September 2020

When we think of nuclear weapons, we may think primarily of the Cold War, or of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. We may recall that North Korea threatened to obtain, and eventually obtained, nuclear weapons capability. Yet despite being an issue area that could destroy civilization in day, nuclear weapons policy only rarely intrudes into the public mind.

This probably ought to seem strange; not only are nuclear weapons an extraordinary danger, but the United States is a nuclear superpower, one that deters its rivals in significant part thanks to its stockpile of nuclear weapons. The responsible management of this force—is it possible? And what would it look like? What specifically do nuclear weapons do for U.S. security, and what do they do for other countries, particularly our rivals? And is there any hope that nuclear weapons may one day cease to threaten humanity?

This month’s lead essay is by Eric Gomez, the Cato Institute’s Director of Defense Policy Studies. Joining him to discuss will be Professor Oriana Skylar Mastro¬†of Stanford University and the American Enterprise Institute; Michael Kofman, Director of the Russia Studies Program at CNA; and Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Each has a very different perspective on our topic, and each will have their say this month atCato Unbound. Readers are invited to participate in the comments as well; comments will remain open through the month.

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Lead Essay

  • Eric Gomez argues that U.S. nuclear strategy is due for a reconsideration. As the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons undergoes modernization—a process that will take more than a decade—the time is right for rethinking what we should be doing with them. Gomez argues against relying too heavily on nuclear deterrence, which increases the risk that nuclear weapons will be used and makes them more attractive to countries that lack them.

Response Essays

Coming Up

Discussion through the end of the month.