Debating Nuclear Proliferation

Countries that have nuclear weapons
“Proliferation” literally means the spread of something. Generally, in the context of the literature, proliferation refers to the spread of nuclear weapons technology, but it can also refer to the spread of chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver all of these weapons of mass destruction, particularly ballistic missile delivery mechanisms. Nuclear proliferation refers to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations that presently do not have them.
Although nuclear proliferation has been a concern since the United States and Russia initially developed nuclear weapons after World War II, the subject has been given increased attention in scholarly literature since the end of the cold war. The reasons for this shift in focus are debatable, but most likely include a new emphasis on regional security issues after the cold war, concerted efforts by Iran and Iraq to acquire nuclear weapons, and the testing of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan in May of 1998.
The country most likely to proliferate/go nuclear at this time is Iran.
There are already seven countries in the world with disclosed (they have announced the existence of their nuclear arsenals nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan most recently disclosed the existence of their nuclear arsenals in May of 1998. Israel is considered to have between 50 to one hundred nuclear weapons, but has not disclosed the existence of those weapons publicly.
Why Do Countries Proliferate?
There are numerous reasons that are offered as to why countries develop nuclear weapons. These include:
* an effort to enhance their own security;
* a means to enhance their own international prestige as a country;
a means to fight the U.S, who has a substantial qualitative and quantitative edge;
* a way for political leaders to increase their own prestige by declaring that they have developed nuclear weapons:
* a means to deter regional enemies who might have nuclear weapons or stronger conventional forces;
* a way to obtain/maintain alliances with countries that provide nuclear technology.
New Nuclear States Opaque Proliferators
Opaque proliferators are simply those who are believed to possess nuclear weapons but have not disclosed the existence of them. India and Pakistan were considered to be opaque proliferators until they disclosed the existence of their respective nuclear arsenals in May of 1998.
The only remaining country that is considered to have nuclear weapons but who has not disclosed them is Israel. Israel, an ally of the United States, is believed to have developed its first nuclear weapon in 1968 and is now thought to have about 150 nuclear weapons. Experts have traced the origin of the nuclear program to both France and South Africa. It is debatable whether or not the United States provided any assistance, but at the very least, it certainly looked the other way. Israel has not signed the NPT and the U.S. has not pressured Israel to do so.
The debate in the literature concerns what would happen if Israel were to “disclose” – announce to the world – that it has a nuclear arsenal. While you may wonder why it is significant for a country to simply announce what everyone else knows, the disclosure of nuclear weapons by Israel would likely be a sign that its security situation had deteriorated, that it was threatened by outside powers, or that it intends to use the weapons. Some Israeli hawks those that believe in a strong defense posture – argue that Israeli disclosure will actually be a good thing because it would deter potential Arab aggressors.
Countries that do not have nuclear energy are only supposed to receive assistance if those have-not countries are members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and are willing to have all of their nuclear facilities operate under the full-scope safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA) (https://www.iaea.or.ati) – a watchdog group that prevents the diversion of nuclear material to nuclear bomb production. All countries are not bound to accept IAEA safeguards, only those that seek nuclear assistance from another country do. The IAEA is not part of the United Nations (though it submits an annual report to it), but instead operates with a board of governors that has representatives from both the have and the have-not nations.
The Impact To Nuclear Proliferation
Alright, so countries may get some nuclear weapons. You may be wondering why that is so bad. Where’s the beef?? After all, the United States and Russia have thousands of nuclear weapons and we are all still here.
Generally, nuclear proliferation is argued to be bad for at least some of the following reasons:
* It increases defensive first-strike incentives. Enemies will want to strike before nukes are built.
* It increases offensive first-strike incentives. Countries who are able to build only one or two nuclear weapons will want to use them before they lose them.
* It increases accident risks. Countries that are most likely to proliferate have immature C3I systems.
Most countries likely to proliferate have outstanding conflicts with their neighbors, increasing the risks that the nuclear weapons will be used.
* Strong ideological beliefs by the leaders of potential new nuclear nations increase the likelihood that the nuclear weapons will be used.
* Many countries that likely to be new nuclear nations have contested border disagreements with other countries and unstable political leaderships. This is in contrast with the more stable political leaderships of the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the cold war and our lack of contested borders.      •
* Development of nuclear weapons by one power will set off a chain-reaction of proliferation as other countries move to develop nuclear weapons to offset their neighbor’s nuclear weapons.
