Ethics, Nuclear Deterrence, and War

Ethics, Nuclear Deterrence, and War

Ethics, Nuclear Deterrence, and War

Ethics, Nuclear Deterrence, and War

Excerpt

Many claim that nuclear deterrence is responsible for keeping peace between the superpowers in the post-World War II age. Yet nuclear deterrence has always made moralists, philosophers, and just plain people uncomfortable, based as it is on our own vulnerability and the threat to unleash nuclear weapons in response to aggression from enemies who seek to exploit this vulnerability. The decision either to remain wedded to nuclear deterrence or to abandon it, will surely be one of the most fateful value judgments facing decision makers as we approach the 21st century.

It was for this reason that the International Cultural Foundation sponsored a re-examination of ethics and nuclear deterrence as part of its 17th International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences (1988), within the overall theme of the Conference, "Absolute Values and the Reassessment of the Contemporary World." The articles found herein were commissioned in 1987 and were strengthened through panel discussions both at the Conference and at a pre-Conference meeting. Overall, a total of twenty-one experts were involved in either preparing or critiquing the articles. These experts came from six different nations, and involved theologians, philosophers, scientists and strategists.

Very significant international events have taken place since the original writing of the contributions herein, including the reunification of Germany (and the destruction of the Berlin Wall); the withdrawal of Soviet hegemony from Eastern Europe and the implications this has for the Cold War; and the Persian Gulf War. No doubt all of these events would have served as reference points had they been written after the fact. None of us could have foreseen the rapidity with which these events transpired. While the world has changed in significant ways, the analysis rests on a bedrock of ethical and strategic principles that have not changed. The fundamental moral issues raised by the authors remain pertinent to our situation today.

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