Nuclear proliferation and the stability-instability paradox
Barretta, Michael A.
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This thesis tests the theory that nuclear proliferation might enhance strategic stability by making the use of military force between possessors of nuclear weapons unlikely. It discusses the existing literature on deterrence and nonproliferation, emphasizing the stability-instability paradox. The stability- instability paradox offers an alternative to the optimism of deterrence logic, which views nuclear weapons as a beneficial and stabilizing force, and the pessimism of nonproliferation, which foresees dire consequences in the spread of nuclear weapons. The paradox is a synthesis of deterrence and nonproliferation logic because it allows for the coexistence of nuclear peace and lower levels of conventional war. Three cases of nuclear rivalry are examined. They are the United States and the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, and India and Pakistan. These cases provide evidence that challenges the Waltzian argument that nuclear weapons enhance international stability by forbidding violent response to confrontations between nuclear-armed states. Nuclear powers that have employable conventional forces at their disposal, a territorial interest at stake, and exist in a condition of nuclear stalemate can, and do, engage in conventional warfare.
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