Let’s start at the beginning.
It’s World War II, and President Harry Truman is in office. The atomic bomb is a brand new concept and is undergoing testing in New Mexico. The United States wants to use it and observe its effect on targeted areas. The United States also hopes Japan will surrender quickly to avoid American casualties.
Unsurprisingly, the order was issued to drop an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The bomb killed 80,000 people instantly, and tens of thousands of people were later killed because of radiation poisoning. Three days later, the United States bombed the city of Nagasaki. After this last incident, the Japanese decided to surrender to the United States, thereby ending World War II. The dropping of this atomic bomb not only aided a United States victory without added American casualties, but also showed America’s power to the Soviet Union. The Soviets soon built their own atomic bombs, and the nuclear arms race, also known as the Cold War, began.
Seventy one years after this fatal attack, President Obama recently visited the very sight one of his predecessors decided to attack. This visit, the White House confirmed, was to remind people of the harm that nuclear weapons inflict upon those attacked, but not an apology for the attack. During the visit to Hiroshima, President Obama called for a halt in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. His bold statement initiated a new rush of hope in a world where the threat of nuclear weapons and nuclear destruction is all too real. He also highlighted his visit as a mark of the beginning of a new alliance between two nations that were, at one time, bitter enemies.
So what does President Obama’s statement on nuclear weapons mean? What should the world do about weapons that could eventually destroy the very people who invented them? Well, that’s a question many are now asking. In the past, several treaties have been made regarding what countries should have nuclear weapons, who should be able to use them, etcetera. But, many (including President Obama as mentioned above) are now arguing that we should just get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. And the argument is a strong one.
Nuclear weapons have many dangerous unintended effects. The radiation is eventually fatal. It proved to be so in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and if another nuclear attack is to occur, multiple thousands of people will negatively be affected. Our environment as we know it would be dead. According to ican (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), it would take “less than .1% of the current global nuclear arsenal to bring about devastating agricultural collapse and widespread famine.”
Nuclear weapons also cause a security threat. Nuclear weapons breed a form of mistrust between various nations. Nations have been known to create unjust treaties, such as the NPT, or the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which states that only five “nuclear states” are allowed to have nuclear weapons, while the “non-nuclear states” agree to not have nuclear weapons. The nuclear states are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. These were the only five countries in the world who who were allowed to have nuclear weapons. This treaty was not only discriminatory to other countries, but it was also an extreme threat to the security of the non-nuclear states. Because only five countries in the world were allowed to have nuclear weapons, the other countries could not defend themselves in any way. They could not threaten countries that possess nuclear weapons, nor could they act on countries who threaten them. It is treaties like these that highlight the danger of nuclear weapons—especially when it comes to underdeveloped nations, who couldn’t defend themselves properly even with the use of nuclear weapons, let alone without them.
Another aspect the harms nuclear weapons inflict is the economic aspect. Individual countries spend billions on the upkeep of nuclear arsenal. Altogether, the nine nuclear armed nations (including the four nations that possess nuclear weapons, but do not count as nuclear states according to the NPT) spent over $105 billion USD on maintaining and improving nuclear arsenal. This is money that could have easily been used for job growth, education in each of these countries, and helping lift people out of poverty, especially in nations like India, which is one of the four countries suspected to possess nuclear weapons.
Now, although not many, there are benefits to possessing nuclear weapons, and most of them are from a political standpoint. If a country has nuclear weapons secured under their belt, they automatically gain political power over countries that are not developing nuclear arsenal. Nuclear weapons also give countries negotiating power as well as power to negotiate and compromise to the advantage of the country that possesses nuclear power.
In the case of keeping nuclear arsenal, it’s clear that the argument to abolish them is much stronger. The environment, a healthy economy, security, and trust in the world are all much more important than something as meager as political power. The non-proliferation of nuclear arsenal will be a key component in deciding whether politicians want to change the world for better.