Skip to content

The Nuclear Domino Myth

September 15, 2010

Johan Bergenas in Foreign Affairs:

When considering the dangers of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, those who differ on political ideology find rare common ground. According to nearly everyone, if Iran develops nuclear weapons, its neighbors will inevitably do so, too. Former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), for example, said earlier this year, “The governments of the world must understand what a threat it is if the Iranians get nuclear weapons, because there are probably 10 other countries in the Middle East over the next 10 to 20 years that would follow down that road.” U.S. policymakers from John Bolton, the conservative former U.S. ambassador to the UN, to Vice President Joe Biden all seem to agree with this dark prediction.

But there’s one problem with this “nuclear domino” scenario: the historical record does not support it. Since the dawn of the nuclear age, many have feared rapid and widespread nuclear proliferation; 65 years later, only nine countries have developed nuclear weapons. Nearly 20 years elapsed between the emergence of the first nuclear state, the United States, in 1945, and the fifth, China, in 1964.

The next 40 years gave birth to only five additional nuclear countries: India, Israel, South Africa, Pakistan, and North Korea. South Africa voluntarily disarmed in the 1990s, as did Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. After Israel developed a nuclear weapons capability in the late 1960s, no regional nuclear chain reaction followed, even though the country is surrounded by rivals. Nor was there even a two-country nuclear arms race in the region. [More]

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s