Hundreds of you have submitted very thoughtful questions for me through Facebook, Twitter and my blog. Here is my response to the question: When countries acquire nuclear weapons, don't they become more emboldened on the world stage?
Nuclear weapons don’t create some kind of magical change of geopolitical position. Do they provide you with some additional sense of immunity and power? Probably they do because it becomes unlikely that the United States is going to invade. But in the case of Pakistan, there was no such guarantee with regards to what India’s actions were going to be.
Does anyone really thing that North Korea or Pakistan are regarded as fearsome adversaries, countries to emulate, countries with great influence in the councils of the world? No. They are regarded as basket cases - failed states that are dangerous largely because they are unstable and are run by irresponsible governments that are willing to do destabilizing things in their region. The result is they are more watched, cordoned off and contained then ever before.
If you acquire nuclear weapons as part of a broader modernization of your society as in the cases of China and India, that’s one thing. If you’re basically a dysfunctional state in which nothing is working and you by hook or by crook manage to produce a few crude nuclear weapons without effective delivery systems, which is the case in North Korea, that's quite another. Having nuclear weapons doesn't turn North Korea into some kind of arbiter of power politics in Northeast Asia. North Korea remains the dysfunctional basket case that it was. As with Pakistan, the great fear about North Korea is that the country will implode. That’s sort of power in that everybody pays attention to you but it’s not really the kind of power nations are looking for.
Here is my response to the question: Should Israel admit to having nuclear weapons?
Israel has gained a great deal by not having a declared nuclear weapons program even though everybody knows they have a very robust one. They have “second-strike capability," which is important in the jargon of nuclear deterrence. It means that even if somebody were to attack Israel with nuclear weapons, Israel could carry out a second strike and respond because some of its nuclear weapons are on submarines. Thus, it would never make sense to attack Israel because you would never be able to prevent that retaliatory response.
If there were to be credible evidence that a country like Iran had nuclear weapons - and I think we’re a long way off from that - it might well make sense for Israel to remind the world publicly that it does have nuclear weapons and that it does have the survivable second-strike capacity. It would be sending a signal to Iran saying, “Don’t even think about using them on us because we can nuke you back and we could nuke you back even if your weapons destroyed Israel.” It is this logic that makes the Iranians understand they would be destroyed and would deter them just as it deterred the Soviets, Mao, the Pakistanis and the North Koreans.