The menace of nuclear attack has threatened the United States, as well as the world, since the invention of the atom bomb. The possibility of destroying entire cities with a single bomb has plagued the leaders of the world as the human race. This fear has controlled the military, America’s foreign affairs, and the health and welfare of the citizenry. MAD (mutually assured destruction) is not a tactic of war, but a tactic of extinction (Schell, FotE 95). At this point in history, humankind has the ability to annihilate itself, and it is the choice of the leaders of the world that affects this. Because of this, the United States should unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons to contribute to the survival of the human race.
Nuclear weapons are in existence to protect the country from other nuclear weapons; this is the core meaning of deterrence. According to Harvard professor, John P. Holdren, this idea is flawed; deterrence will only succeed if there are plausible plans if it should fail. Fabricating these plans is difficult, and attempts to make nuclear intimidation believable can be seen as an aggressive stance, this raises tensions, kindles arms race, or increases the chance of nuclear war from crisis, instability, or accident (Holdren 112). Deterrence is inherently unreliable; MAD can never become completely stable. If one of the rivals develops a way to protect itself against a nuclear strike (i.e. SDI/Star Wars, anti-ballistic missiles, etc.), then mutual deterrence will no longer exist, the other side will see this as a preparation for a first strike and thus lock them “into a vicious circle of tension” (Abrams 16). The U.S. nuclear umbrella is dead; this has been proven with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the North Korean crisis (Cropsey 52). In some of America’s recent military conflicts, nuclear weapons have not been the deterrent as expected. In the Gulf War, Iraq was deterred by conventional force, and not nuclear; Iraq had the capability to use chemical and biological weapons but didn’t because of the severe punishment that conventional forces (Army, Navy, etc.) would enforce. Moreover, Iraq didn’t use chemical and biological weapons (CBWs) because that they are easily detonated in the midst of war (Mazarr et al. 42). No one believes the U.S. will respond with nuclear weapons; the threats are contradicted by U.S. allies; in the Gulf War, both the British and the French clearly ruled out the use of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons are the only things can destroy everything, and proliferation is growing every day. Keeping these arsenals is a threat; the deteriorating Russian nuclear arsenal is one of the biggest threats. Keeping this arsenal increases the chances of accidents, of more widespread proliferation, and of nuclear terrorism. “Only nuclear weapons can destroy the United States as a society and a nation.” (Goodpaster et al. 93-94). Global nuclear dangers are increasing as more countries move to develop nuclear weapons. In May 1998, India conducted five nuclear tests, and Pakistan responded with seven, starting the world’s first nuclear confrontation unrelated to the Cold War (Schell, “Folly” 34). The end of nonproliferation is in sight; Iraq, Iran, and North Korea are actively seeking to advance nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles (Martel 103). The world’s superpowers have failed in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, and unless we disarm the world will have to pay the price.
The threat of nuclear accidents is not just a small possibility. With Russia’s weakening of control of its large nuclear arsenal, the chance of an accidental or unauthorized attack grows every day. This lack of control of the Russian nuclear arsenal could result in a “sudden and massive proliferation” (Nolan 91-95). The Russian nuclear arsenal is on hair-trigger alert, with the ability to be launched within several minutes of an attack warning; this greatly increases the chance of an accidental launch. The U.S. nuclear arsenal is at an equal footing: “No other single measure would more clearly signal the end of the mutual suspicion carried over from the Cold War than taking these weapons off quick launch status” (Carter et al. 17). In an interview with Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr., arms control official, “Any judgment like this is a guess. But my judgment is that in the next year, there is perhaps a 10 percent risk of a major nuclear event in a large city, and in the next 5 years, perhaps a 50 percent risk” (Taylor). The death count that would result from an accidental nuclear attack would dwarf any accident in history, the World Health Organization has estimated that an accidental nuclear attack would result in billions of casualties world wide (Forrow 1328-1329).
