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Nuclear deterrence is a doctrine that is used as a justification by nuclear weapon states and their allies for the continued possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons. 

Nuclear deterrence is the threat of a nuclear strike in response to a hostile action.  However, the nature of the hostile action is often not clearly defined, making possible the use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of circumstances.

Nuclear deterrence threatens the murder of many millions of innocent people, along with severe economic, climate, environmental, agricultural and health consequences beyond the area of attack.

Nuclear deterrence requires massive commitments of resources to the industrial infrastructures and organizations that make up the world’s nuclear weapons establishments, its only beneficiaries.

Despite its catastrophic potential, nuclear deterrence is widely, though wrongly, perceived to provide protection to nuclear weapon states, their allies and their citizens.

Nuclear deterrence has numerous major problems:  

  1. Its power to protect is a dangerous fabrication. The threat or use of nuclear weapons provides no protection against an attack.
  2. It assumes rational leaders, but there can be irrational or paranoid leaders on any side of a conflict.
  3. Threatening or committing mass murder with nuclear weapons is illegal and criminal.  It violates fundamental legal precepts of domestic and international law, threatening the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people.
  4. It is deeply immoral for the same reasons it is illegal: it threatens indiscriminate and grossly disproportionate death and destruction.
  5. It diverts human and economic resources desperately needed to meet basic human needs around the world.  Globally, approximately $100 billion is spent annually on nuclear forces.
  6. It has no effect against non-state extremists, who govern no territory or population.
  7. It is vulnerable to cyber attack, sabotage, and human or technical error, which could result in a nuclear strike.
  8. It sets an example for additional countries to pursue nuclear weapons for their own nuclear deterrent force.

Its benefits are illusory. Any use of nuclear weapons would be catastrophic.

Nuclear deterrence is discriminatory, anti-democratic and unsustainable. This doctrine must be discredited and replaced with an urgent commitment to achieve global nuclear disarmament. We must change the discourse by speaking truth to power and speaking truth to each other.

Before another nuclear weapon is used, nuclear deterrence must be replaced by humane, legal and moral security strategies.  We call upon people everywhere to join us in demanding that the nuclear weapon states and their allies reject nuclear deterrence and negotiate without delay a Nuclear Weapons Convention for the phased, verifiable, irreversible and transparent elimination of all nuclear weapons.

Initial Signers: Participants in The Dangers of Nuclear Deterrence Conference, hosted by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Santa Barbara, February 16-17, 2011.

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D., Director, Office of the Americas
Theresa Bonpane, Founding Director, Office of the Americas
John Burroughs, Ph.D., Executive Director, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy
Jacqueline Cabasso, Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation
Kate Dewes, Ph.D., Co-Director, Disarmament and Security Centre, New Zealand
Bob Dodge, M.D., Coordinator, Beyond War Nuclear Weapons Abolition Team
Dick Duda, Ph.D., founding member, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation – Silicon Valley
Denise Duffield, Associate Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles
Richard Falk, J.S.D., Chair, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Commander Robert Green (Royal Navy, ret.), Co-Director, Disarmament and Security Centre, New Zealand
David Krieger, Ph.D., President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Robert Laney, J.D., Secretary, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Steven Starr, Senior Scientist, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Rick Wayman, Director of Programs, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Bill Wickersham, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor of Peace Studies, University of Missouri