University of Cambridge > > Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History > Revisiting the Myth of Nuclear Deterrence: A Wake-up Call for Proliferation Optimists

Revisiting the Myth of Nuclear Deterrence: A Wake-up Call for Proliferation Optimists

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The prospect of a nuclear Iran is one of the urgent challenges facing the Obama administration. This, in turn, brings the debate between proliferation pessimists and optimists back to center stage. Again, mothballed contentions that predict systemic stability based on the ostensible success of nuclear deterrence in containing and limiting conflicts during the bi polar era are taken out of the closet. They meet well-known counter-arguments that highlight the danger inherited in the post Cold War multi-polar subsystems’ proclivity towards instability, which might entail a nuclear catastrophe. However, a closer look at both eras reveals that the nature of conflict, rather than the systemic constraints under which it occurs, should be the decisive factor in predicting nuclear deterrence’s ability to prevent, or limit, military confrontations. In this regard, the nature of a certain conflict has to do more with the actors/participants’ perspective of the issue in dispute-i.e., defending/reunifying the homeland, or rather seeking peripheral influence/hegemony-and less with the systemic structures in which they operate. Hence, in view of the current conflicts in the Middle East, there is no room for proliferation fatalism. Nuclear proliferation is bound to court instability and should be prevented.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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