NUCLEAR ETHICS by Joseph S. Jr. Nye


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A philosophical essay delving into the morality of nuclear weapons. Nye (director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard) has a rare perspective with which to look into such a question. Having been involved in the world of practical politics as a former Deputy Under Secretary of State, as well as the rarefied world of moral philosophy at Oxford, he has truly ""seen the world from both sides now. ""What he sees is a world of advocates of nuclear deterrence squared off against modern-day abolitionists, led by such as Jonathan Schell (The Fate of the Earth). Nye, instead, takes off from the ""just war"" doctrine to posit a ""just defense"" theory. Nye sensibly states that we have several values that may sometimes conflict (freedom or democracy, for example) rather than just the value of survival. ""If we make one value absolute (i.e., life) in priority, we are likely to get that value and little else. ""Nye attacks the anti-nuclear consequentialists such as Todd Gitlin and Schell, who argue based upon the ""gambler's fallacy"" that a series of events is evidence for an increased probability of more such events (being on a roll). Nye, in rebuttal, cites the fact that since 1850, there have ve been many arms races in the world that didn't lead to war, and quotes Paul Schroeder's dictum that ""Murphy's Law does not apply to history. ""Finally, he presents his own five maxims of nuclear ethics: 1) self-defense is a just, but limited cause; 2) never treat nuclear weapons as normal weapons; 3) minimize harm to innocent people; 4) reduce risks of nuclear war in the near term; and, 5) reduce reliance on nuclear weapons over time. Nye is both undogmatic and yet firm in his stand against the excesses of both the realists and the abolitionists. As such, he could provide guidelines for policymakers and helpful guideposts for concerned citizens.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
ISBN: 0029230918
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan