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LEC23 - Nuclear Deterrance Dec 1

Course Code
Tom Hurka

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– review plus exam discussion on Thursday; essays OK on Friday, leave in my dropbox
– topic is nuclear deterrence, which will connect with Walzer on supreme emergency
– mutual assured destruction: each side threatens to annihilate the other’s cities if the
other launches a first nuclear strike; assumes survivability of second-strike forces, especially on
submarines; stability of system, with only proxy wars between two powers; led to ABM treaty of
1970s, which was threatened by what? Reagans Star Wars, revived by Bush II
– also counterforce vs. countervalue; objections to first that it might encourage belief in
successful first strike, so continued preference for stability of MAD; issue of intermediate
missiles in Europe, given credibility of nuclear deterrent to Soviet land invasion; these missiles
as ultimately leading to nuclear reductions and end of Cold War
– BUT this very stable MAD requires threat to annihilate enemy civilian centres after first
strike, and everyone agrees this would be grossly immoral; first, it involves violation of
discrimination, because it targets civilians, and on a massive scale; second, in the event of a first
strike, a retaliatory second strike would do no good; it would just be more devastation on top of
devastation and certainly couldn’t stop your citizens from being killed; Walzer 269, 275, 282,
Lackey 119; and surely right; BUT if deterrence works, there’s no need to launch a second strike,
you need only to threaten it
– one possibility is to threaten a second strike but not mean it, i.e. not have any intention
of actually retaliating; Ramsey, on Walzer 281; bluffing; but normal view is that you can’t bluff –
you have to really intend the retaliation; point about having an institution – for a credible threat,
you need a whole institutional set-up ready to go, which requires participants ready to go, and
that can’t really be faked
– but if immoral to do something, isn’t it also immoral to intend it? wrongful intentions
principle, Ramsey on Walzer 272, also (esp.) Catholic writers who emphasize double effect; here
you intend deaths of civilians maybe even as end, since you can’t use them as means to any end
– some may say the deterrent intentions are only conditional: you only intend to retaliate
if enemy attacks first, and if deterrence works you may never have to intend to retaliate
simpliciter; BUT example on top of 272; even conditional intentions seem wrong
– AT SAME TIME: great benefits of nuclear deterrence: no nuclear attack, also no
nuclear blackmail; global stability?
– is Walzer for or against nuclear deterrence? he sees the Cold War standoff as a supreme
emergency (274, 283), though he’s unhappy about that; 273 on Soviet regime as not as great an
evil as Nazism; also main evil not nuclear destruction – appeasement would avoid that – but
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