April 10, 2006


This is an expansion of a comment of mine to this post which deals with the Catholic Church and nuclear weapons.. Ethan posted this in a comment:

Actually, the Catechism is a little broader than you're thinking. This from paragraph 2315:

2315 The accumulation of arms strikes many as a paradoxically suitable way of deterring potential adversaries from war. They see it as the most effective means of ensuring peace among nations. This method of deterrence gives rise to strong moral reservations. The arms race does not ensure peace. Far from eliminating the causes of war, it risks aggravating them. Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples. Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict and increases the danger of escalation.

I think the Church is on the wrong tack here, though it is just following "conventional wisdom." The CW in this case is so exceedingly conventional that it is almost impossible for most people to escape it. If you challenge, them they just think you are talking nonsense.

But in fact, nuclear weapons are the greatest force for peace in the world (or possibly the second-greatest, after globalization.) They have put an end to global war, to regional wars, and pretty much to war between nation states. Certainly between developed states, which could if desperate, produce nukes even if they did not have them at the start of the war.

"Far from eliminating the causes of war." But nuclear weapons, and the massive conventional armaments of the Free World do just that. The main cause of war is aggression by evil states and dictators. None of them so far have risked it. And even more important, that aggression is almost always abetted by other nations, who allow situations to develop out of sloth or complicity. The threat of nuclear war (either facing nukes or having to decide to use them) concentrates minds wonderfully.

"Spending enormous sums to produce ever new types of weapons impedes efforts to aid needy populations; it thwarts the development of peoples..." Actually, just the opposite has happened. Much of the development and prosperity in our world is a by-product of the Cold War. The United States (and its allies) bustled around being "policemen" in odd corners of the world, because they feared that conflicts could escalate or spread, and because failing to check communist aggression might act like the appeasement that led to WWII. But our presence allowed nations like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Chile to flourish in an environment of safety, growing their economies and developing democratic institutions.

I'm sure someone is about to leap in now and denounce our horrid bombing of Japan. But that was actually a great mercy, which brought to an immediate end a bloody war, and almost certainly saved millions of lives. America-hating leftists love to detach Hiroshima from its context, and present it as some sort of meaningless slaughter. In fact it occurred in the midst of of desperate battle, with Japan under a relentless air attack that killed far more people than the nukes did. And Japan still had several million men under arms, almost all of whom would have fought to the death if ordered. And we were preparing huge forces for the invasion of Japan, which, if the invasion of Okinawa is any indication, would have been one of the most destructive events in human history.

"Over-armament multiplies reasons for conflict." I've never seen any evidence for this. And it does not make any logical sense. (I think it is a leftover from the CW after WWI, which held that the war was caused by "Merchants of Death," etc. Which is historical nonsense.) And we've seen cases where the opposite is true. America was forced into WWI precisely because we did not arm, causing Germany to calculate that unrestricted sub warfare would win the war before America could build forces big enough to make a difference. (It was a very close thing, but under-estimating the USA is always a mistake.)

And there is one other thing. I think about this often, and I've never heard anyone else mention it. The timing of the invention of the Atomic Bomb was almost strangely fortunate. A little earlier, and WWII would have been a "nuclear war." A little later, and we would not have ended that war with the terrible lesson of destruction that was Hiroshima. We might have been much less careful with nuclear weapons.

Posted by John Weidner at April 10, 2006 10:00 PM
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