The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Nuclear bombs don't deter wars

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henry2833 has forfeited round #4.
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Voting Style: Judge Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/30/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 341 times Debate No: 103346
Debate Rounds (4)
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I will argue that nuclear bombs don't actually deter wars.

Con secedes for the last round, so we have an equal number of posts.


As is convention on this site, I will concede the first round rather than the last giving my opponent the opportunity to express their ideas on the topic they have raised. To elucidate, I would ask you to clarify whether I am wrong in thinking that your proposition is that 'if nuclear weapons are held by adversarial countries, then a deterrence effect preventing war between them will not occur', or does your contention express a scenario in which nuclear weaponry is only held unilaterally, by one agency? Or perhaps there is another situation you are imagining? Please make this clear in your first argument--
Debate Round No. 1


Yes, I am saying that “if nuclear weapons are held by adversarial countries, then a deterrence effect preventing war between them will not occur.”

Argument 1: If nuclear bombs do deter wars, then why are the US spending $55 billion[1] in 2012 (which is expected to rise)? Why is Russia spending $15 billion USD [2] on its own nuclear weapons?

The hypothesis that 2 nuclear countries would not fight a war because doing so would ensure both sides are completely annihilated is only that: a hypothesis. This hypothesis can be summed up as “mutually assured destruction deters war.” If mutually assured destruction was indeed valid, then why would both of the leading nuclear countries, US and Russia, spend enormous amounts of money to “modernize,” expand, and upgrade their nuclear arsenals? After all, nuclear weapons would destroy everything, why build one more warhead to destroy something that has been reduced to ashes?

Also, Brendan Green, assistant professor of Poli Sci at U of Cincinnati, has published a paper arguing that mutually assured destruction (MAD) could be “escaped” by one country by denying another country of second-strike capabilities (e.g. Country A’s missiles are so advanced they destroy the capabilities of Country B to launch missiles—thus, Country A escapes MAD while Country B is destroyed). The Russians feared the US could “escape” MAD and destroy Russia, denying Russia’s chances of retaliating. Brendan Green suggests that nuclear balance could be “more malleable.” [3]

This is why US and Russia are both racing to expand their nuclear arsenals—both are aware MAD is escapable and malleable. In short, fear does not deter wars; it only raises the ante.

Argument 2: Why is the US building nuclear missile defense systems?

If just the existence of nuclear weapons is enough to deter any country from attacking, then why is the US squandering $44 billion to build a nuclear defense system that has a “40% success rate?” Why are they ready to put out $224 million just to test the capabilities of a $44 billion system? Surely, according to the nuclear deterrence hypothesis, North Korea or any other nuclear country wouldn’t dare to bomb us, as they will be destroyed too. Why, then, build a $44 billion dollar system that only works 40% of the time [4]? It’s because nuclear deterrence is only an untested hypothesis.

In fact, according to source [1], $174 billion of the $700 billion ten year nuclear budget will be spent on “missile defense,” “Nuclear Threat Reduction,” and “Nuclear Incident Management.” Couldn’t this money be used to build more warheads, and raise the risks of mutually assured destruction, and altogether decrease the chances of a nuclear war? No—destruction does not equal peace, and fear does not equal harmony.

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Given the 3000 character limit, I only have space to cover your two points as follows:

1) 'If MAD is true, then there is no reason to proliferate nuclear weaponry'

If we have enough why make more? It"s not as though nuclear weaponry constitutes a highly profitable industry by which international status can be gained through elevating the perceived strength of a state or power above those with less destructive potential. It"s not as though they are like bargaining tools in a nexus of political relations by which individual states seek to exploit one another.

To state that the purpose of nuclear weapons derives entirely from their physical use against another nation, is to reduce their wider utility as a socio-political and economic force. Surely we have to take these factors into account: for example, the very fact that the US government is making more nukes, is enough to make its population believe it is resolving problems within its international policy, creating measures against North Korea, Russia and ISIS and so forth, thereby solidifying state popularity.

2) 'If MAD can be circumvented, then nuclear weaponry no longer causes a deterrence effect'

From the first point, you have inferred that nuclear proliferation occurs because MAD can be avoided in so that state powers can have military advantages over each other. Yet all we would have to do is change the "D" of this acronym to "Devastation" to restore the argument: Mutually Assured Devastation would indeed cause a deterrent effect. The knowledge that by pressing a button that millions will die, economies will flounder and landscapes be devastated, is sufficient enough to cause hesitation in engaging in this kind of warfare. Even if the other power couldn"t fire back, say with North Korea, the backlash of using nuclear weaponry both domestically and internationally would be profound. These relations are preventive reasons of why having nukes simultaneously prevents their use. The prevention of war can come from within as well as from the out.

