Robert Gentel wrote:
....Nuclear proliferation increases the likelihood of nukes falling into the wrong hands and being used by terrorists and also increases (much less so) the chances of it being used by a state. However the wars that have been fought to prevent acquisition of weapons of mass destruction have resulted in many more people dying than a nuclear terror attack would likely cause....
Here's a hypothetical situation. A dictator may be developing nuclear (or biological) weapons in secret. He denies it, but there is evidence. Pretty much everyone agrees that this dictator is evil and willing to hurt a lot of people to advance his agenda, based on his past acts. For the sake of argument, let's say that the chance he has nuclear and/or biological weapons programs is 50%. Note that I am not referring to the chance that he actually has the weapons but, rather, the chance that he has development programs. Peaceful attempts have been made to persuade him to let UN inspectors verify that he doesn't have these weapons, but he has not cooperated, at least not enough to accomplish the verification. What should the world now do?
For the sake of this hypothetical, I have placed the chance that he is developing these weapons at 50%. Let's say that he actually is developing them. What are the consequences likely to be? In my opinion, here are some things that might happen.
1. He may finish his development program and succeed in creating the weapons.
2. He may have more than one of the weapons and may now begin to amass more and more of them.
3. He may use the weapons and kill hundreds of thousands or millions of people. This would not necessarily be a single event.
4. He may have his people smuggle the weapons in pieces into a country he doesn't like, reassemble them there, and detonate them from within (nuclear explosion or plague) and then deny responsibility.
5. He may give or sell the weapons to terrorists whom he regards as allies.
6. He may use the world's knowledge of his weapons to intimidate neighboring countries to give ground and may even annex (one way or another) his neighbors.
How does this compare with the possible losses from forcibly disarming him or proving that he has no weapons? Something like this situation will probably occur in the future more than once.