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Rationality Has Saved Us Thus Far

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In the documentary, The Fog of War, Robert McNamara Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968 said, "Rationality will not save us." McNamara argues, "even though we failed, we did behave rationally." Meaning, they acted upon their best evidence and motives, rationally; however, in the end they failed to realize the truth of the matter. Basically, the reason we did not have nuclear war was out of sheer luck. Therefore, McNamara draws the conclusion that rationality had failed them, and therefore it will not save us in the future. Another point that this lesson implies is that classical nuclear deterrence does not work. Nuclear deterrence is based on the rationality of the players. Since rationality is deemed to be unreliable, it would imply that we are all doomed. The problem with this statement is that rationality has been the only thing that has saved us thus far. If rationality was unreliable then we would have been doomed from the start. However, the rationality of nations' leaders has proven to keep us away from a nuclear war. Even though McNamara claims that it was luck that had prevented them from a war, it was the rationality of a former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Llewellyn "Tommy" Thompson, who advised President Kennedy not to attack Cuba. So, in fact, it is rationality that saves us. To further develop this theory we must look at the evolution of the US nuclear deterrent theories and what it is today in regards to new threats.

Currently, the US possesses unquestioned superiority over any potential opponents. However, ever since the 9/11 terrorists attacks up until the present, the US has felt threatened by new opponents, such as non-state based players and rouge nations. In order to protect US national security, the Bush administration has felt the need to pull out of the SALT 1 Treaty and build ABMs. As a result of such an aggressive move, the US has received much criticism. Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly warned against the US building of ABMs, claiming that a new arms race will begin if they continue. However, the Bush administration strongly believes that ABMs are necessary to protect them from missile launch attacks from "irrational" players--meaning rouge nations. With the rouge nations as a threat, it would seem that classic nuclear deterrent fails, since the US claims that the rouge nations' leaders are irrational and would attack the US. However, the likelihood of rouge nations attacking the US is highly unlikely. The rouge nations that appear as a threat to the US would be Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, maybe Syria, and North Korea. The US fears that those nations could possibly launch ICBMs capable of hitting North America. However, according to top-secret U.S. National Intelligence Estimates found that "while many nations are potentially interested in long-ranged missiles, almost none have, or will ever have, the technology or funds to develop them, or to remotely threaten the United States." These rouge nations are rational players that realize the strength and credibility of the US, and what consequences they would safe if they were to attack. Therefore, classic nuclear deterrence is still applicable.

Terrorism seems to disclaim nuclear deterrence since rationality



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