Today’s EconTalk features Bruce Bueno de Mesquita of NYU on the political economy of Iranian leadership. The podcast is both informative and provocative (as usual).
Bueno de Mesquita brings up an interesting idea he first posited in 1982 article with William Riker. If, as we found out during the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction (MAD) is a deterrent to “hot” war, then we really should support conflicting nations’ quest for nuclear arms. As has been observed recently, since both India and Pakistan have conducted nuclear tests, the two nations have been much more intentional about pursuing peace, particularly in the Kashmir region. The real reason the US government opposes nuclear proliferation, Bueno de Mesquita alleges, is that it wants the position of the world’s policeman, so that it can gain influence on and concessions from nations that need us.
I’m not sure that handing out nukes like candy will solve the world’s problems. Then again, I am in favor of less restrictive concealed-handgun legislation. But a handgun in the hands of a nut, while dangerous, does not pose the same kind of threat that a nuke would. MAD only works as a deterrent if self-destruction bothers both parties involved. Bueno de Mesquita would probably say that the leaders of Iran and other countries who want nukes could only have gotten to the top of their governments by being rational; therefore, we have less to fear than we think.