A question about nuclear deterrence - what is the difference in these two scenarios?

At least supposedly counterforce or even countervalue nuclear targeting isn’t just slaughtering civilians for the sake of bloodthirstiness or vengeance. Given that nuclear weapons, and more especially their delivery systems, are not cheap or limitless in number, each warhead and bomb is supposed to count towards some semi-rational military purpose. In theory nuclear weapons are supposed to be merely a faster and easier way to conduct the sort of bombings that Hamburg, Dresden and Tokyo suffered conventionally in WW2. Morally troubling even as those bombings were, they took place in the context of a total strategic war- which a nuclear attack by another nation would certainly qualify as.

How do you see the conflict resolution between Israel and the Arab world ?

That’s even trickier. I think it’s safe to assume the Arab states don’t have nukes. None of us know for sure whether or not Israel has them, but even if they do, once Iran has gone western (which as I stated is highly unlikely) they probably wouldn’t need them against just the Arab states even in an all out conventional war (in which they would presumably be receiving support from Iran given that Iran would be a fellow liberal democracy). OTOH how to convince a country to give up “secret” nukes and then verifying it would also be very tricky.

In fact, we do know that Israel has a nuclear weapons program and we even have a reasonable estimate on how many and what types of weapons the could have produced.


Sorry I’ve haven’t been online much for the past few days, thank you for the recommendations!

And thanks everyone else for the replies!

This is not a trivial point. There have been multiple incidents that, by doctrine, should have resulted in a mistaken retaliation against a non-existent first strike but some single person or group of people refused.
It is a weird position to be in. If there are a 1000 megaton range warheads headed to the U.S., launching 2000 back will in no way save a single life. In fact it will only make things even worse for any U.S. survivors. So, in that situation, the best thing to do for your country is to not push the button. But every side must act as if they will launch or the whole thing falls apart and nukes will start to be used.

I’ve never been quite sure about the Stanislav Petrov incident, he did not pass information up the chain of command as was his duty, almost certainly someone higher up would have had the same thought processes as he did. Its like a boss of a company telling a more junior employee to let them know when a very important phone call comes in and said employee taking it on themselves to negotiate when it arrives without informing their boss. Even if it all turns out well the boss is rightly going to be angry.

Now Vasily Arkhipov, I believe he has a much better claim as ‘The Man Who Saved The World’.

As for deterrence if I was ever national leader of a recognised nuclear armed state I’d make it perfectly clear that if someone attacked my nation I would not hesitate to vapourise the aggressor down to the bedrock. This would be my public policy. However in the event I would not actually retaliate because at that point deterrence as failed and as you say you’re just ordering the deaths of millions of more people to no real purpose.

This is why I questioned Jeremy Corbyn’s competence to lead after he publicly stated he would not order nuclear retaliation, even if you wouldn’t you don’t tell people that!

If I recall correctly one of the Cold War Prime Ministers admitted once he was safely out of office that he also would not have ordered a retaliatory strike, possibly Edward Heath or Harold Wilson.

Did you ever serve? An order is an order. You follow them, in all cases. Period.

An order to massacre civilians, or to shoot a few of them in the head, would be an illegal order. An order to nuke a city, which would cause collateral damage, is not (automatically) a war crime.

It’s evident you didn’t serve. At least not in the military of a Western democracy. Period.

Former USAF officer

From Dr Strangelove: “Mr. President, we are rapidly approaching a moment of truth…Now, truth is not always a pleasant thing, but it is necessary now to make a choice, to choose between two admittedly regrettable, but nevertheless, distinguishable post-war environments. One, where you got 20 million people killed, and the other where you got 150 million people killed.”