The Second Nuclear Age

Courtesy Reuters


For 200 years, the world has been shaped by Western military dominance. Gunboats were replaced by battleships as agents of national power, which in turn were replaced by cruise missiles and stealth bombers. Until recently, these weapons belonged exclusively to Europeans or North Americans. But this monopoly on advanced military technologies is now ending. Ballistic missiles carrying conventional warheads or weapons of mass destruction (WMD), along with other cutting-edge technologies, are now within reach of as many as ten Asian nations from Israel to North Korea -- a major shift in the world's balance of power.

The rise of Asian military power heralds the beginning of a second nuclear age as different from the first, that of the Cold War, as that contest was from World War II. The world that the West created is being challenged -- not just in military ways but in cultural and philosophical terms as well. Just as Asia began asserting itself economically in the 1960s and 1970s, it now does so militarily, backed by arms that would make Western interference in Asia far more treacherous and costly -- even in peacetime -- than ever before.

Western military power has always been about more than just winning battles against the weaker forces of non-Europeans. It has been a tool for shaping the world along Western lines, a symbol of general supremacy in commerce and technology that separated the developed from the undeveloped. Those who actively opposed the West's vision of the future would inevitably lose, and the West in the early 1990s believed that no one would dare try. But for all the spectacular displays of American armaments in the Persian Gulf war and the former Yugoslavia, other nations have indeed contested the point -- not by trying to close the arms gap but by exploiting disruptive technologies that thwart America's advantages and exploit the Achilles' heel of its military position in Asia.

The dawning of a second nuclear age overturns fundamental

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