This paper aims to examine the concept of the nuclear war: how this concept appeared, what was the history behind the nuclear war, and how the world perceives nuclear war and nuclear weapons now.
Nuclear War: Beginning
The definition of a nuclear war emerged together with the first nuclear weapons. Scientists from different countries tried to design the weapons during the World War II, but the first organized researches began in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the Manhattan project is possibly the most famous one, as it allowed the USA produce first nuclear weapons in the world. Some weapons that the project researched and produced were detonated during the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attack, leading to more than 220.000 deaths of civilians and soldiers. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are considered to be controversial because it is still unclear whether they helped end the war and how unethical this decision was. As there were no regulations of the nuclear weapons in the 1940s, I believe it was unethical to use such weapons against the civilians, because the world was not able to evaluate the damage of these weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the invention of the nuclear warfare, although it was a sign of progress, has lead to a constant threat of a full-scale nuclear war.
Nuclear War: The Cold War
The use of a nuclear weapon in 1945 destroyed the taboo on mass destruction weapons; the world entered a new phase of war. Although the possible nuclear conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union was extensively discussed, it never happened. Nevertheless, the Cold War has shown us that elimination of nuclear weapons was impossible as they presented both danger to and protection for those states that owned them (Cimbala, 2015). However, the discourse about the nuclear warfare has changed: during the Cold War, it was feared that a major conflict would happen between the USA and USSR, but today it is more likely that nuclear warfare will be used in a local conflict. Another threat is accidental bombing. Although it seems unlikely, any warfare, even the most dangerous one, is controlled by humans, and humans tend to make mistakes.
Shortly after the first tests of a hydrogen bomb were conducted, scientists from the USA, Canada, the USSR, UK, and other states established the Pugwash Conference. The aim of this organization was to observe the use of nuclear warfare and strive for its elimination and prohibition. It took part in various crises, including the Cuban Crisis, the Vietnam War, and others. The conferences that the organization held were not dedicated to scientific talks but rather to social and governmental changes in the policies connected to the weapons of mass destruction. The conferences helped to raise discussions about certain topics between the USA and USSR; the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and others were the outcomes of these conferences. In 1995, the organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its accomplishments in diminishing the role of nuclear weapons (Richmond, 2010). However, nuclear arsenals were not destroyed; today, more states possess nuclear weapons compared to the years of the Cold War.
Nuclear War: Today
As of today, five states under the Non-Proliferation Treaty possess nuclear weapons: the USA, Russia, France, China, and the UK. Other countries that also possess this type of warfare but are not regulated by the Treaty are Pakistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and India (Cimbala, 2015). There have been ongoing negotiations with the DPRK about its nuclear arsenal and the reversal of its military program; they remain to be unsuccessful. Another state that has been unwilling to negotiate about its (future) nuclear warfare is Iran; the country’s banks were disconnected from the SWIFT system, and the USA, as well as other countries, imposed sanctions against it. Nevertheless, it is assumed that Iran has not stopped its research on the nuclear weapons; eventually, the state will continue its pursuit of nuclear capabilities (Cimbala, 2015).
Thus, the picture of the today’s world looks grim in regard to the nuclear weapons. Although some treaties were signed and special laws were passed, the danger of mass destructions by these weapons has not ceased. It is possible to deter the use of nuclear weapons in the states that are operating under the NPT, but others are hard to control. It is even less possible to control terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda or ISIS. Their power should not be underrated; if they possess nuclear weapons, the outcomes will be horrifying. Nuclear warfare is both capable of destroying cities and exposing individuals to dangerous amounts of radiation. It is still a dangerous tool that can be used to manipulate, threaten, and intimidate governments and entire nations.
The idea of unarming the whole world seems to be unreasonable because this rule can be broken easily; the empire that possesses weapons will also have to control the other states. However, it remains unclear whether the world indeed needs weapons of mass destruction. This issue also leads to the following question: what is the actual purpose of science? Does it aim to educate people and help humanity evolve or does it also contribute to the hostility of the world? When I was a child, bright books about science for children often attracted me. Back then, I believed that science was something that improved the world and presented new opportunities for the humanity. However, it is clear that science can be exploited in various ways. It is impossible to determine whether science is dangerous or not because almost any inventions can be used for the greater good. Nevertheless, it is the humanity that decides how these inventions will be used, and it is not flawless. I would like to live in a better and safer world, but it seems that our generation, as well as the next ones, is not going to have that chance.
Cimbala, S. J. (2016). The new nuclear disorder: Challenges to deterrence and strategy. London: Routledge.
Richmond, Y. (2010). Cultural exchange and the Cold War: Raising the iron curtain. University Park, PA: Penn State Press.