A lack of technical ability in new nuclear nation can result in “unstable bombs.” A nuclear weapon normally makes a nuclear explosion through the detonation of conventional explosives, which compresses uranium or plutonium to such a high degree that an explosion results. If a nation can’t master this technology, they will probably use a more fissile material and a less precise detonating device. This is likely to increase the risk of accidental detonation.
The increasing spread of these weapons makes it more likely that terrorists could acquire them. Not only are terrorists bound by fewer deterrence rationales, but the fact that they could do it anonymously makes them nearly impossible to deter.
Proliferation could threaten U.S. forces, essentially making them hostages in a crisis and undermining U S power projection.
Proliferation could encourage coups. Groups may want to overthrow the state in order to gain access to its nuclear weapons.
Although most writers take the position that nuclear proliferation is a bad thing there are a couple of authors who advocate the utility of nuclear proliferation. The leading advocate of this view is Kenneth Waltz who co-authored a book, which is referenced below.
The fact that proliferation is likely to occur in more unstable regions with more militarized governments increases the likelihood that the weapons will be used.
Waltz’s argument is based on the realist theory of international relations. Basically, the theory claims that nations will act in their own best interest and will not undertake actions that threaten their own existence they will not start wars that end their own existence. Waltz makes a number of arguments:
The spread of nuclear weapons will deter future conventional conflicts.
The absence of superpower war despite hostilities proves that deterrence works.
Arguments that developing countries can’t control their nuclear weapons are implicitly racist. The more nuclear weapons the better second strike capabilities enhance deterrence.
Waltz is a realist who operates under the assumption that states act rationally in the international arena (essay). His theory that nuclear proliferation deters has also been attacked theoretically on the grounds that that doesn’t take into account that what is rational may differ in certain situations, individuals in the military will follow the will of national leaders, and regional conflicts are not all bipolar, making effective deterrence difficult.
The U.S. /Russian experience (we didn’t have a nuclear war) may be an anomaly and not support the general thesis that clear weapons deter. The U.S. and Russia both had stable political systems, lacked border disputes, didn’t seem interested in conquering one another, and developed advanced command control systems. Also, we may simply have been lucky. A book by Bruce Blair details a number of instances in which a nuclear war between the United States and Russia almost started by accident. Even if all the deterrence arguments are true, they may seriously underestimate the risk of an accident.
If you are interested in running nuclear proliferation good on the negative, or want to know how to answer it on the affirmative, you should start by reading THE SPREAD OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS by Kenneth Waltz and Scott Sagan. The book features a debate between the two about the merits of nuclear proliferation. There are a few general things you ould keep in mind when approaching the debate.
Most people in the debate community are generally inclined to believe that nuclear proliferation is bad. Although judges will be open to your arguments, the “presumption” on this issue probably rests with the affirmative. Waltz does argue that fast nuclear proliferation is bad because it can be destabilizing. Most affirmatives will just claim to slow, not necessarily event. Waltz does have carded answers to most of his opponent’s arguments. You can win this argument in e block with the proper investment of time. On the negative, be sure to answer individual reasons in the affirmative cards that indicate why proliferation is bad.
Attack the Inevitability of Proliferation
While you can find many general cards that say proliferation is inevitable, and may ultimately involve 20 to 30 countries (proponents of missile defense often make this claim), this argument is really preposterous. North Korea & Iran are really the only serious potential proliferants at the moment Countries like Sudan, Libya, and Egypt could potentially proliferate, but those countries are nowhere close. South Africa, Argentina, and Brazil have abandoned their nuclear programs Japan and Germany could develop nuclear weapons, but baring a massive shift in global politics (such as the U.S. abandoning its alliances with them), they probably will not. You should ask the affirmative (or the negative if proliferation is their disadvantage impact) precisely which countries are going to go nuclear. It will be difficult for them to produce a credible list of even a handful of countries.
Second, you should argue the rate of proliferation is slow and hence much more manageable. Although mechanisms such as the NPT and other safeguard agreements have not prevented proliferation, they have substantially slowed it down. The U.S. also closely monitors nuclear developments of many potential proliferators and takes steps to pressure other governments against providing nuclear assistance to potential proliferators. Acquisition of a nuclear bomb is difficult for the reasons explained in the section on nuclear weapons.