An analysis of the morality of intention in nuclear deterrence, with special reference to final retaliation
Quite apart from its apparent political obsolescence, the policy of nuclear deterrence is vulnerable to attack for its seemingly obvious immorality. Nuclear war is blatantly immoral, and nuclear deterrenec requires a genuine intention to resort to the nuclear retaliation which would precipitate such a war. Therefore, since it is wrong to intend that which is wrong to do, deterrence is immoral. This thesis seeks to examine the nature of the deterrent intention as a means of verifying the soundness of the above deontological argument. This examination is carried out by first suggesting an acceptable notion of intention in general and then, after analysing the views of deterrent intention by other writers, proceeding to demonstrate the uniqueness of that intention. Having done this, and having explored the possibility that deterrence need not contain a genuine intention to retaliate, the thesis moves on to suggest and defend a moral principle which states that endeavours requiring the formation of an immoral intention may nevertheless be moral. Called the Principle of Double Intention (and based on the Principle of Double Effect), it offers a method for the moral assessment of agents who form immoral intentions within larger contexts. By applying this principle to nuclear deterrence, it is demonstrated that agents who undertake such a policy may be morally justified in doing so, provided certain conditions are met. The thesis closes with a refutation of the objection that an agent cannot rationally form an intention (such as that required in deterrence) which he has no reason to carry out. By highlighting the objection's reliance on a claimed isomorphism between intention and belief, it is shown that the objection, while generally sound, does not apply to the special case of nuclear deterrence. The conclusion suggests a framework for disarmament which results in a deterrent force structure which is both strategically effective and morally acceptable.