How Bargaining Theory has Prevented a Nuclear War?!

In 1960 the British novelist C. P. Snow said (on the front page of New York Times) that unless the nuclear powers drastically reduced their nuclear armaments, thermonuclear warfare within the decade was a “mathematical certainty.” At that time, nobody seemed to think that Mr Snow was exaggerating. Yet, more than 60 years after Hiroshima, the world has managed to escape Mr Snow’s “mathematical certainty” and emerged largely undisturbed by the existence of nuclear arsenal.

The question that remains unanswered is how much longer can we maintain a world without the apocalyptic prophesied nuclear showdown?

Thomas C. Schelling (2005) in his Nobel prize lecture stated that nuclear weapons are unique, and a large part of their uniqueness derives from being perceived as unique. We call any other weapon (regardless of their destructive capabilities) as conventional and use them as though they are legal merchandise in warfare.

In his Nobel prize lecture, Thomas C. Schelling said that the first occasion of the possible use of nuclear arsenal came with the Korean War. The risk of a nuclear showdown increased dramatically when the Chinese army entered the fray and threatened to tip the balance of power.

Similarly in the Vietnam War, the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets, the Falkland War, the Arab-Israeli conflicts, and the Gulf Wars all provided us suspense on whether the world’s nuclear powers would unleash their stored up stockpile of doomsday weaponry. In reality, all these conflicts were fought with only conventional weapons to the very end.

What happened to the nukes after Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

All arguments in the end arrived at a similar conclusion. Once nuclear weapons are introduced into combat, there would be no way to contain, confine, and limit their effects. Nuclear weapons, that are so terribly destructive made a country with nukes think twice before going into war with another country with nukes.

For the first time in history, the military aggressor is faced with the prospect of “winner takes nothing.” Coincidentally and fortunately, this made the world powers so wary about one another that there has been no wars between them ever since the end of World War II. Both the United States and the Soviet Union knew that any nuclear strike would bring a similar nuclear retaliation that would devastate both countries.

In an ironic way, nuclear weapons made the world a more peaceful place.

The same theory of bargaining is prevalent between the United States, Israel, and Iran. Should Iran come to possess (usable) nuclear arsenal, Iran’s influence in the Middle East (and over oil prices) would increase dramatically. They could even blackmail the United States by threatening to sell their warheads to terrorist groups all around the world.

To prevent this, the United States first resorted to the carrot method by offering economic aid, the lifting on trade restrictions, the abolishment of embargoes, promises of foreign investment and etc. As this approach has only succeeded to yielded mild results, both the United States and its buddy Israel is going for the stick approach.

Recently, Israeli warplanes flew deep into Syrian airspace in what became a very provocative show of military superiority. Syria’s ambassador to the United States told Newsweek that the Israeli planes had dropped munitions in the open desert near Dayz az Zawr before fleeing. Although Syria claims it will not tolerate such activities in its airspace, the truth would most probably be that they could not touch Israel’s modern aircraft.

The signal from Israel was clear. Try developing nukes and Israel will strike at suspicious Iranian facilities.

The most recent approach by the United States and Israel occurred when officials from both countries admitted in collaborating to deploy US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel’s fleet of Dolphin-class submarines. These submarines in which Israel have three in their possession would help provide enough leverage to force Iran to back down.

Israel in history have sent warplanes to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 and has strongly hinted that it would do the same against Iranian facilities should US-led diplomatic talks fail. However, the strike on Iraq was against a single target at a relatively near distance from Israel’s borders. Iranian facilities are believed to be scattered across the country and buried deep underground.

Nevertheless, the method of negotiation remains the same. With nuclear submarines near their homeland, both the United States and Israel hopes to keep Iran’s hands from nukes. All we can do is hope that nuclear arsenal is used for the same purposed it has been used for more 60 years, namely, only for influence and a deterrence against war.



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  1. […] Posted by jamesesz on March 22, 2009 How Bargaining Theory has Prevented a Nuclear War?! […]

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