The Issue with a Climate of Nuclear Weapons
We’ve all seen the headlines at some point, each one a small desensitizing reminder that our nation exists with a loaded gun pointed to its head. In the past couple of years, North Korea has taken opportunity after opportunity to demonstrate it’s nuclear capabilities, specifically, it’s self-proclaimed ability to strike the U.S. homeland directly via intercontinental ballistic missile. In the minds of many Americans today, the North Korean threat has been pushed back into the background of their consciousness. As a nation, it seems we have come to de-sensitize ourselves to the idea of a dictatorship across the ocean having final say on if we live or die. But, only a decade or two ago, the idea of North Korea posing a threat to the U.S. mainland would be laughable. So what changed? The answer to that question is nuclear proliferation.
Broadly Defined as the continued spread of nuclear weapons, and nuclear weapons technology, nuclear proliferation has put nuclear weapons tech into the hands of an increasing number of states across the globe. As seen in the case of North Korea, the result of a country gaining nuclear capabilities can be catastrophic with consequences ranging from threats to the interests and safety of the U.S. to the creation of a major threat to global peace.
I quite simply find the concept of nuclear weapons and nuclear warfare for that matter, profound. Today, the modern Hydrogen bomb has the destructive capability to level an entire city in seconds and when launched via ICBM, can reach its target in mere minutes. At some point, it no longer seems like warfare is an apt description for actions involving such unbiased destructive forces. But despite having such thoughts about nukes, something about the concepts they present feels like it has been in the back of my mind all my life. I feel that nuclear weapons have always been a part of my world. But never was I given a formal introduction to the concept. It was never explained to me that at any moment, a single call could send weapons of uncompromising destruction hurtling towards my family and I. Instead, it was nuclear weapons cultural importance which led to my awareness of their existence through media. But at that point I was much younger with only the most rudimentary understanding of the concepts nukes brought forward. Now older, I better understand the complexities and consequences that nukes create in the modern world. Nuclear proliferation has brought nuclear weapons to many new Nations and as a result, is major pillar of the global political climate we experience today. I was interested in researching the issue of nuclear proliferation because to me, nukes represented a profound power and following the consequences over time of nations gaining that power would help me understand how we ended up where we are today.
The History of the Atomic Bomb and How we Got Here+
In 1945, headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer, Manhattan project scientists produced the world’s first atomic bomb (Galens). In the following month, the U.S. would drop two of these aforementioned bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing an estimated 150,000 Japanese nationals (Kennedy). The sheer amount of destruction resulting from each individual detonation was unseen before in any instance of previous warfare: the U.S. has been effectively able to level an entire city instantaneously using a device smaller than a tank (Perkins). A week after the attacks, in August 1945, Japan surrendered, effectively ending World War II (Kennedy). The attacks on Japan had demonstrated the raw power of the atomic bomb to the international community and proved the danger posed by the nations who held them (Kimball). In the following two decades, four more countries: the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China developed nuclear capabilities (Bangheri)(ProQuest Staff). But the days of free for all of nuclear weapons development were not to last. First put into full effect in 1970, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT was an internationally organized agreement whose goal is to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons around the world and focus the use of nuclear technology towards peaceful uses such as energy (Perkovich). Under the NPT, nations which had completed nuclear weapons tests prior to the 1970 date of the treaty were defined as nuclear weapons states and were able to hold nuclear weapons if they agreed to and worked towards the goals of the NPT (Bangheri). This definition outlined by the treaty is why not all states that have acquired nuclear arms are technically results of nuclear proliferation. The only nations to fall under these requirements would be The five aforementioned ones from the beginning of this segment (ProQuest Staff). While the NPT was successful in some regards, ultimately the issue of nuclear proliferation continued and four years later, despite the treaty, India would join the ranks of these five as the first unofficial
North Korea and the Current State of Non-Proliferation Efforts+
Today, the threat posed by nuclear weapons, and the countries that hold them, are very real. Nuclear weapons hold an immense power which has the potential to cause widespread devastation in the cities they are deployed in (Nuclear Weapons). When proliferation has occurred, this power has fallen into the wrong hands, creating major threats to our national security which continue to be dealt with today. The
Many have tried to implement solutions and failed. I think we need to be more aggressive than we ever have before. There has been too much worry of trade interests being messed up by a heavy push for disarmament. Countries that are like-minded in this matter have to step and put heavy pressure on others not in agreement to fall in line. In cases like North Korea, this especially makes sense because the tyranny of the government prevents any input from the majority of their population so it is unknown if the motivation was shared amongst its general population or just in the heads of the well-fed higher-ups.
While the vast majority of my solution to nuclear proliferation relies on larger scale institutional changes, this is far from meaning that nothing can or should be done by average citizens. In America, a key factor in the functionality of our democracy is the input and opinions of its citizens. When issues such as nuclear proliferation are brought up, letting elected officials hear your thoughts on the matter can really help highlight important problems or the value in certain proposed solutions.