Do nuclear weapons have any use as instruments of deterrence or are they just a danger to peace

When considering whether nuclear weapons have any use as instruments of deterrence or are just a danger to peace we can see strong arguments from both sides, with followers of Realism such as Kenneth waltz arguing that it is in each states security interest to gain nuclear weapons in order to deter an attack from a rival state (Shmidt.2001, p.152). However, Liberal internationalists such as Richard Falk argue that ‘interdependence’ (where each state relies on one another for economic and security reasons-e.g. the European Union) between states deterred war to a greater extent then the high tension that nuclear weapons bring to international politics(Dunne.2001, p.173).A main argument that nuclear weapons are beneficial to the world is that they act as deterrence to states that may be tempted to resort to war in order to solve their differences, this can be seen because there has not been a world war in the past sixty years despite Two Hegemonic super powers rising with opposing ideologies and an array of disputes (Cuba, Korea, Afghanistan, Berlin). Perhaps this is out of fear of Mutually Assured Destruction (where the only reason preventing one power from attacking with a nuclear device is the knowledge that the attacked power will hit back with nuclear missiles before it is destroyed- destroying both sides) where neither side can win leading to a situation of international stalemate, where neither country can attack and have no choice but to negotiate change (Mueller.1988,p,61).Gawain Williams page two (2/7)Deterrence of war due to nuclear weapons can also be seen through the change of opinion amongst states about in what situation a country should resort to war with before weapons of mass destruction old European powers using wars to sort out Empire, territory, economic and political differences between states. Now that there is a continuous threat of a small confrontation escalating into a nuclear battle the amount of wars involving first world countries has dropped. With war being seen as a more defensive or protectionist role (i.e. Falklands war) with supra national bodies such as the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) in use in order to prevent conflict (Jervis.1996, p.218). Through bodies such as the UN that use collective security there is an almost belief that they do not begin wars but instead use troops as peace keeping forces in a country, this action would have previously been called an occupation by foreign powers, suggesting that we have changed the meaning of war in order to avoid nuclear war (for instance the Soviet Union was aiding Vietnamese rebels as opposed to attacking American troops).One view is that Nuclear weapons actually brought stability into an otherwise very dangerous situation- with in 1955 the world facing a stand off between N.A.T.O (North Atlantic Treaty Operation) and members of the Warsaw pact (Soviet union) (Scott.2001,p.81).However, instead of these organizations resorting to war the threat of a nuclear conflict forced compliance between the two super powers through treaties such as such as START (strategic arms reduction treaties)and an ABM (anti-ballistic missile) treaty in 1972 between the U.S.A. and USSR (Howlett.2001,p.420). This paved the way for the start of detente which was a period of general relaxation of tensions between theGawain Williams page three (3/7)Two superpowers allowing general stability to exist between the two for a time which would not have been possible without the looming threat of possible war.This can also be seen through the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 where’s after there was greater co-operation between the superpowers with the USSR removing missile basis from Cuba and America removing nuclear missiles from the border of Hungry, In order to stop the world coming so close to nuclear war again a direct line of communication was also set up between Washington and Moscow in an attempt to avoid positions where the two were faced ‘eyeball to eyeball’.A realist view argues that all states should strive to obtain nuclear weapons because security should be the highest priority of any state with the goal being to be strong enough to survive an attack. If a Country gains nuclear abilities then it has secured its survival because in theory no one should attack it out of fear of the consequences (Howlett.2001,p.422). This can be seen in Asia where a similar situation to the cold war has developed between India and Pakistan where’s due to both obtaining a nuclear arsenal they remain in a stalemate of Mutually Assured destruction, where’s if neither side possessed nuclear weaponry its likely a war between the two would have already began, equally if only one power possessed a nuclear weapon there is a strong possibility there would have already been a nuclear strike.The neo-realist theory goes further then this and makes the case that all states should have accesses to nuclear weaponry because if every state had a nuclear weapon then every state would be too high a risk to start a war with since every military action would risk the end of the world, thus creating an end to war on the basis of M.A.D .TheGawain Williams page four (4/7)notion of sharing nuclear technology was even considered by America after 1945 (Howlett.2001, p.428) but the ensuring Cold war showed the mass availability of nuclear weapons to be a very dangerous idea since the more countries that have the ability to strike with nuclear weapons means that there is more of a chance of an irrational leader gaining this power and starting a nuclear war.Throughout History there has been a strong argument for nuclear weapons to be used as an instrument of deterrence with the American president Eisenhower stating “atoms for peace” (Howlett.2001,p.430). However, there