The benefits of having nuclear weapons

Published: June 16, 2010

The writer hosts Frontline on Express News (kamran.shahid@tribune.com.pk)

Theorists of both schools of international relations, neo-realist and neo-liberal, agree that the root cause of conflicting relations in the international system is the lack of a ‘central authority’ above nation states. ‘Anarchy’ rules the system and makes cooperation among states impossible. For neo-liberals, ‘anarchy’ can only be overcome and war averted with the establishment of international institutions and ‘recognised regimes’ which constitute the body of laws and norms in order to make defection and breach of agreements less likely and cooperation among states more likely. Realists negate the above argument.

In the political world of realism, states are relatively positioned in accordance with their power and resources, and national security is determined by their ability to defend their citizens and their national sovereignty from external threats. Every state knows that rival states can use their superiority against them. This creates an environment of uncertainty and induces states to go after the ‘relative gains’ even at the cost of peace. Under the rule of ‘anarchy’ due to the lack of a centralised authority, conflicts in international politics remain a pervasive state of affairs whereas cooperation remains a difficult task to achieve.

The above comparison shows that both schools have distinct explanation of wars but both agree that lack of a centralised order, which constitutes the ‘self-help system’ of anarchy, is the root cause of conflicting international relations. One argues that nuclear proliferation is the ‘missing order’ of the international world, which has the potential to overcome anarchy and act as a central unifying force. It functions in two dynamic ways: it secures the borders of a nuclear nation state once and for all and as a consequence of that, discourages wars between, among and against nuclear states. Without spending huge funds on conventional wars this method conveys a sharp message to all small and big monsters that an attack on ‘our’ nuclear security will be punished with such density and speed that it will undermine ‘your’ relative gains. Unlike conventional warfare the speed at which nuclear weapons promise to deliver nuclear destruction has made wars between nuclear states rationally impossible. It raises the stakes too high for war and compels states to resolve their conflicts politically rather than militarily.

If the liberals and realists are in the quest for ‘order’ which can administrate cooperation and peace among states, and prevent the world from conflicts and wars, then one argues that it is this ‘nuclear order’, or nuclear defensive force, which will be the central deterrent authority of the international system. In the presence of this ‘nuclear order’ no state can ‘cheat the international agreements’ (the liberal explanation of wars) nor lust for ‘relative gains’ (realist justification of war). No state will even to think of destroying the security and territorial unity of a nuclear state.

In the short span of 50 years the world has witnessed the gradual but transatlantic spread of nuclear weapons. States like Pakistan and Israel become more desperate to develop nuclear warheads when they have to encounter much stronger enemies in their respective geographical locations. By adopting the nuclear path both states have offset their conventional military weaknesses, made their defences invulnerable and transformed their inferiority to that of nuclear parity with their opponent. States do not acquire nuclear arsenals in order to annihilate their enemies. On the other hand, states are desperate to create a strong nuclear shield in order to avert wars by deterring ‘would-be’ aggressors once and for all.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 16th, 2010.

Reader Comments (23)

  • Zain Nabi
    Jun 16, 2010 - 1:54AM

    Indeed, the nuclear weapon today is the tool of deterrence in the global politics. But for a nation like Pakistan, which have remained a victim of false governess and administration, the question arises that in spite of being a nuclear power how can it improve its international image? We are being known in many parts of the world as international beggars. Even some sections of media have also portrayed the acts of current government as immature and ridiculed it. The people, who know very little about the global politics and advantages of having nuclear weapons, are striving to get their basic rights. Power politics is not the solution for the problems of the people. Talked about securing the geographical boundaries of the nation; who will protect the people from internal violence. These leaders know a very little about mature politics — be it global or international.Recommend

  • Jun 16, 2010 - 2:53AM

    Yes, we have shielded our selves from conventional wars, however remain dangerously vulnerable to unconventional wars, as we can so all around us, as on a daily basis Pakistani citizens are dying left, right and centre. Then again, our nations narrative is based on our great struggle against India, so nuclear weapons at-least make us feel good. Plus they are nice and expensive to develop and maintain, keeps our military-industrial complex up and running. Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 16, 2010 - 2:54AM

    I agree, but military is a tool of policy as Clausewitz puts it. Economic and diplomatic means are enough for a state to impose its will on another. Death from bombs have been replaced by death from hunger and disease.Recommend

