Reports, essays, op-eds, etc.
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March 23, 2015 -- The Wall Street Journal
A More Realistic Look at U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy by James Doyle and Ward Wilson — a letter in the Wall Street Journal
In “Why the ’Nuclear Utopians’ Are Wrong” (op-ed, March 16), Keith Payne argues that reductions are unjustified and dangerous. Nonsense.

True realists know that nuclear weapons don’t deter the most likely threats to American security such as political extremism, terrorism, humanitarian disasters, environmental degradation or global financial instability. Realists understand that limited resources must be applied wisely against a full range of threats. Recapitalizing the entire triad and nuclear weapons infrastructure as Mr. Payne advocates is unaffordable and will gut more important investments for our armed forces.

True realists understand that American power and influence will be eroded in a world of more nuclear-armed states and enhanced in one where nuclear weapons have been drastically reduced and marginalized.

Nuclear deterrence is a complex, tightly coupled system prone to human and mechanical error that science tells us will inevitably fail. Its failure could devastate America beyond recognition. True realists seek practical alternatives to this fragile age of “security through the threat of mutual annihilation” and strive to create a more stable and sustainable international order.

Those who believe in nuclear deterrence faithfully argue that these weapons have kept us safe for 70 years and can continue to do so. This is an unrealistic assertion that nuclear weapons have changed human nature—banishing the desire for domination and permanently suppressing our tendency to stumble into conflict.

Nuclear believers are thus more like religious fanatics with a misplaced faith in a weapon that has been shown again and again to have severe, perhaps fatal, limitations.

[The Wall Street Journal is behind a pay wall.]

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March 1, 2015 -- Volume 71, Issue 2, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Why Are There No Big Nuke Protests? by Ward Wilson — Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
“The antinuclear movement has fluctuated between gigantic (in the 1980s) and almost nonexistent (the 1970s, now). What accounts for these remarkable variations? Is it possible to identify the factors that touched off the remarkable surges in participation in the 1960s and 1980s? If it were possible, could such factors be put into play today?”

Full Text (behind a pay wall)

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November 13, 2014 -- Foreign Policy/Democracy Now
The Age of Frustration by Ward Wilson in Foreign Policy/Democracy Now
"There is much about the 1890s that seems disquietingly familiar. Our time echoes theirs.

The period before the First World War was an age of frustration. It was called the Belle Époque by those lucky enough to be the wealthy of Europe — a time of top hats, ennui, and stately promenading. But historian Barbara Tuchman reminds us that there was a frantic, haunted quality to the era as well, what one observer described as a “smell of burning” in the air."

Full Text

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April/May 2014 -- Survival
Debating Nuclear Deterrence by Ward Wilson in Survival — Letters to the Editor
In which I land a few stinging jabs on Bruno Tertrais over his ridiculous review of Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons and he takes a swipe or two at me.

“. . . the review is an entertaining read but does not seriously attempt to engage the arguments of the book. . . . the five myths the book challenges are not straw men . . . The reviewer’s grasp of the Hiroshima scholarship seems uncertain . . . The review leaves important arguments from the book unreported . . . The reviewer, intentionally or unintentionally, repeatedly misleads the reader. . . . One might suspect that the reviewer does not engage fairly with the arguments in the book because he fears to do so. . . . In the case of this review, sound scholarship and serious debate are lacking.“

You can enjoy the brawl here.

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May 19, 2014 -- UPI Op-ed
"Watching events in Ukraine, you might wonder if the Cold War is coming back. Russia annexed Crimea, now some of the eastern parts of Ukraine appear to be shifting into the Russian orbit, and looking into the future, it doesn't take much imagination to picture all of Ukraine dominated by Russia. There is palpable fear in some former Soviet republics and the memory of that dark and dangerous time has sent a chill through European capitals.

Is the Cold War coming back? That's what a number of commentators think, and that has led to the re-emergence (in their minds) of the weapon that kept us safe during the Cold War: nuclear weapons."

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January 28, 2014 -- GCSP Report
Security in a World Without Nuclear Weapons: Visions and Challenges edited by David Atwood and Emily J. Munro, published by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
"The first chapter, by Ward Wilson (United States), presents nuclear weapons as clumsy weapons from a bygone era that in today’s world of new technologies are outdated and impractical. They are not “magic”. Wilson argues that as the perceived value of nuclear weapons becomes debased and the danger of their continued existence becomes increasingly understood, countries will choose not to possess them, nor will nuclear weapons be as attractive to potential cheaters as previously thought. He further argues that the absence of nuclear weapons will not require large changes in structures and institutions, as the impact of these weapons is already greatly overstated."

