68 Years Later….

A-Bomb Terror

August 6, 2013 marked the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Instead of the abolition of atomic weapons what followed was the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. This post provides an introduction to vast number of issues surrounding nuclear disarmament which will then be expanded on in further posts.

On August 6, 1945 at 8:15am (local time) the world was introduced to the effects of the atomic bomb marking the beginning of what would become the Nuclear Revolution. Several days later on August 9, 1945 the US dropped another atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki. The use of these two bombs, combined with several other factors brought World War II to a rapid close. Subsequently nuclear weapons have been a persistent fear in global relations. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima was code named ‘Little Boy’ and had a yield of 16 kT.[1] Since then countries have developed more complex nuclear bombs, with a higher yield. The largest nuclear bomb ever tested was developed by the Soviet Union; code named ‘Big Ivan’ (or Tsar Bomba) and had a yield of 50 mT.[2] This is 3,125 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The level of destruction that a nuclear bomb causes has changed warfare. Combined with missile technology we have witnessed a compression of space and time, meaning that in the event of a nuclear launch the other side will have minutes, instead of hours to respond to what will ultimately be a more catastrophic event. Not only does this leave leaders with less time to formulate a response but it also leaves less time for verification of an attack – something that could lead to a disastrous misunderstanding.

US President Ronald Reagan said in a speech just before the Geneva Summit in 1985 that “nations do not distrust each other because they’re armed; they arm themselves because they distrust each other.”[3] Whilst this is true nuclear weapons only exacerbate these problems. Mutual nuclear disarmament will serve two broad purposes. Firstly, it will reduce the security dilemma that has been created by the existence of nuclear weapons. Secondly, mutual nuclear disarmament will be achieved by countries working together to achieve a common goal. This cooperation (if done correctly) will produce better relations and reduce distrust which will create a better security environment for all.

Nuclear disarmament has faded as an issue in the years since the end of the Cold War. This trend needs to be reversed, and quickly. 68 years have gone by since the first use of an atomic weapon and since then the potential for use has increased, with more states possessing more powerful weapons. Deterrence will only work for so long and in certain circumstances. In their book Nuclear Weapons and Nonproliferation Sarah Diehl and James Moltz aptly stated “given the fact that nuclear weapons have not been used in conflict since 1945…beliefs about their role…remain largely matters of faith.”[4] Such uncertainty will only continue with the existence of nuclear weapons. This is compounded by the fact that nuclear weapons do not have a clear cut role in the current age of warfare defined by the ‘Global War on Terror’. Nuclear weapons did not deter terrorists on September 11, 2001 and have not deterred them since. If this is the future of conflict then it is clear that nuclear weapons do not work as deterrence, and since deterrence is the main argument for their continued existence, nuclear disarmament should occur.

Complete nuclear disarmament is a complex issue but that does not mean that we should give up on it.

Elizabeth Dunkerley

[1] The Nuclear Weapons Archive The First Nuclear Weapons. Available from: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Nwfaq/Nfaq8.html#nfaq8.1.3 [accessed 27 July 2013].

[2] The Nuclear Weapons Archive Big Ivan. Available from: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Russia/TsarBomba.html [accessed 27 July 2013].

[3] Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Address to the Nation on the Upcoming Soviet-United States Summit Meeting in Geneva http://reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1985/111485d.htm [accessed 5th August 2013]

[4] Diehl, S. Moltz, J. Nuclear Weapons And Nonproliferation (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2008) p. 38