The Myth that has Gone Nuclear

Commentary | September 07, 2010

Writing for, W. Pal Sidhu highlights a new study that challenges the modern-day myth that nuclear weapons actually deter war between nuclear-armed opponents.

In The Changing Political Utility of Nuclear Weapons: Nuclear Threats from 1970 to 2010, Samuel Black offers historical evidence against the idea that nuclear weapons are “weapons of peace”: first, there have been twice as many nuclear threats since the end of the Cold War than there were from 1970 to 1990; second, Pakistan, the U.S. and India were the leaders when it came to making those threats.

“One could quibble with the methodology of the study, yet there is no contesting the somber finding,” Sidhu writes. “States possessing nuclear weapons actually find the political utility of these deadly weapons increasing.” Sidhu points out that the nonchalance with which threats are issued can discredit the seriousness of a nuclear threat and allow more room for casual errors.

“While there is, clearly, a temptation to create the comforting legend of nuclear weapons as manna from heaven that will end the scourge of war for evermore, it is a dangerous delusion,” Sidhu concludes.  “The stark reality is that nuclear weapons by themselves cannot ensure peace.”

Click here to read Sidhu’s article on