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Experts debate benefits of nuclear disarmament

KAYLA MULLEN | Wednesday, October 30, 2013


More than 60 years after they were used in World War II, nuclear weapons still play a crucial role in foreign policy and the issue of nuclear disarmament is increasingly becoming a topic of contention.

Last night in the Andrews Auditorium of Geddes Hall professors David Cortwright and Sebastian Rosato faced off in a debate titled, “A Nuclear Exchange: Does the World Need the Bomb?” 

Professor Cortwright, director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and former executive director of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, argued in favor of nuclear disarmament and Professor Rosato, associate professor of political science and director of Notre Dame’s International Security Program, argued against nuclear disarmament.

In the debate, each professor had 10 minutes to defend their position, followed by a three-minute rebuttal from the other professor. After this debate the floor was opened to the audience for questions.

Cortwright began his argument by stating that disarmament would eliminate the threat of nuclear war. He also said disarming increases a country’s international standing.

“Disarmament is good for security. Those who give up nuclear weapons increase their standing in the world,” Cortwright said.

Disarmament lessens political tensions, facilitates policy cooperation and diminishes the risk of nuclear war, Cortwright said. He said the concept of mutually assured destruction as a deterrence to war is invalid.

“Nuclear deterrence did not prevent war nor will it in the future,” Cortwright said.

The only completely guaranteed option the world has to maintain peace is to disarm all nuclear weapons, Cortwright said. 

“Disarmament is the most sustainable form of peace,” Cortwright said.

This disarmament process would be long, but could be achieved by international cooperation, arms agreements and strict inspections, Cortwright said. A crucial step will be the U.S. agreeing to disarm.

“However, the United States cannot support disarmament while holding nuclear weapons; it is like preaching Prohibition from a bar stool,” Cortwright said. 

Rosato began his defense by declaring that nuclear weapons are instruments of peace. He said nuclear weapons provide security to the nations that possess them.

“The core logic of nuclear weapons is security,” Rosato said.

The possession of nuclear weapons by all creates peace through deterrence, Rosato said. A country will not attack another country if they are aware of the consequences that will result from that attack. Thus, no one will attack a country with nuclear arms since the consequence would be mass destruction, Rosato said.

“You introduce nukes, you end wars,” Rosato said.

Other topics touched on in the debate included the possibility of accidental nuclear use, consequences of terroristic organizations obtaining nuclear weapons and the realistic chances of disarmament occurring in the world.