Deterrence, in itself, is only a feeling of trepidation in lieu of the consequences of an act: it takes no real exertion of the mind to see why the effects of nuclear weaponry could deter individual powers from using them, even if this deterrence effect ultimately fails to prevent missile launch relative to the numerous conditions surrounding a conflict. If you want to change your assertion to 'MAD no longer deters war', please clarify, for it is not synonymous with nuclear weaponry but rather the name given to a real (not hypothetical) phenomenon that emerged during the Cold War, where neither the USSR nor USA could fire upon each other without inciting their mutual annihilation. You can argue this phrase obsolete given the modern state of affairs but not hypothetical. I will extrapolate on this further if you still refute it, for clearly if MAD was a prominent reasoning force in the Cold War, then nuclear deterrence is a tested hypothesis.
Debate Round No. 2


1. “It’s not as though they are like bargaining tools…which individual states seek to exploit one another.

The very bargaining that nuclear weapons allow for can constitute in war. States “seek to exploit one another” through the threat of nuclear destruction. If there were no nuclear bombs, then states couldn’t use them as additional leverage against other states. They would be more moderate in their negotiations What would this result in? More empathy and less war. With the existence of nuclear weapons, however, states could use their newfound weapons to be less moderate and force other states. What would happen if there is a disagreement? Nuclear war.

“creating measures against North Korea, Russia and ISIS and so forth”

The US has enough bombs to destroy the entire world. A 2014 study published in the journal Earth’s Future found that only 100 nuclear detonations, each with 15 kt of energy, could “[produce] a sudden drop in surface temperatures and intense heating of the stratosphere…the coldest average surface temperatures in the last 1000 years…widespread damage to human health, agriculture, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems…put significant pressures on global food supplies and could trigger a global nuclear famine” [1]. That would the result of 1500 kt of energy(100 * 15 kt). The total yield of US and Russian on high-alert launch-on-warning status is 960,000 kt. If 1500 kt of energy could “trigger a global nuclear famine,” then what would something 640 times more powerful be?

Thus, “the very fact that the US government is making more nukes” will not create measures against adversarial countries, as our nuclear arsenal has the capability to destroy the world hundreds of times over, and creating more nukes will not result in anything worthwhile.

“make its population believe it is resolving problems within its international policy”

Clearly, investing in a classified program in which Americans don’t know anything will make “solidify state popularity.” When both political parties are in disarray, healthcare system on the brink of collapse, and a media intent on mongering fear, spending on something clearly classified and which will affect little Americans will make the government more popular?

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy and the US government was all too ready to fire its vast array of nuclear missiles. They knew very well the Soviet Union could fire back and annihilate the entire country if they were indeed to press that button, but they were ready to do it. Kennedy ordered B-52 bombers ready to take off to Soviet Union on 15 minutes notice and nuclear missiles on launch alert, some aimed directly towards Moscow. They were quite aware of MAD at the time, but did that awareness stop them from aiming missiles towards Cuba and Moscow? No. [2]





Whilst I agree that having no nuclear weapons at all is the only safe potential of having no nuclear warfare, you have missed the subtly of my points...

I said that nuclear weapons are situated within their social contexts, through which a plethora of reasons for having them can emerge beyond just blowing things up. For example, one of these was the notion that by producing weaponry, by having high defence budgets, governments can make it look as though they are proactively dealing with their foreign policy. For those Americans who maintain the pre-Vietnam ideations in regards to weaponry, the construction and maintenance of missiles can be perceived as a good thing. "Oh, look, the defence budget is up. The government must be dealing with those damn terrorists." The aim for the government here would be, acting in consonance with the expectations of some of their voters. And, this is only one amongst many reasons why nuclear warheads are made, from a social/economic/political viewpoint rather than just the practical one as you are presenting. These factors, you must take into account.

Given I have more space, I will give a quick adumbration of some of these other reasons: by spending millions on maintaining and building nuclear weaponry all companies and cooperation involved gain profit, it produces jobs and economic growth, disarmament makes government administration look weak in terms of foreign policy (erroneously but evidently, given the recent campaign of Corbyn in the UK), disarmament can be used as a bargaining chip in international treaties and relations, they can even be traded for money or to cement good relations with allies, domestically some disarmament can be used to please left-wing voters and earn their vote (thereby creating more previously makes this conceit meaningless), extreme force gives the image of extreme strength, stockpiling armaments can lead to military envy in other countries, it satiates the hawks and right-wingers who want to see more nukes created... This should be enough the address proposition 1.

And regardless of which, since Oppenheimer, the world has been capable of nuclear weaponry: even if there was complete multilateral nuclear disarmament, as soon as international tensions rose or one nation wanted to gain a military advantage over another, the knowledge and means to create this weaponry are at the feet of empires.

In response to your bringing up the Cuban Missile Crisis, not forgetting that JFK was taking 'an extraordinary variety of medications' (1) at the time, I ask you one simple question: why did neither the USA nor USSR fire upon each other then?
To which I remind you of the definition of 'deterrence': doing/having X 'for the purpose of discouraging attack'.
Your response in R3 does not address the one I made to proposition 2 in R2.

Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by FanboyMctroll 5 months ago
It sure stopped the Japs from attacking during WWII

And there has been no World Wars because everyone now has the bomb

Apology accepted
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