Monday, September 15, 2008

Prisoner's Nuclear Chicken

Again, this is inspired by a conversation I had with a good friend of mine concerning his anarchist views (which he can articulate quite compellingly). Some circuitously we came to the topic of nuclear weapons, inspired by the very comical rant by Matt Damon concerning Sarah Palin. I asked him quite simply, Why do we have nuclear weapons?

I feel that it is pretty clearly established that the launch of a bomb would send the world into the Apocalypse. Even among warhawks brandishing a Manichean perspective of the world, I have trouble believing any individual can believe the hand of God is going to protect the divinely right America when it starts raining sulphur. So if we aren't going to use them, why keep them when any lapse in judgement or strategic attack could end the world?

My friend answered quite quickly, Because we don't trust that the other world powers would also abandon theirs. And I was reminded of the economics experiment conducted in my Ecological Economics course--not the one we discussed, but the one the professor tried right after. It was classic Prisoner's Dilemma, but it failed. After the class became familiar with the benefits they had foregone by not cooperating before, they realized that they could trust each other. Now I hope world leaders have some sense of this. But when the danger of defecting--not only by dropping the A-bomb but simply the risks of holding them--is so high, why do we continue to?

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