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Thinking About Nuclear WeaponsPrinciples, Problems, Prospects$
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Michael Quinlan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563944

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563944.001.0001

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Easements and Escape Routes

Easements and Escape Routes

Chapter:
(p.99) 9 Easements and Escape Routes
Source:
Thinking About Nuclear Weapons
Author(s):

Michael Quinlan (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563944.003.0010

This chapter surveys various radical concepts put forward at one time or another for removing or greatly alleviating the risks and costs of nuclear deterrence. It first discusses the idea of ‘no first use’ promises, and argues that though policy should certainly strive to keep the eventuality of needing to consider first use as remote as possible, formal and unconditional promises cannot be dependable under stress and may even be unhelpful to war-prevention. The next section considers whether there are alternative-defence concepts for effective resistance to a determined nuclear aggressor that need not entail the possession of nuclear weapons, and argues that no universally reliable such possibilities exist. There follows a discussion, again reaching sceptical conclusions, about ideas of ‘minimal’ or ‘virtual’ nuclear armouries. Finally, this chapter recalls President Reagan's 1983 ‘Star Wars’ aspiration to render nuclear weapons entirely impotent by impermeable defence against ballistic missiles, and notes that this aspiration remains unrealistic.

Keywords:   alternative defence, minimal, no first use, Star Wars, virtual

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