What about nuclear armed nations today? If two nuclear powers go to war, is going nuclear inevitable? Does having nukes help you avoid war?
Maybe not. An interesting theory is that MAD is something that works until it doesn't.
Over at Small Wars Journal, Mangesh Sawant has a few observations about one flash-point many think has the greatest odds of going nuclear; India and Pakistan.
What if conventional wisdom, as it often can be, is wrong?
MAD is ineffectual in the sub-continent. Deterrence worked during the cold war as both the adversaries were armed in terms of nuclear weapons and delivery platforms. Soviet Union and the US had advanced military capability to destroy each other in a nuclear conflict. The arms buildup between the Soviet Union and the US led to the realization of nuclear annihilation having ramifications across the world. This threat led to both the nations signing the START and SALT agreements.So, like in WWII with chemical weapons - does it become a conventional slugfest?
Nuclear deterrence theory and MAD will not work in South Asia due to the following:
The quality of weapons delivery platforms is important for the delivery of nuclear weapons. Technologically Pakistan’s weapons are antiquated and inferior. Most of its weapons systems are imported from China which reverse engineers them from Russian weapon systems.[iv] The Chinese weapons systems are not tested in any battles or wars. In an era of 4th and 5th generation warfare Pakistan still operates the 1st and the 2nd generation of combat aircrafts, naval ships and army weapons systems. India has inducted state of the art 4th generation weapons systems like SU 30 MK1, T 90 tanks, Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, nuclear attack submarine INS Arihant and ICBMs. Technologically advanced weapons will be used by India in conventional warfare to wipe out Pakistan’s military establishments and nuclear facilities in a preemptive strike. The quantity and lethality of conventional weapons in the arsenal is crucial to project the destructive capabilities on the adversary. Pakistan lacks in this aspect as its weapon systems are antiquated and this is the reason it has resorted to the strategy of unconventional warfare through terrorism. Therefore, in South Asia the conventional superiority of India outweighs the nuclear weapons systems capability and empty threats of Pakistan.MAD is only possible if there is parity in nuclear bombs and weapon systems. MAD is not possible in South Asia due to the overwhelming Indian nuclear second-strike capability and superior conventional weapon systems.
Small nuclear powers like Pakistan and North Korea resort to belligerent posturing and blackmailing the international community by threatening to use nuclear weapons under the doctrine of first nuclear strike. But there is a tacit understanding between the politicians and the military in both countries about the power of conventional war, preemptive strikes and total nuclear annihilation by India and the US. It’s the age of unrestricted warfare for technologically advanced militaries in conventional warfare environment with nuclear armed adversaries. This is the new normal.A final note. The author really should have saved this for another article - but I find this something worth a long night's drinking and arguing over. Indian vs. Pakistan would be Clausewitz vs. Sun Tsu?
Classical warfare strategies have been followed by nearly every country. The differentiating factor remains the type of governing systems. Democracies have been practicing Clausewitz while dictatorships and one-party systems have been practicing Sun Tzu. Pakistan has been following Sun Tzu’s art of warfare which is exemplified by concealment, unconventional warfare, unrestricted warfare, deception and manipulation.
India has been following the Clausewitz strategy which is characterized by restricted and classical conventional warfare. Today Pakistan is the only country in the world which has fused the unconventional and hybrid warfare strategy with a nuclear deterrence doctrine of first strike. Pakistan has been sponsoring and fomenting terrorism in India since the last 3 decades. India has not penalized Pakistan due to the threat of nuclear retaliation to an Indian conventional attack.