Should the United States of America
adopt a stance of nuclear disarmament
? The use and possession of nuclear weapons
has been an area of much controversy for the past fifty years
. From the start of nuclear weapon creation, The Manhattan Project
, through to modern day diplomacy based on the disarmament of nuclear weapons
in countries like North Korea
, nuclear weapons
have made the headlines. During the Second World War
, nuclear weapons
were used by the United States of America
successfully to practically destroy parts of Japan
. Between October 16th and 29th in 1962
, the world came to a halt as two different superpowers
came 'to the brink of nuclear war
.'(Disarmament and Peace Education : http://www.gsinstitute.org/dpe/timeline.html : Section 1962) There have been times when having nuclear weapons
has proved quite rewarding to the country in possession of the weapons. For instance, the United States
has used their nuclear weapons cache
as a bargaining chip
in many situations as opposed to force, causing less casualties
and still the same effect.
There are many reasons why people decide to be both for and against nuclear weapons. One reason, however not the only reason, is that 'A world without nuclear weapons would be one in which the threat of cataclysmic nuclear holocaust would be removed.' (David Krieger, 'Security and Sustainability in a Nuclear Weapons Free World') This is the view that a world without nuclear weapons would be a world with one less threat to its safety. Another common argument for the people against nuclear weapons is that nuclear weapons make it too easy for a superpower to coerce a smaller nation or group of nations to act against their will. The third and final reason people are against nuclear weapons is the fact that nuclear weapons can cause the world's destruction with a mere press of a button, giving anyone with a grudge against a particular place, the ability to destroy it instantly. This may seem impossible, but if someone were ever to gain access to long range nuclear weapons, they could simply and easily destroy the whole world if they wanted.
There are just as many reasons why people are against disarmament. One argument against disarmament is the deterrence argument. This argument is best summed up by Bernard Brodie when in 1946 he said 'Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them." (Bernard Brodie, see 'The Uncertainty Principle' in notes) This explains what deterrence is, it is stopping others from doing things simply because of the possibility of nuclear retaliation. Another reason for keeping nuclear weapons is to always win wars due to having more nuclear weapons than another country. This means that if deterrence fails, you can still fall back on your nuclear weapons and start a nuclear war. So now that we have seen a basic outline of the different views on Nuclear Disarmament, lets take a more in depth look.
The pacifist argument that 'A world without nuclear weapons would be one in which the threat of cataclysmic nuclear holocaust would be removed.' has a few main points of weakness which are always used when debating its validity. The first of which is, that if there were no nuclear weapons in the world, then more wars would take place, because there would be nothing to deter war from happening to begin with. For example, in 1918 the First World War ended, and then in 1939 the Second World War started. Between 1939 and 1959 there was the creation of the first nuclear weapons. Some people would argue that had it not been for the use of deterrence through nuclear weapons, the cold war would have broken out into the Third World War, however caution on the part of all nations' leaders due to the risk of nuclear destruction stopped this from happening.
The second argument is that nuclear disarmament was that it allowed superpowers with large numbers of nuclear weapons to coerce smaller nations with less weapons, to do things against their will. This may not have happened yet, or at least at a nuclear scale, however it is very possible that nuclear coercion could come out of religious disagreements or debates over land, the possibilities of how nuclear coercion could be implemented immorally are endless. The stance against this issue is that maybe nuclear coercion would be far more positive than negative. Taking a utilitarian perspective, if we force a few people to lose their lives, such as the 'evil dictator' of a country to step down along with his government through coercion, wouldn't it be better? The real problem with both arguments is that no-one knows how the power of nuclear coercion would be used, and without that knowledge, we can guess the worst, or the best.
The final argument against the holding of nuclear weapons was that if a person got their hands on a nuclear weapon and was able to launch it, that person could single-handedly destroy the world as we know it. This argument is one of the greatest fears of nuclear weapons, and is always a possibility. There have been movies such as 'Hackers' where people break through the security barriers and are able to control the fate of the world through nuclear weapons. The possibility that a person with immoral intentions could obtain access to nuclear weapons, is in my opinion, the scariest part of the existence of nuclear weapons. The argument against this would be that we are currently spending 32 Billion dollars on nuclear weapons defense (Arms Control Association : Fact Sheet U.S. Missile Defense Programs at a Glance) which was raised from 26 Billion in 2000. There is no way a person could ever get access to our arms due to our great level to security. The question is, has there ever been an 'impenetrable fortress' who's security was not breached?
The first reason for keeping nuclear weapons was that deterrence was needed to keep the rest of the world in line. For example, through nuclear deterrence the Cold War did not break out into a Third World War, instead it simply allowed both sides to try and deter each other without any success. The world without nuclear weapons would have far more war and killing than without nuclear weapons. Countries would not feel obligated to do what stronger nations and superpowers asked of them, as there would be much less that the stronger country could do other than go to war, risking thousands of lives of their own citizens. The problem with this argument is that there are still other ways to coerce nations to do as you say, such as taxes on products to or from the country. There is also the idea that if a person does not mind if his country is completely destroyed by nuclear weapons, as long as he destroys as much of the opposing country as possible, (such as Fidel Castro according to Mr. McNamara during the Cuban Missile Crisis) then deterrence will not be at all effective, and result in millions of innocent lives lost if a threat turns into the actual use of a nuclear weapon.
The second and final reason against nuclear disarmament was that because of other countries possessing nuclear weapons. If other countries still possess nuclear weapons after you disarm, then you will be at risk of nuclear attack from that country. We also need weapons to defend against countries who have weapons. This is a paradox, because if we get rid of our weapons, our nation will be vulnerable, if they get rid of theirs, they will be vulnerable. This catch 22 creates another problem when dealing with nuclear disarmament.
