“A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used. But then would it not be better to do away with them entirely?” Ronald Reagan, 1984 State of the Union.
Nuclear weapons are tools of mass destruction, and it can be historically traced from the time of World War II when USA dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Leffler, 2018). Countries wage wars for a plenty of reasons, some fight because they want to expand their political boundary while some go on war because of some treaty they signed years ago. The technology of nuclear warfare was first developed during the World War II. There were nuclear physicists in Berlin, Germany who invented the very first nuclear bomb back in 1938, and they were used in 1945. The mission of developing atomic bombs during the Second World War was named The Manhattan Project (Shore and Zollo, 2015). The first atomic bomb that America dropped on Japan killed more than around 80,000 people instantly and affected thousands later with radiation. America was anticipating instant surrender from Japan, hence when it did not do so, it dropped another atomic bomb which killed around 40,000 civilians. The result of the bombing was horrific causalities, thousands of people who had nothing to do with the war were mercilessly killed. Countries fight wars, someone at the top decides the nuclear bombing and innocent civilians get killed. This is no way fair and is a clear murder of human rights.
At present, when the countries around the world have almost reached to a state of political stability, atomic bombs can be stated as outdated and unnecessary. In this age of globalization and industrial revolution, expenses on nuclear weapons is also deemed to be unnecessary and extravagant since that amount could be used differently in trade, to eliminate hunger and global poverty and other important issues like that. At present, nuclear weapons have proved to be useless militarily and an extra cost on the military budget. The paramount use of any nuclear weapon has always been an ego fight amongst countries.
There is no doubt that Nuclear weapons pose a huge financial burden on the countries and is no less than a roadblock on the way to development (Lukyanov, 2018). During the cold war, in a contest with the Soviet Union, America spent around $5-$10 trillion to maintain its huge nuclear weaponry. Now this amount could be used elsewhere rather developing a weapon of mass destruction. There are constant researches going on all around the world, budgets are allocated, huge sums are spent on the research and development of deadly nuclear devices, and yet they have not been used since the Second World War which shows that it is an unnecessary financial burden on any country. Former US president Barrack Obama started a disarmament movement in Prague back in 2009, but he was stopped from doing so. Therefore the menaces still remain.
Nuclear weapons can prove to be dangerous when used by the dictators such as North Korea(Cha and Kang, 2018). Despite the fact that the country has no functional power-generating nuclear reactor, it is making constant efforts in developing its own nuclear energy. North Korea has developed several nuclear weapons and has conducted more than five tests till date. With the help of the military nuclear weapons programs, North Korea has developed around 25-30 nuclear weapons and has also stocked enough fissile material to develop an extra of 30-40 nuclear weapons. North Korea spends on an average around $4 billion on its military expenses, which is around 23% of its GDP (Pollack, 2017). The annual budget of KPA is estimated at around $6 billion. The reasons to worry about the extraordinary damage that the nuclear weapons cause has changed gradually in the due course of time. Americans were shook by the 9/11 attack and it instilled a fear inside them that the terrorists might develop nuclear weapons, and if that were to happen, it would be an unprecedented risk, the damage it would cause would be unimaginable. There are some of the threats of nuclear weapons that still remain until today. This is also one of the reasons that despite the proved uselessness of the nuclear weapons, despite the fact that the nuclear weapons have not been used after 1945, and there is a probability that it will never be used again in the history of mankind, they are still in production. Powerful countries around the world still spend a lot on the nuclear weaponry and the reason behind it is that their rival countries are also producing nuclear weapons. The situation can be compared as two people in a standoff holding dangerous guns to each other face, knowing if one shoots, both of them dies.
