chapter  1
29 Pages

The Western Debate I

WithPhil Williams

The 1980s have seen an intensified breakdown of the consensus among Western public opinion regarding the legitimacy of nuclear deterrence, particularly in the wake of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty. Since the late 1970s, there has been a profound shift in attitude toward nuclear weapons among segments of public opinion within North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries and among some members of the policymaking elites. The most important assumption of the existentialist school of thought is that nuclear weapons have profoundly modified the conflictual behavior of states and that this effect is independent of the precise strategies of nuclear deterrence adopted by die nuclear powers. The reformer school of thought contains a mixed assessment of the utility of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons can be considered a menace to national security rather than a generalized menace to peace. In France, there is a much broader consensus regarding nuclear weapons than exists in any allied country.