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December 6, 2013 -- UPI International
Iran's Symbolic Nuclear Weapons by Ward Wilson, published by United Press International.
"TRENTON, N.J., Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Iran recently signed a six-month agreement with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia to enrich less uranium and submit to weapons inspections. In exchange those countries will lift some $7 billion in sanctions.

The agreement is only an interim step limiting Iran’s ability to produce weapons, but lawmakers are already looking for ways to undermine the “dangerous” deal. Israel’s current government, too, has criticized the deal, saying it does not go far enough toward disarming Iran now, and leaves Iran with the ability to build nuclear weapons in short order.

But the danger from Iran’s nuclear arsenal was and is overblown for two reasons. One has to do with the weapons themselves, the other has to do with Iran’s ambitions. An Iranian attack on Israel is far-fetched not because we can trust the Iranians, but because nuclear weapons are not very good weapons. They are so big and blundering that any attack on Israel would create three serious practical problems for Iran."

Full Text

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October 16, 2014 -- BASIC Report
Strengthening Nonproliferation by Ward Wilson, published by the British American Security Information Council.
Strengthening Nonproliferation is an examination of the implications of seeing nuclear weapons as symbols rather than actual weapons. "As the amount of time increases since the last use of nuclear weapons, the likelihood that states will tend to believe that nuclear weapons are primarily symbols rather than weapons will increase. It is necessary, therefore, if we are serious about nonproliferation, to take strong measures to deflate the symbolic value of nuclear weapons." The report was presented at the United Nations in an event chaired by High Commissioner for Disarmament Angela Kane, and included Ambassador Benno Laggner of Switzerland and Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center.

Full text

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September 16, 2013 -- Ethics and International Affairs
The Gordian Knot: Moral Debate and Nuclear Weapons by Ward Wilson, published in Ethics and International Affairs, fall 2013.
"We have the power of choice over nuclear weapons. But we do not feel our power. Instead, we feel their power. They are larger than life. They loom over us, seemingly beyond our control, shrouded in myth and dark mystery. Because of their power and our feeling that nuclear weapons are unique, we believe that these weapons require a special set of moral rules, specially tuned to the separate world where nuclear weapons dwell.

But nuclear weapons require no special morality; ordinary morality, it turns out, is good enough. This is because the powers of nuclear weapons have been grossly exaggerated. It is true that nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons in the history of humankind. And they are certainly the most dangerous weapons that have ever been created. But despite their power, they also have limitations that make them quite ordinary. Indeed, nuclear weapons are not awe-inspiring, epochal, or war-winning, nor are they certain instruments of doom. They are clumsy, muscle-bound, expensive, unhandy weapons with little use except as totems of status. They are very difficult to win a war with—even if you have a monopoly on their use. As a result, what we already know about nuclear weapons is sufficient. We simply have to ask ourselves if it is right to kill innocents unnecessarily. The answer to this question will provide all the guidance we need."

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January 14, 2014 -- The New York Times
The Myth of Nuclear Necessity by Ward Wilson, published by The New York Times.
"FIVE years ago, four titans of American foreign policy — the former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger, the former defense secretary William J. Perry and the former senator Sam Nunn — called for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” giving new momentum to an idea that had moved from the sidelines of pacifist idealism to the center of foreign policy debate.

America’s 76 million baby boomers grew up during the cold war, when a deep fear of nuclear weapons permeated American life, from duck-and-cover school drills to backyard fallout shelters. Then, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan’s leadership, combined with immense anti-nuclear demonstrations, led to negotiations with the Soviet Union that drastically reduced the size of the two superpowers’ nuclear arsenals.

Sadly, the abolition movement seems stalled. Part of the reason is fear of nuclear weapons in the hands of others: President George W. Bush exploited anxieties over nuclear weapons to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq; most Republican presidential candidates last year said they would fight a war with Iran rather than allow it to get the bomb.

There is also a small group of people who still believe fervently in nuclear weapons. President Obama had to buy passage of the New START treaty with Russia, in 2010, with a promise to spend $185 billion to modernize warheads and delivery systems over 10 years — revealing that while support for nuclear weapons may not be broad, it runs deep. That support endures because of five widely held myths."

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