Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Bomb - and the Balance of Terror

After the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, 6 August 1945

America then demonstrated the ability and willingness to use nuclear weapons to kill on a scale and with a speed previously unmatched. 

We have 'progressed' to being able to kill on an even bigger scale now  -  and with even more countries able to do so.

The threatened or actual use of nuclear weapons cannot be consistent with justice. Why?

  • Nuclear weapons are indiscriminate, killing civilians and military alike 
  • They bring about mass destruction on the scale of cities, societies - potentially human civilisation itself - and all life present in very large land areas 

Using nuclear weapons would be committing mass suicide and so can't be legitimately considered a defence. We can't expect to be able to forever sustain a world that relies on the threat of mutual, indiscriminate mass destruction because at some point, by accident or design, nuclear weapons will again be used.    

The theory of mutually assured destruction (MAD) says using nuclear weapons causes the complete destruction of all sides. The claim is that there is a deterrent effect which stops all sides from using them.

With a balance of terror no side would want to start a nuclear conflict. However, no side would want to give up its nuclear weapons either. This leaves a sustainability issue, with current and future generations stuck with a nuclear balance of terror, spending billions updating the weaponry to maintain it.

There are clearly problems with the mutual destruction, nuclear deterrence theory which illustrate the need for nuclear disarmament:

  • decision makers will come along who are not entirely rational: rogue commanders; extremists; people with a fervour for mass destruction; those with the bunker mentality of Hitler
  • at some point a decision maker will decide irrationally not to avoid mutual destruction
  • the complete and error-free information and interpretation required for fully rational action is not possible
  • a side might gain the upper hand technologically, gaining greater speed, stealth or scale in its attack or ability to defend itself  - therefore they may be tempted into striking first
  • errors or accidents in the equipment and procedures will at some point result in the firing of nuclear weapons, so their continued possession passes the threat from generation to generation 

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