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Ethics, Nuclear Deterrence and War

Ethics, Nuclear Deterrence and War
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The remarkable events of the past few years have fundamentally altered the political landscape. The demise of the Cold War and the acknowledged failure of Communism present unprecedented opportunities to shape a New World Order. The United States and the Soviet Union have begun to reverse the arms race and significant reductions in nuclear arms can be expected.

Despite the important and significant changes, nuclear deterrence is likely to remain the hallmark of defense in the post-World War II era. For those possessing nuclear arms, these weapons will remain the ultimate protector of national security. Several states not possessing these arms today are nonetheless making concerted efforts to do so. Nuclear deterrence, therefore, is unlikely to wither away, at least in the short-to medium-term time frame.

As weapons of mass destruction, these weapons, and their management, pose profound ethical questions. To have the intended effect (that is, to deter), national leaders must communicate a willingness to use these terrible weapons under certain circumstances. This basic unavoidable dilemma provides the starting point for the rich and reasoned ethical arguments presented in this volume.

Adam Garfinkle, Enrico Jacchia, and K. Subrahmanyam all assess the status and address the question, Are There Realistic Alternatives to Deterrence? Alvin Weinberg, Erich Weede, and Horst Afheldt deal with the issue, Defense Dominance as a Preferable Alternative to Offensive Deterrence. Thomas Walsh and Richard Rubenstein ask whether there are Core Values Worth Protecting Through Deterrence And finally, Austin David, Matthew Murphy, and John Kelsay discuss the issue from a Theological and Just War Perspective.

Editor Jack Barkenbus makes the case for this volume when he states in the Introduction, “The use of nuclear deterrence in international relations involves the most momentous policy decision of the latter half of the 20th century. Given the stakes, continual examination of this decision is not only prudent but essential.”

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