The maintenance of nuclear weaponry in America deterred after the cold war against the Soviet Union and the Second World War (Rosecrance and Stein, 2016). The plan of United States was to spend a trillion dollars in the upcoming 30 years for the refurbishment of the dilapidated nuclear weaponry in America. Barrack Obama, on the contrary gave a speech in Prague supporting disarmament. Barrack Obama spoke in the favour of propagating peace to the general public of Prague. He said that the world was becoming less divided with time. The countries all around the world have shared a common history, and history is dynamic. It is the responsibility of people that they identify and eliminate the evils which are not found to be necessary anymore. Obama said that the contemporary world has witnessed a fast change in the climate, a global economic crisis, development of dangerous weapons and what not(Kurosawa, 2015). Obama said that the countries should focus on their common interests rather than fighting over petty issues that they think makes them different from their ‘rival’ countries. He talked about the affirmation of the shared values of the countries. And wouldn’t it be true to say, at this age when we have thousand other reasons to worry about like global climate change, pandemics mercilessly taking the life of thousands of people, it would be a folly to invest billions and billions on weapons yet to take the lives of people. Today when corona virus has killed more than around 250,000 people all around the world and 80,000 people alone in America, it proves that the countries should fight united with these problems instead of fighting with each other. President Obama talked about creating new jobs, and resisting anything that would come in the way of growth and development of the country (de Silva, 2015). That required a change in the economic system and treaties to prevent wars and bloodshed so that countries could leave behind the concept of victory fight and ego nationalism so that they focus on issues that matter like eliminating hunger and homelessness, creating more jobs so that the people live a life of dignity. He said this was the time when people needed to change the way they used energy. He talked about the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century stating that the fact that thousands of nuclear weapons still existed maintaining the dangerous legacy of the cold war. It is true that nuclear weapons instil fear inside the minds of people more than killing people. There was not any nuclear war that was fought between the Soviet Union and the United States of America but both the countries lived in the fear that their countries could be erased in a flash by the dangerous nuclear weapons that existed at that time(Colby, 2018). Cities like Prague where Barrack Obama was delivering his speech could be erased in a moment, the beautiful art and culture, humanity that existed would be destroyed which was deemed as dangerous and unnecessary.
The cold war, the world wars have finished but sadly those nuclear weapons do not only exist but have also multiplied themselves in number. History has taken a strange turn where the chances of countries going on nuclear war is bleak but the chances of nuclear attack has increased. Extremely volatile countries like North Korea invests a lot in its weaponry and defence especially in the nuclear weapons. Also in the presence of dictatorship, the existence itself of nuclear weapons poses a huge threat to humanity. The countries are constantly testing nuclear weapons, black market trade has increased. The fact that anyone could steal the chemical formula and the procedure to build nuclear weapons is dangerous. Terrorists could use the formula and drop the bomb anywhere in the world and it would lead to a heavy loss of life and humanity. Obama talked about their efforts to contain these dangers by the process of disarmament of nuclear weaponry. There will come a time of saturation where the countries would not be able to control these dangers and that would be it, that would be the end. It could potentially kill thousands and thousands of people. Therefore, nuclear weapons are nothing but a threat to global safety, security, a war on the economy and ultimately a question mark to the survival of humanity (Morgenthau, 2018). People must come together to eliminate this fear of nuclear weapons from the minds of people. We must free ourselves from the thought that the world cannot do without nuclear weapons, we sure can. Obama said that the America is looking forward into a world without nuclear weapons. He promised that the United States will work on reducing the role nuclear weaponry from the national security of the country and will urge other countries to do the same. It is not an easy step to take, this mammoth decision will take time, probably a lifetime but people must free themselves from the thought that things cannot change. It can take time but this change will ultimately bring a positive change all around the world. President Obama strived to achieve a worldwide ban on nuclear testing and urged all the nuclear countries all around the world to join hands in the endeavour. All the countries that contain nuclear weapons should move towards disarmament, and the countries that do not still have nuclear weapons should not acquire them. It will lead to peace and prosperity all around the world and the countries can join hands together to focus on the issues that matter. The nuclear energy should be harnessed to convert them into energy so that the use of non-renewable energy is contained and checked. One of the countries which is adamant on not changing this is North Korea. North Korea must understand this, treaties must be signed between countries to prevent the use of nuclear energy and the countries violating those treaties should be punished severely. All the countries must come together to ensure that the terrorists do not ever get the access to nuclear weapons as it is bound to cause a state of unrest and chaos.
