Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More Pakistan nukes a third-order concern

There were several stories last week about the likelihood that Pakistan is building more nuclear weapons, and a number of congresscritters have wondered whether the military aid extorted from U.S. taxpayers was going to build more nukes rather than for building up counterinsurgency capability -- the mission the U.S. wants to impose on Pakistan though India remains Pakistan's major military concern. As this Register editorial notes, however, money is fungible, and if the U.S. really wants Pakistan not to use our money to build nukes it should cut military aid to zero -- not a bad idea anyway. But truth to tell, whether Pakistan is building more weapons is a silly thing to worry about. They have them and so does India, and a few more won't change the balance of terro.

I worry less about nuclear weapons than most people largely because I was influenced by the eminent political scientist Kenneth Waltz, who made a strong case some decades ago that possession of nuclear weapons is not only possible only in a fairly advanced country (technologically), but it imposes constraints as much as it opens temptations to use them aggressively. I explained myself in more detail a few years ago here. India and Pakistan has behaved as Kenneth Waltz predicted nuclear powers would -- two countries that had had three wars since 1947 and for the most part really despise one another have managed to avoid war despite the ongoing border clashes in Kashmir and plenty of temptations.

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