is a strong argument that nuclear weapons are a danger to peace between states.This can be seen throughout various nations such as Switzerland, Holland and Latin American countries that have renounced nuclear weapons and became NWFZ countries (nuclear weapon free zone), and south Africa revealing that in the 1980s it developed six nuclear weapons but destroyed them in 1986 this is a clear statement from some major countries that nuclear weapons can only have a negative effect on the world (Howlett.2001, p.416).This point can be seen again at the NPT (non-proliferation of nuclear weapons) treaty review in 2000 where five of the seven NWS (nuclear weapon states) (including American and Russia) stated that their eventual goal for their nuclear arsenal is for it to be dismantled completely (Howlett.2001, p.415).This suggests that despite these world powers seeing a need for nuclear weapons in the current world situation they are in fact aware of the dangers nuclear weaponry possesses to peace.Gawain Williams page five (5/7)It has been put forward that Nuclear weapons had little to do with the deterrence of communist uprisings thought the world since a nuclear weapon would be of little use against a Soviet Union expansion program since it is in Communist ideology that power is to be taken through a revolution from the proletariat (this is the reason for Soviet support of Vietnamese rebels), the type of situation that nuclear weapons would prove useless against due to the immense civilian loss and the fact that America(a democratic country) would have attacked a popular revolution (Mueller.1988,p63).The idea that nuclear weapons are useful in the sense that they act as deterrence also seems to hold fault since many wars have happened since1945, many of which could have easily escalated into nuclear wars. This can be seen in 1950 when Stalin sent Soviet Union troops into North Korea despite the threat of nuclear attack from America. This is because it is unlikely either side from the cold war would risk Obliterating the human race over a small state being invaded (Mueller.1988,p65). With this argument in mind one could argue that nuclear weapons could actually put the security of smaller states at a far higher risk since no nuclear powers would be willing to interfere directly in the other super powers aggressive actions out of fear of the conflict escalating into a nuclear war over a country that means nothing to either power, this can be seen when the soviet union invaded Afghanistan and the U.S.A took no direct military action out of fear of war erupting.The argument of nuclear weapons acting as deterrence to aggressive foreign policy is untrue since the massive casualties as well as social and economic destruction was enough for any power to be fearful of a small conflict escalating into a world war, nuclearGawain Williams page six (6/7)Weapons meant just the Quickening of the process of mass death (Mueller.1988, p66). This fear of another world war happening can be seen after the first world war where Britain and France went to great lengths in attempts to appease Hitler( Munich conference). Continuing this John Mueller argues that this continues today and is the main reason war never began between the U.S.A and USSR. From this argument it seems that the “political result of nuclear weapons is more important then the actual weapon” putting forward the idea that the actual nuclear weapon is irrelevant , if it had not been invented then a different weapon of mass destruction would have taken its place but the situation would be the same(Mueller.1988,p64).Jervis puts forward the idea that a continuation of defense relying on Mutually Assured Destruction is a danger to peace because there is a huge demoralizing effect on a nation that is just waiting for a state to make a mistake before it is attacked means that a view is taken of ‘live for the moment because there may not be another’ which creates a more instable society, which is more dangerous in a nuclear situation (Jervis.1996,p.219).It has been argued by Sagan that sooner or latter with what seems to be a never ending stream of ‘crisis’ from the Berlin crisis in 1946 to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and now the war on terrorism it is only a matter of time before there is a nuclear preventative strike in the hope of destroying your enemy before they can strike back, this is a massive danger to peace and means there is a continuous threat to peace (Howlett.2001,p.429).The idea that war is far less likely now because nuclear weapons can be used is clearly incorrect, with America even using nuclear weapons as an excuse to begin a war, by invading Iraq in an attempt to discover banned weapons of mass destruction. ThisGawain Williams page seven (7/7)Creates the impression that nuclear weapons can now be the cause of wars instead of acting as deterrence.In conclusion to the question of nuclear weapons being instruments of deterrence or a danger to peace I would have to side with them being a danger to peace since the only use of nuclear weapons resulted in the destruction of two major cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) here a major argument can be seen that a deceive with its only use is to kill millions of people can never be anything but a danger to peace. Despite the possibility that M.a.d. brought stability to the cold war, the fact is the cold war is over with America fighting a different type of battle against terrorist where nuclear weaponry has no use and now these weapons should be on there way to decommissioning.However despite nuclear weapons acting as a danger to peace, humans now hold the technology to wipe themselves, this can not be lost or forgotten so we must strive to find ways to lower the risk of a nuclear Armageddon.


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