  • Gul-e-Zahra Mirza
    Jun 16, 2010 - 6:39AM

    Very well written, i completely agree that nuclear weapons do create a sense of power, and as you said It can compels countries to resolve their conflicts politically, that’s very true i guess India and china are very close and practical examples. Recommend

  • Farukh Sarwar
    Jun 16, 2010 - 1:01PM

    The world has already seen the destruction brought about the deadly nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; this assertion may be true that the nuclear weapons help avoid wars, because of the same fear, but it is not a peaceful way to avoid wars. In presence of UN, an authority that was actually created to keep the matters straight between the member countries, there is no need to pursue these tactics. Recommend

  • Saif ullah
    Jun 16, 2010 - 5:22PM

    Many writers, analysts, philosophers, many more and more had quoted / written many times different theories, literature etc about the said state of world and international relations. But my views are just in One Line, 17 words and 64 characters that is “ In this murky world of espionage, every one is a target whether a friend or a foe”Recommend

  • Andleeb Tafweez
    Jun 16, 2010 - 6:05PM

    Very well written. Having nuclear capability definitely averts war when it comes to having India as a neighbor and America as an opportunist. Presence of a nuclear arsinal ensured that the cold war did not transform into the third world war.The UN with the extreme powers of the five permanent members can hardly be expected to play an unbiased role in the resolution of any conflict.They are good at humanitarian work and that should be the total remit of that organisation.Recommend

  • Sumaira Mazhar
    Jun 16, 2010 - 10:48PM

    Certainly Nuclear weapons have reduced the risk of wars and invasions but its still a point of interest of the super powers. Pakistan is target of these from many years for having nuclear weapons and so facing the dreadful results of terrorism and extremism. I just want to ask our leaders is this nuclear power not good enough to secure our country? If yes then why we are on our knees in-front of power states. Being a nuclear power is itself a strength then why we rely on others. We must realize this and raise our status, so that our coming generations can feel proud and confident. Best regards for writing such a productive and comment-able article.Recommend

  • Umair
    Jun 16, 2010 - 11:07PM

    Intro to Political Science 101, post-midtern sessionRecommend

  • Junaid
    Jun 17, 2010 - 2:42AM

    In the context of this article, I feel the need to draw the attention of columnists towards the futility of United Nation’s endeavors for “Global Peace” by rendering it “free of nuclear arms”. Well, that seems to be a fantastic idea, in fact, a bit too much; but, the important thing is that even NNPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) tends to disturb that very “balance” of power that tends to bring “Global Peace”: it declares that only 5 nations in the world are allowed to keep nuclear weapons (the 5 permanent members of UN security council). In contrast to that, as very recent example, Iran is being pressurized to limits over what actually seems to be a peaceful nuclear program.
    it seems, in a time when no nation seems to give up their developed nuclear assets, there is no logic in treaties like NNPT and stopping the rest of “Non-Nuclear Weapon state (non-NWS) parties” to NNPT from making their own nuclear weapons; maybe, this how a threat of war could be averted and a global order be established through balance of nuclear power.Recommend

  • Sana Naseer Shaikh
    Jun 17, 2010 - 9:01AM

    Gud efforts! I agree with your opinion…Now a days every country has its own nuclear power which may cause of wars or destruction. It’s true that it help for defence purpose but we are not completely free to use it, there are so many limatations… we are bound for america. He controls nuclear power all over the world. Possibly make such stragedies that we are not bound for others. Recommend

  • Ahmed Chattha
    Jun 17, 2010 - 1:26PM

    Absolutely rite SIR…. America and INDIA r nt attacking PAKISTAN bec v r nuclear power if ever we lose this strong weapon they will destroy and will overcome us… So as far as i’m concerned i agree with KAMRAN bahi that v need these weapons this weapon creates a state f fear in our enemies due to which their hands r tied nd they r nt attacking us….. It’s a good thing nd every country must have a nuclear weapon in oreder to protect itself frm it’s enemies…… ALLAH ZAB KO JANNAT NASEEB karay he started this nuclear program due to which nw v r the 7th most powerfull country in the world…Recommend

  • Malik Tabeer
    Jun 17, 2010 - 3:18PM

    Well said Kamran bhai , you doing great job, and that is real journalism
    Best of luck great Recommend

  • ANNY HASHMI
    Jun 18, 2010 - 12:28AM

    **strong text*
    Very well written sir.bur now i believe its really high time for the third world countries to get rid of their poverty and excel their their abilities in education because deaths from bombs is replaced by hunger as we can see what happened in lahore two days back.Recommend

