Bush Administration was purporting to fight. An understanding of Libya's security concerns, and the threat posed by Al Qaeda to Qadhafi's regime, enabled the Bush Administration to use it sown nuclear strategy to destroy overcome Libya's ambitions and so "rehabilitate" a former rogue state. (Hochman) the Libyan example revealed the persistence of basic American assumptions about nuclear strategy, and the continued centrality of nuclear policy in international relations.

Thus, international relations have been transformed through the use of nuclear strategy. What once was a contest of brute force has become a game involving the constant threat of force. The entire system is underpinned by a philosophy of moral vs. immoral, of black vs. white. A side claims victory in a particular move by asserting its inherent moral superiority, for moral superiority alone justifies the use of weapons the use of which would result in the utter destruction of both the user and its rival. The possession of weapons of nightmarish power is permitted only to those who can demonstrate that they hold the moral high ground. They endlessly defend this moral high ground with the weapons themselves. In the end, the threat of force replaces the use of force, yet that threat remains ever present. A nation retains supremacy by playing the bully. As long as no other nation dares challenge the bully, the supremacy of the supreme bully remains assured. Still, the dream of obtaining more weapons than the superpower remains potent. And as long as that dream remains there will always be more "enemies" for the superpower to fight - more enemies over whom it can demonstrate its moral superiority by virtue of its possessing a superior supply of nuclear weapons.


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Flint, Colin, ed. The Geography of War and Peace: From Death Camps to Diplomats. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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Hirschbein, Ron. Massing the Tropes: The Metaphorical Construction of American Nuclear Strategy. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2005.

Hochman, Dafna. "Rehabilitating a Rogue: Libya's WMD Reversal and Lessons for U.S. Policy." Parameters 36.1 (2006): 63+.

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Rivkin, David B. "The Virtues of Preemptive Deterrence." Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 29.1 (2005): 85+.

Taylor, Bryan C. "The Means to Match Their…[continue]

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