By John Dewar
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Extra resources for Nuclear Weapons, the Peace Movement and the Law
Since the large-scale use of nuclear weapons would be clearly illegal, it is argued that it is immoral and unconvincing to base a defence on the threat of such use. Furthermore, it is said, a defensive strategy based on such weapons effectively rules out the actual use of nuclear weapons. The argument for a so-called 'invulnerable' defence system based on Star Wars, to replace the nuclear deterrent, therefore goes hand-in-hand with the proposals for the development of new weapons systems including 'limited' nuclear weapons, whose use can actually be envisaged and planned.
The implications which these authors seek to deduce is that, since it is wrong to base a strategic doctrine on a potential illegal use of weapons, the policy of deterrence based on assured destruction should be 'declaratory' only, and that actual plans should be based on the development, deployment and targeting of weapons which 'should be intended for use only against military objectives and be as discriminate as reasonably possible in their collateral effects upon the civilian population and property' (Builder and Graubard, 1982, p.
The determination and effective preparedness of the nuclear powers to mount an instant all-out nuclear counter-strike the moment it perceives itself to be under nuclear attack must be condemned as an illegitimate threat of force, and is rightly so condemned by the world's peace movement. It is only saved from universal condemnation by the partial political acceptance of the argument that this nuclear readiness does not in practice involve a real threat and that nuclear weapons will in fact never be used.