  • Farigh
    Jun 18, 2010 - 2:19PM

    nw v r the 7th most powerfull country in the world
    Really? A country finding it hard to survive is the 7th most powerful one?
    Nuclear deterrence might be good but professional army is the one who executes it. Take a look at the performance of army in protecting the borders of Pakistan. And yes the intelligence agencies are also part of army, and how successfull they are can be easily judged by the series of terrorism attacks in the country and failing to punish even single criminal (Its the duty of agencies to provide enough proof in courts). Recommend

  • Zahra Hassan
    Jun 19, 2010 - 12:24AM

    I feel bad when people say that what is the use of being a Nuclear power when people are dying of poverty. This is what I have been hearing a lot lately and here in some of the comments also I sensed something on the same lines.No denying the fact that social uplift should be the first and the foremost focus but cutting down on our defence budget is not the answer.It should not be an “either or” situation.Both are of equal importance which should be carried on side by side.Pakistan Defence expenditure is almost around 440 billion whereas public sector institutions like PEPCO, PIA and Pakistan Railways enjoy the subsidy of around 250 billion.Moreover Govt corruption estimates vary between 500-1800 billion.These should be addressed first along with expanding the Tax base before thinking about reducing the defence budget to finance the ever rising expenditures.We must realise that our being a nulear power is a blessing which is a must for our survival and it should not be taken for granted.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ali
    Jun 19, 2010 - 6:32PM

    AS SALAM ALAIKUM,
    I do not agree with you that if two countries have a nuclear bomb they will not fight each other as you can take example of Kargil war (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kargil_War) we lost the war.It just happened right after a year when Pakistan tested its nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons do not protect countries border but you have to take great care of nuclear weapons, Pakistan having Nuclear weapons is not safe for ordinary person as vip’s are safeguarded by their ELITE FORCES, in India its nuclear weapons are not save as at least 57 nuclear thefts are already happened their, Israel having nuclear bombs was recently in war with Lebanon, America “super power of world” is fighting with Islamic Jihadis in Afghanistan,Iraq, and now Uncle Sam is worried about its own security. Having a nuclear bomb is not a crystal solution for military problems.Countries having nuclear bombs have safe borders but in countries like Pakistan and India with nuclear bombs you should also have good politicians so that economy of country also rises up.In a country having nuclear bomb and high corruption rate in the world people have right to question ” what is the benefit of having nuclear bomb if we don’t have basic facilities”.
    REGARDS,
    Muhammad Ali.Recommend

  • luqman sharif
    Jun 20, 2010 - 1:41AM

    Well sir good writen.i agree with u .u r doing good job.keep it up.our prayers r with u.thanksRecommend

  • Jun 20, 2010 - 12:04PM

    For im not a defense strategist i cant say what it has effect to our defence strategy and how much has it helped us to bring strategic equality in the region, what i have known from history that we created a mullah factor and extremism as we got in the way uild our neuclear assets, what a recall is Kargill defeat, what i remember is that we lost … See MoreSiachin, and what i know is that we being a neuclear state are depriving of the cheap and environment friendly Electricity which we could have produced from our neuclear abilities. and i know that we have no control on our insider NON STATE ACTORS, and i know that our economy was recently warned to be closed to be BANKRRUPT, really want to be happpy that it is beneficial, lets see is it? if you put it in our scenerio and aks me are neuclear weapons beneficial for Pakistan, i’d tell you, Hell NO!Recommend

  • khufaash
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:08AM

    WELL A COUNTRY WHERE PPL KILL THEMSELVES AND THEIR CHILDREN COZ OF LACK OF FOOD AND OTHER BASIC NECESSITIES, THE MAIN QUESTION TO POSE AND ANSWER IS DO WE NEED A NUKE? OR WE NEED BREADRecommend

  • Yasir
    Jun 22, 2010 - 11:04PM

    Very NIce Column Which you have published in ur News paper.
    TribuneRecommend

  • huda
    Sep 5, 2010 - 8:49PM

    Ur article was Great Pakistan Or if we see through worldwide many of destruction’s are happening & to stop them we need trustworthy people Firstly the securities should be more strict & as a nation we have to work hard for specially as the floods we need more medical Facilities* Recommend

  • Umair
    Sep 7, 2010 - 8:20PM

    I feel that while this article is very well written, it doesn’t convey the struggle of the African-Americans in most of America’s inner cities well enough. I feel the author just doesn’t have any first hand accounts.Recommend

More in Pakistan