Nuclear Deterrence and the End of Christendom

John Finnis

in Religion and Public Reasons

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580095
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729416 | DOI:
Nuclear Deterrence and the End of Christendom

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This chapter summarizes the main arguments in Finnis, Boyle, and Grisez, Nuclear Deterrence, Morality and Realism (OUP 1987). No policy of nuclear deterrence of enemies equipped with comparable capabilities can fail to include the threat to ‘city swap’ (destroy enemy cities with their inhabitants in the course of a military exchange) and of ‘final retaliation’ (to destroy much or all that the enemy values, especially the lives of its citizens, in the event that we have nothing much left to lose), and it is not possible for such a policy to be put in place as a scheme of deterrence without some people intending, albeit conditionally, that these threats to kill innocents be carried out. So such a policy cannot be morally justified. The chapter is prefaced by reflections on Maritain's thesis that the temporal vocation of the Christian requires a comprehensive aim such as the concrete historical ideal of building a new or better Christendom. An endnote considers the arguments of Sir Michael Quinlan, architect of the contemporary British nuclear deterrent, the position of the US Bishops in 1983 and 1988, and the position of Israel.

Keywords: nuclear deterrence; conditional intent; bluff; Maritain; Christian vocation; Michael Quinlan; Christendom; Israel

Chapter.  8038 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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