Navigating the grave risks associated with nuclear weapons is a top priority for our time. Over the last two years there has been an increased focus on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear arms, resulting in a renewed call to ban their use and engage in disarmament. Throughout these discussions, the question of keeping nuclear weapons to dissuade foreign aggression – the most common argument used to justify nuclear possession – has not been extensively addressed.
This working paper seeks to reassess the question of nuclear deterrence in light of the most recent discourse on nuclear weapon use. We attempt to undercut the assumption that nuclear deterrence can be judged independently from nuclear use, and we argue that it no longer functions as an instrument that allows for disarmament; rather, it has become an obstacle toward achieving that goal. Consistent with recent church teaching, this paper concludes that the deterrence position lacks a proper moral foundation. Essentially, nuclear disarmament is not an option but a moral duty. It is time for abolition.