One of the examples of nuclear proliferation is Pakistan. The power of containing the nuclear weaponry lies in the hands of the military officers of the democratically elected country (Khan, 2017). The Islamic Republic of Iran has decided to contain the Uranium to prevent the construction of atomic bombs. North Korea’s Dictator Kim Jong-un seems to be unaffected and pays no heed to the peace treaties ongoing in the entire world. He tested a thermonuclear device in September, 2017 and an intercontinental ballistic missile in November, 2017. In his public address to his nation on the eve of New Year 2018, he said that he has strengthened the nuclear armament and that there is a button always ready to detonate the bombs on his table. Now this type of statement by the leader of one of the most militarily powerful countries of the world is fatally dangerous. If North Korea were to drop an atomic bomb on any country around the world, America for instance, it should prepare itself for a counter attack. No country will take a nuclear attack and keep silent. Now this is bound to a wave of nuclear destruction which will ultimately affect the neighbouring countries as well. This condition of international unrest can be prevented if all the countries are able to convince North Korea for disarmament.
After the Second World War ended in 1945 with the bombing of the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the list of democratic countries with nuclear weapons grew into five namely the United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel and India(Langley, 2017). There were also five non democratic countries namely the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, South Africa and Pakistan which grew their nuclear weaponry. A treaty named Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, most commonly known as the Non-proliferation Treaty was opened for signature in 1968 and came into effect in 1970 (Rauf, 2017). The objective of this treaty was to prevent and contain the use of nuclear weapons to promote peace and prosperity. This treaty was discussed by the Eighteen Nation Committee on disarmament, headed by the United States. The parties of the NPT met again in 1994 and extended the treaty for an indefinite period of time. However there were four members of the United Nations which did not accept the treaty, namely India, Pakistan, Israel and South Sudan. There are 191 countries till date which have signed the treaty, except North Korea which was in the favour of disarmament until 1985 but withdrew from it in 2003. Many other important steps were taken after that to stop the export of uranium and other necessary steps which would ultimately help those countries into building nuclear weapons. Constant steps were taken to strengthen NPT so that any further damages due to the nuclear weapons could be prevented.
However, some people also argue that though the nuclear weapons do not matter, nuclear hysteria sure does (Futter, 2018). It can be stated that the Second World War was no likely to end in 1945. Japan was not in a mood to surrender. Just sixteen hours later the attack on the Japanese state Hiroshima, Japan surrendered. Hence it can be said that the nuclear attack on Japan resulted in the instant surrender and the aftermaths of the attack prevented a Third World War and the further loss of lives. But the ruthless killing of more than one lakh people to prevent a war that the countries were anticipating was not worth it.
The period of 2017-2018 witnessed heightened tension between North Korea and United States of America all throughout 2017(Cha and Kang, 2018). It was the year when North Korea conducted a series of nuclear tests which ultimately strengthened the nuclear power of the country. United States found out that North Korea’s nuclear capabilities were much more than the assessment of the American intelligent agencies. The nuclear tests that North Korea conducted showed its ability of launching ballistic missiles, that too beyond its immediate neighbours, this terrorized the US. The capability of North Korea to develop nuclear weapons was developing at an alarming rate. It was after the sixth nuclear test that the country conducted in 2017 the US and North Korea exchanged heated rhetoric, also anticipating the possibility of a war. Thankfully the war did not happen. But the question is concerning, what if the country waged a war? What if it dropped a nuclear bomb on the United States? A worldwide destruction would begin followed by nuclear attacks on both the countries. Lives would be lost, economy would crumble and it would bring many such outcomes which are fatal and dangerous. North Korea eventually suspended nuclear and missile tests in 2018 which brought back peace in the area. Or else every day the people of both the countries were living in the fear of getting nuked (Kwak, 2016).
