Fareed Zakaria answers your questions on nuclear weapons
Visitors walk past China's first nuclear missile on display at the Military Museum in Beijing on July 23, 2007. (Getty Images)
March 27th, 2012
10:40 AM ET

Fareed Zakaria answers your questions on nuclear weapons

Hundreds of you have submitted very thoughtful questions for me through FacebookTwitter 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.

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Topics: Iran • Israel • Nuclear • Reader Q&A

soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. AbramsTanker

    Zarkaia.....U R out your mind....does working for CNN liberals make U sleeper Muslim ready to do the bidding of late great Osahamaa BenLaiden or Alahahaaa promise U get 72 virgins? Did he make it even 100 if U can make America take another hit ? We know your agenda.....

    March 28, 2012 at 7:04 am | Reply
  2. jerseybb

    Mr Zakaria is a basket case himself when he thinks Pakistan is one, lol

    March 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply
  3. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Here's what our ISLAMIC SUPPORTER Mr. Zakaria says:

    Zakaria: "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. "

    In reality Pakistan with its SELF DECLARED ISLAMIC BOMB and its nuclear proliferation activities mainly to radical Islamic regimes is MORE FEARED BY THE WEST as the GREATEST THREAT to our survival (at least the way we are today).
    The US is much less worried about the N.Korean nukes and know for a fact that it's all about posturing by the regime only to gain greater acceptance. The US has been able to contain the N.Korean regime by feeding their ego every once in a while, and knows for a fact that they can be eventually persuaded to give up their nukes altogether.

    Zakaria: "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.”
    "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. "

    Mr. Zakaria is ONLY TRYING to MELLOW down the opposition TO FACILITATE IRAN ACQUIRING NUKES. If you have noticed he has NEVER SAID that Iran can't have Nuclear weapons, w/o IN THE SAME BREATH saying that ISRAEL also must give up its nukes. While Israel's nukes have ensured peace in the region by preventing a repeat of the 1967 and 1973 wars when 6 Arab nations simultaneously attacked Israel on a Jewish holiday – "YOM KIPPUR".

    Also he talks about a second strike capability ASTOUNDINGLY WITH NUKES BASED ON SUBMARINES even as the country is totally destroyed and most Israelis are already dead!!!!!!

    And he repeatedly talks about the nuclear détente between US & the former USSR based on the concept of MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) which everyone knows is NOT applicable to radical Islamists who INVITE DEATH, rather than being scared of it!

    In short our ISLAMIC SUPPORTER Mr.Zakaria will STOOP TO ANY LEVEL to let radical Islamic regimes get their hands on nukes………A DREAM HE WILL NEVER GIVE UP!!!!!!!

    March 29, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
  4. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    And to those of my Pakistani and Indian friends who think that Mr. Zakaria is anti-Pakistan & pro-India, he clearly is NOT, HE IS JUST PRO-MUSLIM…. At all times!

    While he does oppose ALL WEST LEANING ISLAMIC REGIMES, he’s careful NEVER to comment on the people and medieval Islamic societies which elect them in the first place or directly & indirectly support their regimes’ actions.

    On the contrary several forward looking reputed, highly enlightened Pakistani Muslims/columnists themselves (e.g. Irfan Husain, Nadeem Paracha, I A Rehman, Kamran Shafi columnists for Pakistan’s #1 daily Dawn, and Pervez Hoodbhoy) bitterly criticize DECAYING INTOLERANT FANATIC Pakistani society and hold them responsible for most of the country’s ills. Just look up Dawn and read any of these enlightened Muslims’ articles be it on Islam, Pakistani/US/Indian societies, Misuse of America’s freedoms by Muslims, Muslim corruption/backwardness etc. and you know what’s ailing Islamic societies, in SHARP CONTRAST to the free societies of the West and India.

    March 29, 2012 at 9:04 am | Reply
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