Time Bomb: unmasking nuclear deterrence

In his classic book, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Lawrence Freedman, the dean of British military historians and strategists concluded, “The Emperor Deterrence has no clothes. But he is still Emperor.” Despite his nakedness, this emperor continues to strut about, receiving deference he doesn’t deserve, while endangering the entire world. Nuclear deterrence became a potentially lethal ideology, one that remains influential despite having been increasingly discredited.

Our goal in Time Bomb is to reveal the many ways in which nuclear deterrence is misleading, intellectually bankrupt, strategically incoherent, and lethally dangerous. Superficially, deterrence seems not only acceptable but downright worthwhile, since it seems to offer a route to security, with its promise of keeping the country safe by threatening unacceptable retaliation against anyone who attacks us.

In reality, however, there are many skeletons in the closet of deterrence, which we reveal in Time Bomb. For example, there is no way to cap the size of an arsenal sufficient to provide guaranteed deterrence, which then emerges as an open-ended invitation and mandate to unlimited escalation. Moreover, we shall demonstrate that it is a logical and historical fallacy to claim that deterrence has “worked”; it is more likely, instead, that nuclear war has been avoided in spite of deterrence rather than because of it.

Among the other skeletons to be unmasked are the dilemmas of credibility, of vulnerability (not merely of populations but – even more crucially – of those weapons supposed to provide deterrence), the unjustified reliance on decision-maker rationality, and the many unacceptable violations of basic tenets of ethics and democracy.

Professor David Barash and his wife, Judith Eve Lipton, a retired psychiatrist, are also the authors’ of such published works as “Gender Gap: The Biology of Male-Female Differences”, “Payback: Why We Retaliate, Redirect Aggression”, “The Caveman and the Bomb: Human Nature, Evolution, and Nuclear War”, and more.