The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Barrack Obama with Nobel Peace prize in 2009 for his extraordinary efforts in bringing global peace by the process of nuclear disarmament. He did the task of strengthening international diplomacy and increased the cooperation between people (Smetana, 2018). He had a vision of a world which would be free from nuclear weapons and it has stimulated disarmament by countries possessing nuclear powers and arms control negotiations. The countries that have done the illicit task of still maintaining their nuclear power are mostly autocratic countries who fear neither external nor international intervention. Neither do these countries fear economic isolation which is the reason that they keep doing what they want. There are these dictators who find the nuclear weapons appealing because it instils a fear among its rival countries. They also find nuclear weapons interesting because it wards off foreign military interventions. These development in military and nuclear power do no matter because the position of North Korea and its people is deteriorating day by day. With almost no foreign intervention in trade, the economic condition of North Korea is on a phase of deterioration. According the Index of Economic Freedom by Heritage Foundation, North Korea scored a 4.2 in the economic freedom index, which is unfortunately the lowest. It has made North Korea the least free amongst 180 countries in the world in respect to economic freedom.What is the use of these military advancements when the economy of your country is crumbling down to pieces. At the same time, North Korea is also facing extreme poverty because of the absence of democracy and the freedom to trade. According to a report conducted in 2003, North Korea requires around 5.3m tonnes of grain to feed its people but produces only 4.5m tonnes and fulfils the deficit by importing the shortage of the grain from other countries. Though there are no clear reports present, it is estimated that more than around 60% of the people of North Korea live below poverty line.
Reportedly the country also ranks the lowest in World Happiness Index. Despite having a strong military presence, the country is crumbling down with all these problems which proves that an all-round development, eradication of poverty, a revival of the economy is necessary and the increase in nuclear power isn’t! The journey of South Africa from nuclear armed state to disarmament inspires the other countries laden with nuclear power to give them up (Pabian, 2015). It is one of those few countries which went from developing its own nuclear weaponry to dismantling all of it. It can be taken as an advocate, a paramount example that these tools of mass destruction should be abolished as soon as possible by all the countries all around the world. Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is the first treaty of nuclear disarmament and legally binding international agreement to completely prohibit the use of nuclear weapons. This treaty includes the undertakings to prevent the development, test, production, acquiring, possession, stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Following this treaty, South Africa showed its eminence in leadership by the disarmament of its nuclear weapons. The ratification of South Africa to the treaty is one of its kind because of its own history in the development of nuclear weaponry. South Africa has always been rich in Uranium, and was interested in harnessing atomic energy, mining, trade and energy industry that could be built around it. By 1989, South Africa had 6 atomic bombs, each having 55kgs of Highly Enriched Uranium which had the capacity of delivering an explosive equivalent of 19kilotons of TNT(the atomic bomb Little Boy which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan had 64 kg of enriched Uranium). The bombs possessed the intensity of causing massive destruction. And finally the government of South Africa ended the ongoing nuclear programs and did the task of joining the Non Proliferation Treaty as a state with no nuclear weapon development in 1991. IAEA by the end of 1994 confirmed that South Africa had dismantled all the atomic bombs that it contained. Since that time, South Africa has been a flagbearer in the mission of disarmament of nuclear weapons.
The eminent South African president Nelson Mandela addressed the United Nations in 1998 talking about the irrelevancy of nuclear weapons that the countries boasted about (Arslan and Turhan, 2016). He said:
“We must ask the question, which might sound naive to those who have elaborated sophisticated arguments to justify their refusal to eliminate these terrible and terrifying weapons of mass destruction – why do they need them anyway! In reality, no rational answer can be advanced to explain in a satisfactory manner what, in the end, is the consequence of Cold War inertia and an attachment to the use of the threat of brute force, to assert the primacy of some States over others.”
