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Kenneth Waltz’s on nuclear weapons

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  1. Introduction
  2. Waltz's recommendation to spread nuclear weapons
    1. Basis of Waltz's thesis
    2. Effect of nuclear weapons
    3. Nuclear weapons and regional instability
    4. Organizational approach and its challenges
  3. Conclusion
  4. Bibliography

Do you agree with Waltz's recommendation to spread nuclear weapons?

On Sunday, April 9, 2006, the Washington Post announced that ?the Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program? (Washington post, 9/04/2006). That shows perfectly that the question of the nuclear proliferation is one of the burning issues of the day. Nuclear proliferation means the spread of nuclear weapons to states that for the moment are known as non nuclear weapon states. Only five states are acknowledged by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as possessing nuclear weapons: China, France, Russia, United-Kingdom and United-States, yet several others have the capability to construct nuclear devices at short notice and deliver them, if necessary, by increasingly sophisticated means (Howlett, 2001: 416). A traditional view states that further nuclear proliferation is likely to increase instability and the potential for conflict between states. This contrasts with the ?more may be better? thesis advanced by Kenneth N. Waltz in the early 1980s and restated in the mid 1990s to account for changes brought about by the end of the cold war.
So one can wonder to what extent Waltz's proposition that more nuclear weapons will be better can be justified. In a first part, one can try to expound Waltz's thesis and the arguments that sustain it. In a second part, one can underline the weaknesses of Waltz's thesis using mainly Sagan's arguments.

[...] Deterrence is based on the destructive consequences of nuclear weapons and on a strategy of second- strike nuclear forces. The punishment of attackers would be so huge that they are dissuaded from attacking. Waltz supposes a certain rationality of attackers who have to compare the gains and the losses. Therefore, nuclear deterrence improve the prospect of peace since states are not likely to run major risks for minor gains and are more cautious in presence of nuclear weapons since the question is about surviving or being annihilated. [...]


[...] Therefore there are two worries, that rulers of nuclear states become more authoritarian and even more given to secrecy or that some potential nuclear states are not politically strong and stable enough to ensure control of the weapons and control of the decision to use them. Yet Waltz argues against these worries that building nuclear arsenal requires a long lead-time, considerable money, administrative and technical teams to which unstable government has short time to pay attention. Therefore such governments are unlikely to initiate nuclear projects. [...]

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