Nuclear Politics in the Modern World


Nuclear politics encompasses an essential aspect of a state’s approach to using nuclear weapons in case of war. The nature of nuclear weapons implies large-scale destruction, meaning that one must thoroughly consider all decisions regarding the use them. The article by Jervis titled “Why Nuclear Superiority Doesn’t Matter” presents two distinct strategies for using nuclear weapons.

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In the article “Three Tweets to Midnight: Nuclear Crisis Stability and the Information Ecosystem,” published by the Stanley Foundation, the modern information ecosystem and its connection to decision making during a nuclear crisis is discussed. This paper aims to compare and contrast the viewpoints on nuclear politics expressed by Jarvis and the Stanley Foundation, explore the theoretical approach used by both authors, and determine which strategy is better.

Overview of the Articles

In the article “Why Nuclear Superiority Doesn’t Matter,” the author explores two main approaches to using these weapons in case of a war – Assured Destruction (AD) and Flexible Response (FR). Jarvis explains that the first strategy implies using nuclear weapons available to the United States military forces to destroy the cities of the enemy fully (617). Alternatively, the proponents of the FR approach argue that there are contingencies, which the United States cannot anticipate, therefore the use of weapons should be limited.

The Stanley Foundation focuses on the issue of contemporary media, which provides access to information more rapidly than ever before, but is also subjected to bias and false information. The politicians can interact with the state’s citizens and observe their reactions using social media platforms, and because of this, the Stanley Foundation argues that their decision-making may be affected in the case of a nuclear war (1). Interstate actors can disseminate news that contains misinformation, and paired with the velocity of the dissemination, such falsification poses a danger in case of a nuclear war. Notably, this memo is concluded with a statement that many unanswered questions need to be addressed. In this regard, the approach taken by Jarvis is better since it offers a clear framework for action and decision-making.

In essence, the main focus of Jarvis is on what elements and factors the decision-makers have to consider when choosing a nuclear defense strategy. The destructive nature of these weapons as well as the time during which they can cause destruction suggests that the number of weapons and other military elements of the state is not as relevant as before. For example, in the case of demonstration attacks, the size of the state, its missiles, and their quantity is not essential, meaning that the military force and its vulnerability are not relevant (Jarvis 620).

Alternatively, the counterforce war of attrition implies that the consideration of the other side’s capability to respond and damage the military defense of the enemy matters. This article provides an understanding of the fact that choosing a nuclear policy for a state is a complicated matter in the contemporary world, where the size of a military force is not an essential component for victory.

Similar to the other article, the Stanley Foundation considers the information that the decision-makers examine when developing a nuclear weapon use strategy. However, due to the fact that this article was published in 2016, it examines the elements of the decision-making process that is more relevant to modern society. The misinformation and the time necessary to refute it pose a severe danger to the adequate assessment of the nuclear threat.

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Theoretical Approach

A theoretical approach allows scholars to examine the problem and anticipate the possible issues that can arise in the future, allowing them to develop a framework for action. The main question that requires a theoretical exploration in the context of nuclear weapons is how a state, in this case, the United States, should use these weapons if such a necessity arises. The theoretical approach used by Jarvis emphasizes the two already existing theories of nuclear weapon use – AD and FR.

The aim of this article is to examine the view of war as a threat of destruction. From this perspective, the advances in weapon development and the expansion of military capabilities are not as significant as before. Thus, the objective is to make certain that the territory of the state does not undergo severe destruction, which in the case of a war between nuclear states is possible.

In the context of the AD, the central aspect is that the quality and quantity of the weapons that an army possesses do not matter, as long as the enemy can destroy the state’s cities. Jarvis refers to this as a full capability and states that “when security comes from the absolute capability, each side can gain it simultaneously” (618). Therefore, when adopting the AD viewpoint in regards to nuclear policies, one can argue that the initiation of a nuclear war is unlikely due to the prospect of absolute destruction.

In contrast, the FR approach focuses on the stability-instability paradox, suggesting that in instances when even small nations can access nuclear weapons, the United States has to consider all contingencies when making the final decision (Jarvis 619). This is because the relative power they possess can still cause significant harm to the United State’s cities and defense structures.

It can be argued that Jarvis explores the politician’s decision-making in the context of a possible nuclear war. In this context, the decision-makers have to consider all aspects of the nuclear launch, including a lack of real-life testing and the hostage cities’ safety subjected to an attack in response. In the article, Jarvis points out a variety of contexts, which require further consideration and examination to determine the correct strategy for nuclear politics.

The memo written by the Stanley foundation adopts an approach of a multidisciplinary discussion of the modern information ecosystem and its impact on the decision-making process of politicians, specifically in the case of a nuclear war. The main question reviewed in this memo is the change that occurred in the field of communication technology, allowing for quick dissemination of information. However, this is not the only aspect of discussion relating to the use of nuclear weapons, because social media is a distinct part of many people’s life, including politicians. In this environment, developing and promoting false information is easier than in traditional media.

