Nuclear weapons debate
The nuclear weapons debate is about public controversies relating to the use and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Even before the first nuclear weapons had been developed, scientists involved with the Manhattan Project were divided over the use of the weapon. The only time nuclear weapons have been used in warfare was during the final stages of World War II when United States Army Air Forces B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945. The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender and the U.S.'s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades.
Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. Proponents of nuclear disarmament say that it would lessen the probability of nuclear war occurring, especially accidentally. Critics of nuclear disarmament say that it would undermine deterrence and complete elimination of nuclear weapons would make conventional wars more likely and destroy the current nuclear peace the world is experiencing.
Various American government officials, who were in office during the Cold War period, are now advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons. These officials include Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. In January 2010, Lawrence M. Krauss stated that "no issue carries more importance to the long-term health and security of humanity than the effort to reduce, and perhaps one day, rid the world of nuclear weapons".
Even before the first nuclear weapons had been developed, scientists involved with the Manhattan Project were divided over the use of the weapon. Some—notably a number at the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, represented in part by Leó Szilárd—lobbied early on that the atomic bomb should only be built as a deterrent against Nazi Germany getting a bomb, and should not be used against populated cities. The Franck Report argued in June 1945 that instead of being used against a city, the first atomic bomb should be "demonstrated" to the Japanese on an uninhabited area. This recommendation was not agreed with by the military commanders, the Los Alamos Target Committee (made up of other scientists), or the politicians who had input into the use of the weapon. Because the Manhattan Project was considered to be "top secret", there was no public discussion of the use of nuclear arms, and even within the U.S. government, knowledge of the bomb was extremely limited.
The Little Boy atomic bomb was detonated over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Exploding with a yield equivalent to 12,500 tonnes of TNT, the blast and thermal wave of the bomb destroyed nearly 50,000 buildings (including the headquarters of the 2nd General Army and Fifth Division) and killed approximately 75,000 people, among them 20,000 Japanese soldiers and 20,000 Koreans. Detonation of the "Fat Man" atomic bomb exploded over the Japanese city of Nagasaki three days later on 9 August 1945, destroying 60% of the city and killing approximately 35,000 people, among them 23,200-28,200 Japanese civilian munitions workers and 150 Japanese soldiers. The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender and the U.S.'s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. J. Samuel Walker suggests that "the controversy over the use of the bomb seems certain to continue".
After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world’s nuclear weapons stockpiles grew, and nuclear weapons have been detonated on over two thousand occasions for testing and demonstration purposes. Countries known to have detonated nuclear weapons—and that acknowledge possessing such weapons—are (chronologically) the United States, the Soviet Union (succeeded as a nuclear power by Russia), the United Kingdom, France, the People's Republic of China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.
Nuclear disarmament refers to both the act of reducing or eliminating nuclear weapons and to the end state of a nuclear-free world, in which nuclear weapons are completely eliminated. Proponents of nuclear disarmament say that it would lessen the probability of nuclear war occurring, especially accidentally. In the early 1980s, following a revival of the nuclear arms race, a popular nuclear disarmament movement emerged. In October 1981 half a million people took to the streets in several cities in Italy, more than 250,000 people protested in Bonn, 250,000 demonstrated in London, and 100,000 marched in Brussels. The largest anti-nuclear protest was held on June 12, 1982, when one million people demonstrated in New York City against nuclear weapons. In October 1983, nearly 3 million people across western Europe protested nuclear missile deployments and demanded an end to the arms race.
Critics of nuclear disarmament say that it would undermine deterrence. Deterrence is a strategy by which governments threaten an immense retaliation if attacked, such that aggressors are deterred if they do not wish to suffer great damage as a result of an aggressive action. Nuclear weapons are said to have induced "nuclear peace" during the Cold War, when both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. possessed mutual second-strike retaliation capability, eliminating the possibility of nuclear victory for either side.
