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By a thin thread

Book>> The Third Bomb by Gregory Berglund Jnanada Prakashan, New Delhi 2009 Rs 250

By John Stanly
Published: Friday 15 May 2009


"The more things change, the more they remain the same," goes a French adage. Things have changed a lot since the US dropped nuclear bombs on Japan five-and-a-half decades ago. Now we have nine nuclear states, anti-nuclear movements, non-proliferation treaties and various organizations committed to disarmament.

But the core question remains is the world free of the third bomb threat? Gregory Berglund in The Third Bomb looks for an answer. Four years after the US bombed Japan, the Soviet Union, the leader of the east bloc, tested a nuclear bomb bringing "a balance of terror" in the international system. This balance prevented the use of the bomb throughout the Cold War, though there were occasions when a nuclear war seemed imminent.

The bomb was not used, but the willingness to use it remained.According to Berglund, this is more dangerous in the new world order. He calls the new world order "nuclear anarchy".

The collapse of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, has brought in radical changes in the discourse on nuclear weapons. The taboo, which prevented further use of nuclear weapons during the cold war, collapsed along with the twin towers. The entry of terrorists into the front has left holes in the deterrence theory.

Down to Earth In many ways, The Third Bomb is an unique effort to understand the discourse on nuclear warfare. Unlike a lot of theorists who go into policy issues, Berglund focusses on the willingness of potential bomb users to kill millions. He argues, "Without moral personality, a state will not be capable of practising deterrence".

Does India have such moral personality? No, says Berglund. He quotes the dialogues between Arjuna and Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita to emphasize his point. The religious book says though war is an evil, it's an evil that cannot be avoided." The "morality of war" will not prevent India from using nuclear weapons.

Berglund believes many other nuclear powers also do not have a moral repository to practice deterrence. The theory of moral deterrence is an interesting one, but Berglund does not expand on it. Is India's moral repository limited to the Bhagvad Gita. What about Gandhi's ahimsa?

John Stanly is at the Centre for West Asian Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi

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