If two countries both possess nuclear weapons, what reasons are there for why inhabitants in one of the countries would crave warfare against the other? Isn't that completely illogical, since warfare would most likely lead to mutual destruction?

I ask this general question, but it is based on the hysteria in my country (India) after the recent rising tensions with Pakistan. Many people have been demonstrating against Pakistan, almost begging for war, the media have played its part in riling people up, and so on and so forth.

I understand the animosity against Pakistan, but what I fail to understand is why anybody would wish to engage in warfare with a country that has nuclear weapons.

Is there any logical, political, economical reason to this that I am missing out on, or do these people merely talk rubbish fueled by emotion?

  • I assume you are talking about India and Pakistan, so I am added the tags. However, this should also appear explicitly in your post.
    – Alexei
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 19:17
  • 1
    Same reason that a bullied person wants to beat the crap out of his bullies, despite them being bigger, stronger, and more popular? Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 2:31

2 Answers 2

  • They are convinced that deterrence will hold and conventional warfare is possible under the nuclear umbrella, as long as no vital interests are touched. If you look at the history of the Cold War, there were plenty of proxy wars.
  • They are convinced that defenses will defeat all but a few of the enemy nukes. Not likely between India and Pakistan, but it could apply to a conflict between the US and DPRK, for instance.
  • They are convinced that failure to take a stand will be more costly in the long run than a brief nuclear exchange. This conviction may be wrong, but there are plenty of people who believe in wrong things.

There are some studies, e.g. by the RAND Corporation. (Keep in mind that RAND has close ties to the US government. They're not impartial academics.)

  • The only thing I would add to this answer is, in the case of any given countries with nuclear weapons, it's possible that destruction would not be mutually assured because one or both arsenals may not be large or capable enough to achieve that goal. Probably doesn't apply to Pakistan and India.
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 14:30
  • @Joe, perhaps one should talk about mutually assured inacceptable damage, except that it isn't the established term. The Brits called it the "Moscow Criterion" -- the ability to take out a major Soviet city like Moscow, Leningrad, or Kiev in exchange for getting the UK destroyed. They hoped that the Kremlin would find that damage bad enough to prevent a first strike.
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 15:21

In the specific case of India and Pakistan, isn't it the case that Pakistan has been waging an undeclared, small-scale war against India for decades? (E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Mumbai_attacks ) So is it really not a case of craving war, but of wanting to put a final end to the ongoing war?

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