Various American government officials, who were in office during the Cold War period, are now advocating the elimination of nuclear weapons. These officials include Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, Sam Nunn, and William Perry. They believe that the doctrine of mutual Soviet-American deterrence is obsolete, and that reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.
The risk of accidents, misjudgements or unauthorised launches, they argued, was growing more acute in a world of rivalries between relatively new nuclear states that lacked the security safeguards developed over many years by America and the Soviet Union. The emergence of pariah states, such as North Korea (possibly soon to be joined by Iran), armed with nuclear weapons was adding to the fear as was the declared ambition of terrorists to steal, buy or build a nuclear device. Only by a concerted effort to free the world of nuclear weapons could the terrifying trend be reversed.
Some scientists project that a war between two countries that resulted in 100 Hiroshima-size atomic explosions could cause significant loss of life, in the tens of millions. There could also be much soot thrown up into the atmosphere which would blanket the earth, causing the disruption of food chains in what is termed Nuclear Winter.
Others argue that nuclear weapons have made the world relatively safer, with peace through deterrence and through the stability–instability paradox, including in south Asia. Kenneth Waltz has argued that nuclear weapons have helped keep an uneasy peace, and further nuclear weapon proliferation might help avoid the large scale conventional wars that were so common prior to their invention at the end of World War II. In the July 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs Waltz took issue with the view of most U.S., European, and Israeli, commentators and policymakers that a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable. Instead Waltz argues that it would probably be the best possible outcome, as it would restore stability to the Middle East by balancing Israel's regional monopoly on nuclear weapons.
Professor John Mueller of Ohio State University, author of Atomic Obsession has also dismissed the need to interfere with Iran's nuclear program and expressed that arms control measures are counterproductive. During a 2010 lecture at the University of Missouri, which was broadcast by C-Span, Dr. Mueller has also argued that the threat from nuclear weapons, including that from terrorists, has been exaggerated, both in the popular media, and by officials.
Nuclear Weapons Functionality
The nuclear weapons race led to the theory of mutual suicide, or mutually assured destruction, which is an effective and functional strategy that guides foreign policy decisions made by world leaders. The idea was conceived by Robert S. McNamara, in the mid-1960s, and it is the idea that a nuclear attack can be deterred by possessing the possibility to retaliate to an enemy’s first strike. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) is the “readiness at any time before, during, or after an attack to destroy the adversary as a functioning society." MAD was functional because it guaranteed the policy of deterrence between the United States and the Soviet Union. The knowledge of mutually assured destruction prompted the adoption of a policy of deterrence between superpowers. Political leaders understand mutually assured destruction and utilize this knowledge when making policy decisions in their countries, in order to protect their citizens. The United States’ outlook on nuclear deterrence is based upon two major experiences in World War II that changed both military strategy and perspective along with the political climate regarding nuclear weaponry and warfare, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the bombing of cities in Germany and Japan.
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- Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Anti-nuclear protests in the United States
- Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
- Debate over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- Effects of nuclear explosions
- Effects of nuclear explosions on human health
- History of the anti-nuclear movement
- International Court of Justice advisory opinion on legality of nuclear weapons
- Lists of nuclear disasters and radioactive incidents
- List of states with nuclear weapons
- List of nuclear weapons
- Nth Country Experiment
- Nuclear disarmament
- Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
- Nuclear peace
- Nuclear power debate
- Nuclear proliferation
- Nuclear Tipping Point
- Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom
- Nuclear weapons and the United States
- Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
- Three Non-Nuclear Principles, of Japan
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1194
- Uranium mining debate
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- David Cortright (2008). Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 145.
- 1982 - a million people march in New York City
- David Cortright (2008). Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas, Cambridge University Press, p. 148.
- George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn. A World Free of Nuclear Weapons Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2007, page A15.
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- Malheiros, Tania. Brasiliens geheime Bombe: Das brasilianische Atomprogramm. Tradução: Maria Conceição da Costa e Paulo Carvalho da Silva Filho. Frankfurt am Main: Report-Verlag, 1995.
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- Walker, J. Samuel (2004). Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective, University of California Press.
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