Actually, Nuclear Weapons Are That Good After All

Robert Farley

Key point: A nuclear deterrent does help, but no one needs a ton of them. After all, nuclear weapons are horrific, costly, and unusable.

Overrated” is a challenging concept.  In sports, a player can be “great” and “overrated” at the same time.  Future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, for example, is quite clearly a “great” player, well deserving of the first ballot invitation he will likely receive.  However, as virtually all statistically minded aficionados of the game have noted, he is highly overrated (especially on defense) by the baseball press. Similarly, no one doubts that Kobe Bryant is an outstanding basketball player.  However, many doubt that he is quite as good as his fans (or the NBA commentariat) seem to believe.

The five weapons of war listed below are “overrated” in the sense that they occupy a larger space in the defense-security conversation than they really deserve.  Some of them are fantastic, effective systems, while others are not. All of them take up more ink than they should, and (often) distract from more important issues of warfighting and defense contracting.

Nuclear Weapons:

Nuclear weapons have, in an important sense, dominated international diplomacy for the last six decades. What they haven’t dominated is warfare, where they appear to be nearly useless in all configurations.

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