Nuclear vanities

November 13, 2007

The death of Paul Tibbets earlier this month has reignited the debate on nuclear weapons. The familiar debates are rehearsed by the usual participants.

But we are still no clearer, it seems, to fathoming the rationale behind these bombs. What sinister magnetism makes nations – and their leaders – prize them so dearly?

Oliver Kamm tries to solve this conundrum in The Times today. His final answer runs along strategic lines: “it is the uncertainty of an anarchic international order that has persuaded British governments to maintain the deterrent”.


This solution is easy enough to arrive at. Political commanders, we reasonably assume, make their decisions based on considerations of defence and (most terrifyingly) attack.

In this game of high stakes, however, strategy is only ever a secondary consideration. Like every lonely gambler betting on instinct, these men are putting the house down on nothing more than vanity.

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