A Year on…

It’s a year since the United Nations decided to adopt a Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons but so far the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are showing no signs of being willing to renounce their nuclear weapons.

Deterrence is generally understood to mean: “Dissuasion of a potential adversary from initiating an attack or conflict, often by the threat of unacceptable retaliatory damage.”  However, the Bible has little to say about deterrence and much more to say about trusting in God…


So how is it flawed?

Firstly, if deterrence is such an effective concept why wasn’t the mere threat of dropping atom bombs enough to make the Japanese surrender without the United States then going on to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The concept of deterrence was promoted throughout the Cold War but what kind of “peace” was it that provoked the superpowers into a horrendously expensive and dangerous arms race?

An often neglected but important factor to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was the US earlier deployment of Jupiter ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey thus threatening the USSR.

The deployment of US cruise and Pershing missiles in the 1980s was in response to USSR’s SS20 missiles but did anyone ever ask why would the Soviet Union want to invade and occupy Western Europe – a vast populated area that would prove to be very difficult for them to govern?


Deterrence is not a matter of certainty but rather of speculation.

Deterrence is only a theory, that cannot be proven or disproven.

Deterrence requires a commitment to inflict “unacceptable retaliatory damage” but how much is enough and what would be excessive? When one side makes weapons that are bigger, faster or more accurate then the other side inevitably feels compelled to go even further; thus generating a nuclear arms race.

The situation may be fairly stable during peacetime (apart from the constant risk of accidents and misjudging the enemy’s intentions) but during periods of strained relations there’s a strong temptation for the weaker side to launch a pre-emptive strike.  Again the concept of deterrence clearly has some serious flaws.

Finally, the idea of nuclear deterrence ensures that the United States, the UK, France, China and Russia remain as the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.  For decades these five nations have been promising to work towards disarmament and prevent proliferation.  Progress has been painfully slow.

One might even conclude that if these five nations, believe their security depends on possessing nuclear weapons then why can’t Iran, North Korea or any other country enjoy the same benefits?  The answer of course is that an accident, miscalculation or conventional war could easily escalate into an unstoppable chain reaction that has potential to destroy nearly all life on Earth.


A New Approach?

The concept of nuclear deterrence is badly flawed and needs to be replaced with a new approach. I wonder why the UK still hasn’t taken a lead by being the first to unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons? Surely we can do much more to reduce the risk of war by promoting interdependency of trade; appreciation of different cultures and cultivating a genuine desire to seek the common good of all the Earth’s inhabitants; including all God’s creatures great and small.



Contributed by Arthur Champion who serves as a vicar in the Cotswolds.  Previously he was employed for 30 years as health, safety and environmental manager for a multinational insurance company.  He is a member of Christian CND. 

Cartoon: The cartoon is from “As Lambs to the slaughter” by Rogers, Dando and Van Den Dungen (1981)




Disclaimer: This blog is intended to provide a space for people associated with APF to express their own personal views and opinions in order to promote discussion of issues relating to peacemaking and pacifism  It is not necessarily a place where the official views of APF are expressed.

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