The spread of nuclear weapons technology is a major concern in today's globalised society. The United States' 1945 explosion of the world's first atomic bomb in a New Mexico desert established the 'atomic era,' and nuclear weapons were used for the first and only time against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. These events exemplified nuclear weapons' extraordinary destructive potential, and the fact that they had long-term ramifications for international peace and security explains plenty.
Nuclear weapons development and usage in 1945 represented a watershed moment in the history of warfare, and indeed, in the history of humanity. Almost immediately, enough nuclear warheads were accumulated in stockpiles to destroy civilisation numerous times over, endowing humanity for the first time in history with the capability of self-destruction.
While some considered nuclear weapons as the cornerstone of a deterrent system that effectively eliminated war between major countries, others saw the nuclear arms race as an endless source of stress and instability.
Increased concern over nuclear proliferation has resulted in a heightened focus on weapons control and disarmament. Globalisation and the end of the Cold War have resulted in the emergence of new and complicated concerns associated with nuclear proliferation. These include the rise of nuclear energy, the threat posed by loose nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism, the issue of nuclear strategy, and the ongoing controversy over Israel's, Iran's, and North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes. International efforts to combat proliferation have grown in lockstep with the proliferation threat.
Examining the motivations for states to develop nuclear weapons:
States develop nuclear weapons to bolster national security against international threats.
Domestic policy model: States develop nuclear weapons to advance their local, domestic, and bureaucratic interests.
The norms model provides an important normative symbol of a state's modernity or identity: weapon acquisition or constraint on weapon development.
The psychology model is as follows: political leaders have a preconceived notion of the nation's identity, which drives their desire for the bomb.
The political economy model: the nature of a country's political economy – primarily whether it is internationally integrated or not – provides various incentives for or against nuclear weapons possession for its leaders.
The strategic culture model: strategic culture influences their perceptions of the value of nuclear weapons acquisition and usage. How it’s viewed drives acquisition or avoidance.
Do Nuclear Weapons Advance the Cause of Peace?
Yes: Optimism regarding proliferation
The primary reason for getting a nuclear weapon is deterrence, the act of preventing war by fear of wreaking havoc on the aggressor.
Vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons has not destabilised world politics because it has tended to maintain the balance of power through the balance of terror; it has aided in maintaining stability.
Nuclear weapons' presence may instil a sense of responsibility and a strong tendency toward cautious.
Kenneth Waltz observes that, while governments possessing nuclear weapons have grown the size of their arsenals since 1945, nuclear weapons have proliferated slowly to new states. He argues that nuclearization will help to maintain stability. As a result, he asserts, the risk of conflict diminishes as deterrent and defensive capabilities improve, and nuclear weapons make war more difficult to initiate.
No: pessimism about proliferation
Decorous could fail as a result of incorrect calculations, misunderstandings and accidents. Conventional warfare have the potential to devolve into nuclear wars. Vertical or horizontal nuclear proliferation does not ensure the maintenance of the balance of power. Proliferation, in fact, produces transitory imbalances.
Although the deterrent effect was effective during the first nuclear era, it may not be effective during the second nuclear age due to irresponsible nuclear powers. There’s rogue state into the picture.
Scott Sagan contends that when it comes to nuclear weapons, more is not necessarily better. Nuclear proliferation is undesirable due to the potential of nuclear accidents and conflict between nuclear-armed states.
Since 1945, nuclear technology has developed steadily for both civilian and military purposes, while the nuclear weapon stockpile has spread far more slowly. The conclusion of the Cold War signalled a shift in emphasis away from a conflict between two nuclear superpowers in bipolar competition and toward a more globalised world populated by a diverse array of nuclear powers of differing size and appearance. The dream of a post-nuclear society has long been advanced by a peace movement whose primary reason has frequently been anti-nuclear action.
Robert Oppenheimer, frequently referred to as the father of the atomic bomb, invoked the Bhagwat Gita's words: 'now I have become death, the destroyer of worlds'. Oppenheimer would subsequently oppose the construction of the much more terrifying hydrogen bomb. For many, the historically unparalleled scale of death and destruction made possible by nuclear weapons fundamentally impacted thinking about war ethics, possibly rendering the concept of fair war obsolete.