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The U.S. Nuclear Arsenal: Too Big to Deter?

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Research paper

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The Cold War is over, and most impartial analysts would say the west, and the United States in particular, won the war. During the 45 odd years of that struggle, the two major powers spent themselves dizzy acquiring weapons of previously unimaginable lethality and destructive power. But the abrupt end of the major power stand off which ended with the Soviet Union crumbling finds the United States holding a basket full of eggs that cannot be re-colored for Easter. These eggs currently come in various sizes, but they all may be too large to be of any creditable use in the future. It is the premise of this paper that the current nuclear arsenal of the United States may be too much bang for the buck to serve as a deterrent force in the future. The missions envisioned for these weapons in the past resulted in warheads so large in their destructive power that a future president may feel that to employ them would violate the proportionality dictum of the Just in War principles. If the United States is to retain a creditable nuclear deterrent in the future, a new family of warheads may be required micro-nukes warheads of up to 10 tons, mini-nukes warheads of up to 100 tons, and tiny-nukes warheads of up to 1,000 tons. This assumes that the future holds a Russia and China that do not drive the world political scene into a second Cold War. Working against a future for these new weapons would be a desire on the part of U.S. national leadership to quietly conduct a unilateral nuclear disarmament program.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Nuclear Weapons

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