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An Ongoing Debate

A.J. Majumdar

By Sudha Raman
Manas Publications, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 242, Rs. 495.00


The concept of nuclear deterrence has proved to be a baffling enigma. Very often perceived in many different ways and despite all theoretical challenges and analytical condemnation—it survives. As the reverie of a nuclear weapons-free world fades by the day, there is hardly any alternative to nuclear deterrence, especially in the absence of an effective nuclear coordination arrangement among states. With the passage of time, strategies change and transform to keep pace with changing political scenarios and the economic and technological abilities of the actors, and predominant perceptions and beliefs of the day. The inherent essential components remain though new shades and hues can be detected in the original version.   Sudha Raman has juxtaposed nuclear deterrence with the doctrine of just war. The title of the volume is arranged in such a way that it may raise the suspicion whether nuclear strategy itself is equivalent to the doctrine of just war but Raman’s analysis follows the predictable path as she concludes with a quotation that announces in no uncertain terms that nuclear weapons actually explode the theory of just war. Deterrence however is not a war-fighting doctrine. Apparently, its task is to prevent an all-out nuclear warfare based on threats of unacceptable damage. For some, nuclear weapons thus viewed are actually the ‘weapons of peace’. Just war theorists have never had anything like this so far to grapple with and traditional prescriptions fall short of convincing responses.   Raman begins with a chapter on nuclear deterrence followed by another chapter on nuclear targeting and records the evolution of the concept and its modifications in the Cold War period. As arguments are arrayed in favour of and against nuclear deterrence and war-fighting doctrines, the basic paradoxical feature of nuclear deterrence is revealed: nuclear weapons are necessary to prevent the use of nuclear weapons. In the subsequent chapters, Raman initiates a study of the evolution of the doctrine of just war and compatibility of deterrence with the just war doctrine. The bulk of the work is confined to the Cold War structure of nuclear deterrence and glides into President Reagan’s first term in power which was a period of massive rearmament and a hostile campaign against the then Soviet Union. The uneasy apprehension of the imminent Armageddon reigning in the early 1980s instigated anti-nuclear freeze movements and the nuclear debate gained extraordinary momentum even in the public sphere.   Of great ...

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