Nuclear technology has been widely used in the past, especially among nations seeking to dominate or to at least secure their positions as a country able to defend itself against its enemies or launch a military offensive. It is no hidden fact that nuclear weapons pose a great amount of threat to the security of human and animal lives in many ways.
There may be other purposes for nuclear technology other than harnessing a sizeable amount of military weaponry, such as for generating power which will be distributed to households and infrastructures. Yet the apparent threat to the lives of humanity remains an utmost concern in the international community. More recently, many nations have already acquired nuclear facilities in creating nuclear weapons such as India, the United States of America, Russia and North Korea just to name a few.
The availability of these weapons of mass destruction has prompted many concerned individuals and groups to raise their opposition and seek a nuclear disarmament internationally, regardless of national status. There are also those who barely limit their calls for nuclear disarmament to nations which they perceive as threat to the international community such as North Korea.
Moreover, there is also the fear towards the health risks posed by nuclear weapons. Among the risks, perhaps the most known is that of nuclear fallout caused by the testing of nuclear weapons. Nuclear explosions during these tests create residual radiation hazards or radioactive dust which can largely affect the health of people in many ways.
On the other hand, the manufacture of nuclear weapons can also pose dangers when accidents occur. For the most part, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident gives us a rough impression on the drastic consequences which can be brought about by nuclear accidents.
In essence, there should be nuclear disarmament precisely because the availability of nuclear weapons is enough reason to believe that sooner or later these weapons will be used. The very fact that there are nations creating nuclear weapons is enough to presume that there is a purpose or motive behind the manufacture of these weapons.
It would be irrational to presume that these nations will manufacture nuclear weapons—weapons that cost huge financing and environmental and health risks—without having the thought of using the weapons at some point in time. Indeed, if there is at least one essential reason why these weapons are being built, it would have to be the reason that these weapons are most likely to be used.
In the first place, one can pose the question as to whether there is an apparent and high need for nuclear weapons. Given the contemporary global situation, there are parts in the world where there are unrest like Tibet and there are regions in the world where there is a tension among nations like that of Israel and its neighboring countries just to name a few.
These events in the world indeed require efforts of mitigation and resolution. To say that the amassing of nuclear weapons is one key to putting a stop to these global concerns is to say that efforts to propagate weapons of destruction can curb destruction altogether. Yet there is strong reason to believe that the opposite is more likely to be true. Significant historical events from around the world teaches us quite a number of things, one of which is that nuclear disarmament should be met in order to halt further damage from being done.
Tensions across the world should be basically addressed not with another move which will further cause tension but with a real solution that will limit and eventually dissolve these tensions. The past two world wars literally obliterated the lives of thousands, and the further proliferation of nuclear weapons will create a similar scenario in the years to come if more and more nations will make use of nuclear weapons to further strengthen their military capabilities and if several nations will continue to harness nuclear weapons as we speak.
Another point that deserves attention is that if we have many nations manufacturing and keeping nuclear weapons, there may come a time when these nations engage themselves in a nuclear warfare. The most likely result will be that of a mutually assured destruction where even the non-participating nations will be greatly affected especially the nations which are incapable of defending themselves against nuclear weaponries.
It should be noted that even when there is no actual nuclear warfare, there remains the impending threat of its actual use, causing nations to panic to a certain extent and resort to measures to thwart off these threats temporarily. Although not exactly a crisis which involves nuclear weapons, the case of the Cuban missile crisis spawned fear from the United States of America.
This was during the time of the Cold War between the former USSR and America, a time when both nations were stockpiling nuclear weapons, racing against one another in the desire to outnumber the quantities of nuclear weapons of one over the other. As Samuel Walker puts it, “the first two decades of the Cold War era, most scholars, like most Americans, regarded postwar tensions as a result of Soviet expansion and aggression (Walker, 1995, p. 1653).”
The Cuban missile crisis was a crisis which did not strictly involve nuclear weapons. Then again, the fear and tension it created was overwhelming, which makes us think what more if the crisis had involved nuclear weapons. Apparently, the case of North Korea in more recent times reminds us of how the world has reacted against a nation harnessing nuclear weapons and testing these weapons right at their backyard.
The presence of nuclear weapons does not essentially nor significantly assure peace. Nor does it promote peace in one way or another. Rather, what it does is to heighten the political and military tension among countries, pushing these nations to increase the pressure on the nation wielding nuclear weapons or engaging such nation into military intervention some time in the future.
The cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are perhaps the most suitable and compelling examples to illustrate the point that nuclear weapons can indeed wipe-out an entire civilization and event the entire humanity. The bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan is claimed to be the last nail during the Second World War. Apart from being the last nail, the bombings were also destructive in nature, destroying two key cities in less than a minute with destructive effects lasting even up to this very day. These only show that the dangers posed by nuclear weapons are very real and can bring havoc to an entire nation.
Nuclear disarmament requires nations with nuclear weapons to dismantle such weapons, such as the case of the several treaties that paved the way for the United States, the Soviet Union and many other countries to make certain prohibitions.