The threat of a nuclear accident is closer than we may think: In 1995, Russia’s early warning system reported a possible US nuclear missile attack. This set off Russia’s emergency nuclear decision process, all because of the launch of a scientific research rocket fired from Norway. Russian radars could not rule out the possibility that the rocket was a nuclear weapon. The alarm went all the way to President Boris Yeltsin, activating his nuclear suitcase, which would be used to authorize nuclear retaliation. After 8 minutes the operators of the early warning system reported that the rocket posed no threat to Russia (Blair et al. 6-7). The fact that America has been so close to the threat of nuclear attack is a wakeup call. “The safe outcome of this false alarm is scant consolidation” (Blair et al. 6-7). This was in 1995 when Russia had nine early warning satellites, today Russia only has four, the next time we may not be so lucky.
The elimination of nuclear weapons is a gradual process but it is the ultimate solution to preventing a nuclear Armageddon. The U.S. is not the only country willing to disarm; both the United Kingdom and France have unilaterally reduced their nuclear stances by de-alerting and disarming a good portion of their nuclear arsenal. China still stands firm in their declaration of no first use of nuclear weapons (Canberra 8), and China will follow a U.S. and Russian lead in nuclear disarmament (Manning et al. 66). For all of this to happen, the U.S. must lead in disarmament, and this is a feasible task. With modern technology merged with monitoring networks, the world would have a reliable verification system. The U.S. is in control of its preservation, and if we lose control, then we may never get it back (Krass 200).
The mortality of the human race rests on the disarmament of these nuclear weapons. The very existence of nuclear weapons makes accidents inevitable. The United States must act now to avoid inevitable extinction. Robert Oppenheimer and others, including Albert Einstein, desired global disarmament, but this advice was disregarded. In its place, the world set about building the nuclear arsenals they retain today. “Unless we rid ourselves of our nuclear arsenals a holocaust not only might occur but will occur—if not today, then tomorrow; if not this year then the next. We have come to live on borrowed time: every year of continued human life on earth is a borrowed year, every day a borrowed day” (Schell, FotE 186-186). Now, with some thirty-thousand megatons of nuclear destruction in existence, and with that number being increased every day, we have entered the zone where we risk extinction. The risk of extinction is in its own category in terms of significance, and making the decision of disarmament must be made within that significance. “Up to now, every risk has been contained within the frame of life; extinction would shatter the frame” (Schell, FotE 95). Extinction is the ultimate in deciding an issue. There can be nothing worse; extinction is limitless and eternal: the extinction of the human race is not something to gamble with. The mere possibility of extinction is enough to warrant nuclear disarmament; extinction outweighs all, and unless something is done about it, it is inevitable.
For disarmament to work, it will take a lengthly step-by-step process in which each country must verify every other state's completion of each step. By disarming step-by-step instead of “tear(ing) out an existing nuclear weapons programme by its roots” (Fisher 50) allows for a certain level of security to be maintained (Fisher 50). This raises the feasibility of world without nuclear weapons to a doable point. Not to mention the money that will be saved, approximately $8.33 Billion dollars in a 10 year time period (“START”).
Nuclear disarmament is not only feasible but necessary task. Nuclear weapons are outdated and are only a threat to the country to which they are meant to defend. Deterrence has failed; America is not willing to use its nuclear weapons, and at any moment a nuclear standoff could escalate to full-scale nuclear war. Nonproliferation is a thing of the past; any country or terrorist group with the money could build its own nuclear weapons program and become part of the nuclear club. As more and more countries gain the technology the chance of a nuclear accident is high, even in superpower countries such as Russia, and such an accident could kill billions of people worldwide, and could even lead to extinction. Such possibilities are not to be taken lightly. In a statement by Jonathan Schell in Fate of the Earth, “Once we learn that a (nuclear)holocaust might lead to extinction we have no right to gamble, because if we lose, the game will be over, and neither we nor anyone else will ever get another chance” (Schell, FotE 95).
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