As described in the memo, “social media make it vastly easier, faster, and cheaper for interested parties—individuals, politicians, political entities, intelligence agencies, and news media, among others—to spread information and mis/disinformation” (Stanley Foundation 1). Hence, in their memo, the Stanley Foundation aims to explore the possible impact of the modern media on decision-making in case of a nuclear war.

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The main issue that arises in the domain of technology and nuclear politics is the number of opportunities to deliver specific information to a global audience. As the Stanley Foundation points out, the advertisement capabilities of social media allow for a precise segmentation of users (2). The danger of this approach is in the fact that no censorship that would allow dismissing false information exists, and the advertisers can choose the audience that will understand the promoted ideology. Therefore, this memo highlights the fact that people are subjected to bias in regards to the information they consume. They are inclined to dedicate attention to messages that support their beliefs, either ideological or political. With the widespread use of social media, any entity can leverage this cognitive bias and disseminate false information that will benefit it.

Therefore, the theoretical approach explored by the Stanley Foundation reveals that the politicians responsible for making decisions in the case of a nuclear war will be subjected to the disruption of the information ecosystem. The journalism standards that protect the truth and the perception of public support are affected by modern communication systems, and it is unclear how this aspect will impact the politicians and their decision-making. Understanding this is especially important because the policymakers are unable to address the rapid changes within the information environment (Stanley Foundation 3). This suggests that it is unclear how the politicians will be affected by social media and the impact of this interaction on nuclear policies.


The introduction of nuclear weapons changed the perception of wars, their destruction capability, and had an impact on the factors considered during the decision-making process relating to these wars. According to Jarvis, “the nuclear revolution cannot be undone” (631). In this context, the approach to examining the enemy’s capabilities in terms of military force and advanced nuclear weapon technology is not as relevant. Jarvis concludes that these considerations are essential only in case of a war of attrition, which is an unlikely scenario (631). Therefore, the anticipation of destruction enabled by the other side is a more relevant factor than the size of the enemy’s military force.

The significance of the author’s findings is reflected in the improved understanding of the underlying context of the decision-making for nuclear politics. Using Jarvis’ findings, one can conclude that the consideration of a nuclear strike, especially in the form of AD, has to consider a complex variety of factors and responses, for instance, the ability to destroy the strategic forces. According to Jarvis, “it is easier for a state to convince the other side that it will fight to hold what it has” (632). This approach is necessary because of the prospects of severe destruction of cities that can be caused by a military strike.

As was previously noted, although the Stanley Foundation successfully explores the question of the global information ecosystem, they do not conclude with a definite answer. The significance of the findings is primarily the questions developed by the Stanley Foundation that can help understand the relationship between nuclear policy and media. Moreover, this memo outlines the importance of stabilizing actors, which are entities responsible for checking the information. Therefore, this memo outlines some of the prospects highlighting the development of information sharing systems in the context of nuclear decision-making.


The relevance of the article by Jarvis is impaired because it was published in the 1970s, and mainly focuses on the prospects of conflict with the Soviet Union. In this regard, the memo by the Stanley Foundation is more relevant as it considers the modern environment and its specifics, more specifically, the information system disruptions. However, Jarvis highlights some of the essential elements that affect the decision-making process of people responsible for nuclear weapons. When combined with the conclusions made by the Stanley Foundation, one can fully understand the decision-making framework.


One can conclude that both articles did not get anything wrong about the context of nuclear politics. Some issues are connected to the content presented by Jarvis because of the focus on the relationships with the Soviet Union (630). Therefore, the article by Jarvis does not consider some of the essential aspects of the modern lifestyle and political decision-making because the author published it in 1979.

However, the author points out some of the essential tactical and strategical aspects of the nuclear war. For example, Jarvis argues that the advantage in the number of weapons or an army’s size does not guarantee a state’s victory. This information correlates with the arguments presented in the second article, since it explores the contemporary aspects of war strategy, such as the informational environment. Considering this, one can conclude that the theoretical approach adopted by The Stanley Foundation is better because the content of the article is more relevant for contemporary society.

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Overall, this paper compared two articles, by Jarvis and the Stanley Foundation to examine the approaches that the authors take to theorizing about the nuclear weapon policies. Jarvis highlights the AD and FR strategies and argues that the strength and development of the state’s military capabilities are no longer the sole decision-making factor. The Stanley Foundation highlights the fact that contemporary media and false information affect politicians.

Works Cited

Jarvis, Robert. “Why Nuclear Superiority Doesn’t Matter.” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 94, vo. 4, 1979, pp. 617-633

The Stanley Foundation. “Three Tweets to Midnight: Nuclear Crisis Stability and the Information Ecosystem.The Stanley Foundation. Web.

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