South Africa continued to believe in the uselessness and irrelevance of nuclear weapons in the years that followed after that. South Africa also became the first country to sign the UN treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on 7th July, 2017(Rietiker, 2019). The country firmly believes that there is no safe hand for this weapon of mass destruction. Scott Sagan in a podcast talked about the nuclear necessity principle. He talked about the war plans of the United States and said that the country needs to match up to the ethics and principles of war. He proposed a new doctrine called the “nuclear necessity principle” which said that the United States should not use nuclear weapons against any target which could easily be destroyed by the use of conventional weapons. He talked about turning the ethics and common sense of nuclear use into national policy so that those do not remain on the papers but are successfully turned into reality. The use of conventional weapons is just and also appropriate. Also there is no need of mass destruction when wars could be won with the usage of conventional weapons.
However, he said that if there comes a situation where the country is forced to use nuclear weapon, it uses that in such a way so as to cause minimal loss of life and minimum destruction.
Conclusion Nuclear weapons do not matter anymore, as a matter of fact they never mattered. It was always used by the militarily ‘powerful’ countries as a showcase of their power or to instantly end wars. Countries today are standing in a position where they conduct nuclear tests to show its rival countries that it possesses those weapons of mass destruction. North Korea conducted various nuclear tests to show United States that it has the power to destroy the country while it itself remains in the clutches of crumbling economy, poor healthcare, crippling poverty and what not!
There are myriad reasons why all the countries having nuclear power should put a total ban on all the nuclear weapon and its production. September 26th in UN is observed as International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. These weapons of mass destruction must be banned totally to make the world a safer place to live in. The nuclear weapons cause catastrophic harms, the first and the only nuclear attack on the Japanese countries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have proved that no matter how grave the situation arises, the countries should not be forced to use nuclear weapons.These weapons possess enormous destructive power. Around 200,000 civilians were killed in the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, civilians who had nothing to do with the countries fighting war.Nuclear weapons are pointless. They do not serve any use to the ongoing problems of the contemporary era such as climate change, terrorism and more. Also according to estimates, countries spent around $1000 billion during the decade of 2010-2020 on the development of nuclear weapons. This huge amount of money that was spent on mass destruction could be used to cater thousand other problems of the contemporary era such as homelessness, poverty, education and other such services to humanity instead of killing people. There is a risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons by the countries which already possess nuclear power and by some countries which could potentially acquire it. The treaties were signed to prevent this proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction that has not been banned yet. All the other tools including biological and chemical weapons have been banned all over the world. There are discrete countries like South Africa which has banned nuclear weapons, but still many names remain. The goal should be of a world where no country owns nuclear weapons. Like Barrack Obama said in his speech in Prague, the goal maybe far sighted, but it is not impossible to achieve.
Arslan, H.K. and Turhan, Y., 2016. Reconciliation-oriented leadership: Nelson mandela and south africa. All Azimuth: A Journal of Foreign Policy and Peace, 5(2), pp.29-46. Cha, V.D. and Kang, D.C., 2018. Nuclear North Korea: A debate on engagement strategies. Columbia University Press. Cha, V.D. and Kang, D.C., 2018. Nuclear North Korea: A debate on engagement strategies. Columbia University Press. Colby, E., 2018. If You Want Peace, Prepare for Nuclear War. Foreign Aff., 97, p.25. de Silva, K.S.C., 2015, February. Post-Cold War Nuclear Weapons and Safety Culture in South Asia: Its impact on Security of Non-Nuclear Weapon States. In KDU INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH CONFERENCE–2014 (p. 36). Futter, A., 2018. Hacking the bomb: cyber threats and nuclear weapons. Georgetown University Press. Khan, S., 2017. Nuclear Proliferation Dynamics in Protracted Conflict Regions: A Comparative Study of South Asia and the Middle East. Routledge. Kurosawa, M., 2015. Humanitarian Approach to Nuclear Abolition. Osaka University Law Review, 62, pp.13-28.
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