Though the timing would suggest otherwise, the idea for this post was not conditioned by the Trump administration’s decision to withdrawal from the JCPOA deal this past week. It came from a regular commentator on the Blog who wished to see more posts related to substantive political issues. While this commentator and I have disagreed at times about how to confront such issues, we both agree that our society faces many problems that must be solved soon if we are going to avoid grave consequences. Similarly, we would both like to see academics playing a bigger role confronting these problems. I appreciate this commentator’s willingness to speak out in favor of academic involvement, especially given how many other voices in society decry it.
Solving the issue of nuclear weapons seems at first to be simple. If no country feels safe while any one country possesses them, if this lack of safety triggers more countries to produce them, and if the presence of multiple countries wielding nuclear weapons poses an immanent threat to human survival, then the obvious solution is to eliminate them completely. (While this is a lot of ‘ifs,’ I’m hardly the only one making them, and the world has already had several close calls which illustrate the danger of these weapons.) Why is this not being done? There are doubtless many factors, stemming from things as diverse as the human psyche to the structure of atoms. But from the perspective of liberalism, one problem is that it is difficult getting everyone to agree. As long as one state refuses to give up weapons, other states may see these weapons as necessary for their own defense. And states which get a strategic advantage over others from these weapons are often unwilling to forego it. A more inclusive and nuanced approach to strategy, one which goes beyond conventional thinking, is needed. Here are some papers that attempt to provide such an approach.
- Ashfaq Ahmed, “The Philosophy of Nuclear Proliferation/Non-Proliferation: Why States Build or Forgo Nuclear Weapons,” TRAMES: A Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, 2017.
- Waseem Yaqoob, “The Archimedean point: Science and technology in the thought of Hannah Arendt, 1951–1963,” Journal of European Studies, September 2014.
- Rober Verrill Op, “Faith and Wisdom in Science,” New Blackfriars, September 2015.
- Martin Senn and Christoph Elhardt, “Bourdieu and the bomb: Power, language and the doxic battle over the value of nuclear weapons,” European Journal of International Relations, June 2014.
- David Koepsell and Kateřna Staňková, “Non-Proliferation Regimes, Immoral and Risky: A Game-Theoretic Approach,” International Journal on World Peace, June 2012
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