What’s the one sentence takeaway from the unfolding Ukraine mess? Don’t give up your nukes! It’s unlikely that any of this would be happening if Ukraine had retained their nuclear weapons instead of turning them in for the magic beans of “international guarantees.” It would be interesting to review the anti-nuke sales pitches made to Ukrainian officials; I’m guessing large undisclosed deposits were made to key bank accounts because such stupidity is hard to reconcile otherwise.
Nuclear weapons are so icky and evil that enlightened beings pine for a nuke free world. Why? Because the world before nukes was just so peachy wonderful! Surely you remember that awesome world, great states only marched off to world wars every generation or so. The strong never rolled over the weak, and we all lived in peace and prosperity. OK, I’m being sarcastic about peace and prosperity, but consider this, since the advent of nuclear weapons, there have been no, great state vs. great state, major wars.  The simple truth is: nuclear weapons have done more for world peace than all the naïve treaties, peace conferences and marches ever held.
War, despite the propaganda to the contrary, is a fundamentally rational undertaking. There’s a famous line in the movie Patton. While watching a long line of trucks and armored vehicles roll over Sicilian countryside the great general declares that all human achievements pale in comparison to war. Before getting your peacenik panties in an indigent bloodstained bunch think about what this means. It’s an irrefutable historical fact that humans have invested enormous amounts of time and energy planning and executing wars. Some wars are accidental but most are planned, and here’s the surprisingly bit, many of the plans make perfect business sense. If you can crush an opponent and advance your interests with acceptable losses what’s going to stop you: international law, naïve new age dolts, human decency, the UN? How about nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons have pushed losses beyond acceptable and that is the only reason great states have not directly engaged in the last seventy years.
Unfortunately, the old world of a few nuclear states and a naïve non-proliferation treaty is unwinding. It was pretty frayed before the Ukraine crisis but now it’s dead. Any state that depends on a nuclear armed ally coming their rescue is reconsidering. Can Japan depend on the US to back it up in a conflict with China? What about Australia? Even Canada has to wonder if anyone has their back in the arctic. In the years ahead we are going to see a rash of new nuclear powers. I doubt these new powers will be stupid enough to detonate bombs in the open. Most will follow the Israeli model: acquire the ability but never officially disclose it. I suspect Iran is already a member of this club simply because US intelligence, (don’t make me laugh), says otherwise. The world is going to get a lot more scary but don’t worry you can only die – in excruciating pain — once.
1. There have been dozens of great state vs. small state and hundreds of small state vs. smaller state wars but no nuclear powers, even relatively crazy ones like Pakistan and India, have come to nuclear blows. I predict that when Iran shows nuclear instead of nuking Israel it will suddenly find reasons not to. There’s nothing like immediate annihilation to clear the mind.