Some of these treaties include but is not limited to: the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963 which sought to prohibit all forms of nuclear testing except when done underground, the Interim Agreement on Offensive Arms or SALT 1 which was agreed into by America and the Soviet Union way back in 1972 in order to freeze the actual units of intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as submarine-launched ballistic missiles that may be released or deployed by either of the two nations, and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty or SORT which was signed in 2002 and enforced a year later which aimed to reduce the strategic nuclear warheads of the United States and Russia.
However, even though there have already been numerous treaties designed to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons among nations, the achievement of the goal of a total nuclear disarmament remains to be seen. Ken Rigby, Jacques Metzer and Biruta Dietz (1990) point out that “the attitude of world-mindedness has emerged as…related to both attitudinal and action tendencies to promote nuclear disarmament (p. 328).”
Thus, it can be asserted that the efforts to finally achieve a total nuclear disarmament may rest on a world-minded attitude. That it, the concerns of each individual aiming at a total nuclear disarmament should be parallel to a mental framework which is global. There should be no exclusions as to who can still be permitted to keep nuclear weapons even after treaties of nuclear disarmament have taken shape.
On a larger sense, history tells us that the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the past and even more so to this very day has resulted to the further realization of the dangers largely attributed to nuclear weapons either resorting from accidents or deliberate use of these weapons.
Nevertheless even if these dangers have already been realized, several nations still seem cannot find an easy way out of the complexity of the nuclear issues which beset them. It appears that while there are treaties being engaged into by nations with nuclear capabilities they, too, have remained unable to fully submit themselves to a total nuclear disarmament.
One can argue that perhaps one of the reasons why there is the failure for several nations to engage in a full nuclear disarmament is the idea that there are persisting threats to the sovereignty of these nations and that one way to curb these dangers is by wielding nuclear weaponry.
Despite the underlying drawbacks that go along with the possession of nuclear weapons, it appears that the United States, Russia, North Korea and many others remain oblivious to the call for full nuclear disarmament perhaps because the purposes of having nuclear weapons outweigh the odds of falling on their drawbacks. One indubitable purpose of the possession of nuclear weapons is the attribution of power and respect that goes with it.
However, even if these nations can be able to project an image of power and hegemonic dominance, history teaches us that “public concern over the dangers of nuclear war has increased dramatically in both Western Europe and the United States (Boutwell, 2002, p. 12).” Ironically, these increases in public concerns come from the citizens who live in the nations who have the capabilities to launch nuclear warheads.
This goes to show that, to a certain extent, nations with nuclear warheads also have a corresponding concerned body of the public sector well-aware of the dangers of nuclear weapons at the least and a nuclear war at the most. There is a strong reason to presume that the public sector raises its concern over the issue of nuclear weapons precisely because that sector is able to see and understand the harsh implications it brings with it. Further, the concerned public sector has strong basis for their claims, substantiating their claims on the experiences of the nation in terms of history.
Nuclear disarmament requires more than just disarming nuclear weapons for the moment. The crucial part is that such measures of disarmament should be sustained and should be kept as a lasting solution. It is admitted that there have been previous efforts from various nations and the international community to lessen nuclear arms and eventually entirely abolish these weapons of mass destruction.
But up to this day, it remains a fact that several nations are still harboring nuclear weapons and that some are even continuing production of these weapons. A contemporary example to such a situation is North Korea which has recently gained much criticism from the international community in its recent testing of nuclear weapons, one of which is the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.
It is also a fact that at some point in time certain nuclear missile tests would have to be made in testing the feasibility of the weapon. It has been the case that the United States has tested some of its nuclear weapons in its own soil while North Korea and India have tested their missiles at sea. These tests may only last for a few minutes or so, yet the impact it leaves behind to the marine life in the cases of India and North Korea are long lasting.
As with the case of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings years ago, physical deformities were not only felt by those who were directly exposed to the radioactive substances present after the nuclear explosions. These physical deformities caused by alterations in the body’s genes persisted down to the third generation from those who were directly affected by the nuclear bombings.
Nuclear disarmament is one big step in realizing the goal of dissolving the current tensions created in the past and should not be taken as a long-term goal, for the longer it takes for nations to disarm themselves with nuclear weapons, it may be the case that more and more nations may resort to the creation of nuclear weapons for themselves. Indeed, if nations are truly serious with their desire to preempt a nuclear war and bring mutually assured destruction to these ‘nuclear’ states and the rest of the world, it should be the case that efforts of nuclear disarmament should be realized as soon as possible. The world cannot afford a third world war from happening and destroying the welfare of the nations and the development of a larger part of the world.
Indeed, nuclear disarmament should be the only option and that such an option should be taken and enacted the soonest possible time, if not now. The dangers of nuclear weapons are real and that history has taught us of the insurmountable destruction it brings with more than anything else in the world.
Boutwell, J. (2002). The Many-Sided Nuclear Arms Debate. Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 36(1), 12.
Rigby, K., Metzer, J., & Dietz, B. (1990). Factors Predisposing Individuals to Support Nuclear Disarmament: An International Perspective Journal of Peace Research, 27(3), 328.
Walker, S. (1995). The Origins of the Cold War in United States History Textbooks. The Journal of American History, 81(4), 1653.