I personally believe that nuclear disarmament is a positive step towards a better world. The only way that we can truly protect the earth from its destruction, is to destroy those things that can destroy the world. With the creation of nuclear weapons we have had, as mentioned earlier, many close calls with the destruction of entire nations. People have seen these atrocities; one man remembers a moment after the bombing of Hiroshima when he saw a girl: 'she asked me for help ' and when I looked at her hands, I saw the skin was burned off, as if she were wearing gloves. Her hair was disheveled and her breast was red from burn.? (A Hiroshima factory worker, cnduk.org) Every time a nuclear weapon is created, it has the possibility to kill hundreds of thousands of people. A bomb does not differentiate between good and bad, it simply destroys everything in its path, leaving behind scorched corpses and buildings in ruins as a memory of the nuclear weapon.
When we look at this problem from a Utilitarian point of view, such as the perspective of a utilitarian philosopher such as Mill, we must decide if the security through quantity of weapons, and through deterrence is greater than the possibility of doing harm to others. We must look at a number of variables and decide which side is greater. This is something that both sides of the argument surrounding nuclear disarmament can do and decide that their point of view will yield the greater total happiness. Through simply changing the variables they can decide that they will come out on top. Thus there can be no true answer in Mill's mind of how he would view this issue. Only someone who knows everything in the future, will be able to predict if nuclear weapons will be used, and for what purpose. It would also be nearly impossible of giving reasonable odds. For this reason, we should turn to Immanuel Kant for the answer to this question.
Kant would say that all people should be able to control their own autonomy, and that this is the most important moral value. Another thing that Kant said was: 'Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end? (Kant, I. (2002) Theoretical Philosophy after 1781, ed. H.E. Allison and P. Heath, trans.) This is not true with nuclear weapons. The people that are being killed, humanity, is being used simply as a means to end a war. Being used to get to an end is very different than being a means and an end. Because of this, Kant would encourage nuclear disarmament because the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to take away peoples' autonomy.
However much we may wish to believe that nuclear weapons will be disarmed, and cease to disrupt this beautiful earth, I fear that this will never happen. We will always have some form of destruction changing and destroying our world. I believe that we, as the younger generation, should not try and destroy the problem all together, instead, we should simply try to learn now, as much as we can about the problems that will face the world tomorrow, and show each other what we find. That is the only way we can make ourselves aware of the threats ahead of us, and with that awareness, maybe then we will be able to stop the use of nuclear weapons.
Annotated Works Cited
GUYER, PAUL The value of autonomy and the foundations of ethics (1998, 2004). Kant,
Immanuel. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. London: Routledge.
Retrieved December 05, 2004, from "http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/DB047SECT9"
This just gave me some more points on autonomy and was able to relate Kant to Nuclear
War. Just for some more background information.
'Fog of War' Sony Pictures Classics, 2004
Mr. McNamara gives many insights into his own opinions of Nuclear War in this film.
Giving his opinions of the fear they brought him, and how close the US came to
launching nuclear weapons during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Stephen J. Hadley 'Policy Considerations In Using Nuclear Weapons'
Gives a few good examples of when deterrence had been used in the past as an e
ffective form of control.
"Nuclear Disarmament." Issues and Controversies, 23 Aug. 2004. FACTS.com. Facts On File
News Services. 1 Dec. 2004 .
This gives a fairly general idea of what nuclear disarmament is and who the two different
sides are, what they believe in, and how they got to their current stance.
"National High School Debate Topic: Weapons of Mass Destruction." Issues and Controversies,
31 Aug. 2001. FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. 1 Dec. 2004
An extremely broad range of information, which takes into account many different views.
This was a great starting point.
"Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism." CQ Researcher, 4 Feb. 2004.
This gave me an understanding of how nuclear weapons can be passed on to terrorists
and how the addition of nuclear weapons to countries arms cache can significantly
change the balance of power and terror in the world.
'The impact of the bombing on Hiroshima' http://www.cnduk.org
This is a biased source, however it gives a concise and believable view of how
Hiroshima looked after being bombed.
Arms Control Association "http://www.armscontrol.org/"
This gave a fair look at how nuclear weapons are cared for, and up to date info on the
latest developments. The fact sheets were particularly useful for finding statistics.
'Security and Sustainability in a Nuclear Weapons Free World' International Network of
Engineers and Scientists Against Proliferation (INESAP) www.inesap.org, David
This is written by the president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. It is very
biased, however it does show one side of the argument very clearly.
'Disarmament and Peace Education.' http://www.gsinstitute.org/dpe/timeline.html
The most insightful and fare aching timeline, which dated back to 1896 and the discovery
'The Uncertainty Principle' by Brynes, Asher; The Nation, 10/15/1973
This publication gave a great quote about disarmament, although I only know the name
of the speaker, and not the contexts of the quote, only that he was a security analyst and
he was talking about nuclear weapons.
"Milestones in Nuclear Disarmament (sidebar)." Issues and Controversies, 24 Jan. 1997.
FACTS.com. Facts On File News Services. 1 Dec. 2004 .
The article gives a list of dates when various key points through nuclear disarmament,
which are important in understanding the history in a concise and easily quotable
"Nuclear Disarmament." Issues and Controversies, 23 Aug. 2004. FACTS.com. Facts On File
News Services. 1 Dec. 2004 .
This is the follow up article to "Milestones in Nuclear Disarmament (sidebar)." It speaks
about the pros and cons of total nuclear disarmament, the possibility of nuclear
proliferation, and how deterrence may or may not work. This helped me get some
strong negative aspects of Nuclear Weapons.
"Weapons of Mass Destruction." CQ Researcher, 8 Mar. 2002.
This article, mostly dealt with irrelevant material about anti-terrorism actions by the USA,
however the end of the article, it gave many facts about nations who have nuclear and