29 Dec 2009

Thomas Schelling: Nuclear Weapons Are Like the Log-Plume Ride…

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…the anticipation is scarier than the realization (HT2MR):

In summary, a “world without nuclear weapons” would be a world in which the United States, Russia, Israel, China, and half a dozen or a dozen other countries would have hair-trigger mobilization plans to rebuild nuclear weapons and mobilize or commandeer delivery systems, and would have prepared targets to preempt other nations’ nuclear facilities, all in a high-alert status, with practice drills and secure emergency communications. Every crisis would be a nuclear crisis, any war could become a nuclear war. The urge to preempt would dominate; whoever gets the first few weapons will coerce or preempt. It would be a nervous world.

Now before you lecture me on unstable equilibria in the comments, please realize I am objecting not to Schelling’s overall conclusion–that the desire to ban nuclear weapons overlooks many strategic considerations–but rather I am pointing out that the particular argument above is silly.

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