The invention of nuclear weaons has been one of the most significant events in the history of humanity. It not only changed the conduct of military warfare, but also completely transformed the geo-political equation by placing humanity’s level of control on its own future through coming in possession of such omni potent means that could wipe out every form of life from earth overnight.
The memories of the atomic attack on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki have lived as a constant reminder of the supreme havoc that atomic bombs can inflict. These memories are reinforced further by the repeated instances of nuclear testing and research into the production of atomic weapons that are much more powerful and lethal in comparison of their predecessors.
The pursuance of the research into atomic and nuclear weapons, or the weapons of mass destruction, has created a deep ideological and political divide in the world. On the one hand are people supporting nuclear weapons, arguing them as essential tools to maintain prospects of global peace and also as means to ensure the safety of nations possessing them. While on the other side are people, who see nuclear weapons inherently as a threat to the survival of mankind and campaigning for a world without fear and apprehensions; for a world of the post nuclear age where the veil of the threat of an impending catastrophe is forever lifted over.
This paper shall look into the debate on the nuclear policy and relevance of nuclear weapons as a medium to ensure global peace, while critically evaluating the arguments presented on both the sides. It shall also look into the prospects of a nuclear free world and the visions such world entails for humanity.
Constructing a nuclear doctrine
The debate on the feasibility and utility of nuclear weapons has raged since the day the first military use of nuclear weapons was reported on 6th August, 2006 (Katz, 1987). The standard argument of the advocates of nuclear doctrine have centered on the deterrent effect of the nuclear weapons against any potential attack or threat of aggression (Franklin, 1991).
One of the most frequently cited example is that of role played by nuclear weapons in bringing a swift end to the Second World War, with minimum possible casualty in the process (Graham, 2005). They validly argue that without the strikes, Japan would have continued to fight till the last man down, taking up the number of casualties on both sides as well as war expenditures to enormous levels (Franklin, 1991).
Since then, the nuclear doctrine has been religiously incorporated in the defense strategy of every major nation, with immense literature created to cite the absolutely necessity and inevitability of nuclear weapons as the only possibly way to ensure global peace and a war free world (Franklin, 1991). Post the end of the Cold War proponents of the nuclear policy have further argued the necessity of effective nuclear policy, especially in the view of the dangers posted by spilling of nuclear weapons in the hands of some of the non responsible nations (Graham, 2005).
However, the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has been severely arraigned by the critics for its short comings and narrow visions that it take of subtlety of world geo-politics and the overly simplistic way in which it treats the question of deterrence and global peace (Gottemoeller, 2002 ). Nuclear policy and the race on building up nuclear arsenal have been criticized from ethical, moral, political, practical and strategic point of view over more than half a century, especially in the context of the modern history of humanity that has been torn apart by unimaginable horrors of wars and genocide in the 20th century (Muller, 2004).
Thinkers, intellectuals and scientists and many military strategists have strongly argued for a nuclear free world, based on the strong premises that peace is impossible to achieve from those tools that have capacity to utterly destroy life (Cimbala and Scouras, 2002; Cortright, 1999). Their argument is persuasive to reason as it is ironical as a concept and theory to achieve peace by destruction. The only probable way by which nuclear weapons can bring peace is through complete annihilation of people, creating a world where no life would exists to conflict and compete.
Even the history of the post nuclear world does not inspire any confidence in the effectiveness of nuclear weapons as a deterrent (Graham, 2005). In more than sixty years after the end of Second World War, innumerable conflicts and at least three wars of international proportion, involving nations equipped with nuclear power have belied the theory that nuclear weapons can act as any potential deterrent to wars (Cimbala and Scouras, 2002).
It only creates a danger in escalation of threats of nuclear arm race, where nations without nuclear weapons are trying to possess these coveted means of mass destruction, to create a world of nuclear mutual self destruction (Franklin, 2002). It’s a fact that technology can not be limited as a prerogative to a limited number of nations, as the this dangerous technology spreads out, there are every possible chances that it can be utilized by at some point of time, by some irresponsible and unaccountable regime to create a havoc of unparalleled magnitude (Muller, 2004).
The theory of nuclear deterrence also looses its credibility in the face of rise of terrorism as the new danger facing the new world (Graham, 2005). Nuclear deterrence did not act as any deterrent to the attack on the World Trade Centers in 2001, or in London bombing in 2006. On the contrary they create a new and infinitely more powerful threat where possible proliferation of nuclear weapons to terrorist groups can jeopardize the entire concept of national defense strategies of many nations.
Nuclear weapons can not act as means to achieve global peace. They are weapons of mass destruction, weapons that can kill hundred of thousands of people instantly, razing civilizations to dust, leaving behind death and a scarred earth that would be inhabitable for many generations. This trail of death can not be a harbinger of peace. Global peace can only be achieved by systematic end of nuclear arsenals, and strictly banning the research, testing and possession of nuclear weapons.
H. Bruce Franklin. 1991.The Nightmare Considered: Critical Essays on Nuclear War Literature.: Nancy Anisfield – editor. Bowling Green State University Popular Press. Bowling Green, OH.
Gottemoeller. Rose. 2002. Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Time for Control. Taina Susiluoto – editor. United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. Place of Publication: Geneva.
Milton S. Katz. 1987. Ban the Bomb: A History of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. Praeger. New York.
Richard R. Muller. 2004. Getting Mad: A Nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction, Its Origins and Practice. Henry D. Sokolski – editor. Strategic Studies Institute. Carlisle Barracks, PA.
Stephen J. Cimbala and Scouras, J. 2002. A New Nuclear Century: Strategic Stability and Arms Control. Praeger. Westport, CT.
Thomas Graham Jr. 2005. Sixty Years After Hiroshima, A Nuclear Era. Current History. Research Library Core.
David Cortright. 1999. Ban the Bomb. Sojourner. Humanities Module.