I had a couple of thoughts the other week during a conference about Iran’s nuclear program. I will note that someone else has almost certainly done more thinking about this issue than I and that these thoughts are likely unoriginal. Any interested readers please weigh in.
I know that many people worry that Israeli disclosure of its nuclear weapons could destabilize the region, lead to nuclear or CBW proliferation, etc. Now, I have no more desire than anyone else for this social science experiment to be carried out, but I’m not sure that disclosure really would be so bad.
The reasoning is fairly simple – since both governments and the public in Israel’s neighborhood already assume that Israel has nuclear weapons, it’s not clear that Israeli disclosure would be a game-changer sufficient to compel regional governments to take the _very_ significant step of developing their own nuclear weapons.
First, it seems unlikely that governments would make radical chanegs to their military forces, since their material security situations would remain unchanged.
Second, there would, one imagines, be a spike in public anger over Israeli disclosure, but, since the information wouldn’t be new, it’s not at all clear that such anger would be sufficient to produce what, again, would be pretty drastic changes in regional governments’ policies.
The most likely impact I can think of is that some countries may take additional steps to augment their conventional or CW arsenals, since those options are considerably easier than developing nuclear weapons.
Those steps would not be trivial, but my point is that public discussions of this topic often lack sufficient nuance.