Nuclear weapons have enough explosive power to level entire cities, yet they have not been used since the final days of World War II. The destructive power wielded by these weapons caused many nations to race to acquire them, regardless of the moral repercussions. In the course of 70 years, humanity has deemed these explosive weapons necessary. There are potential dangers such as proliferation and accidental use, but many US officials agree that the US must keep a strong nuclear arsenal; in order to prevent conflict from occurring and maintain stability throughout the world. The US realizes the complex issues of nuclear weapons as it is one of their main priorities. On August 6, 1945, the United States unleashed the greatest bomb that the world has ever known, also known as Hiroshima; forever changing politics and warfare alike for centuries to come. Out of fear for this new bomb, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin exclaimed to his physicists, “You know that Hiroshima has shaken the whole world. The equilibrium has been destroyed.
Provide the bomb–it will remove a great danger from us” (Marguiles, 5). And with this, a war of ideologies commenced between the United States and the Soviet Union leading to the greatest arms race of all time. In a battle of democracy and communism, the United States and the USSR amassed devastating nuclear arsenals. By the peak of the Cold War (1986), both the U.S and Soviet Union each have over 60,000 nuclear warheads at their disposal (Marguiles 7). Both sides realise that the arms race is getting out of hand, and careful negotiations are put into place by the presidents of both countries in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.
The collapse of the Soviet Union is a moral victory for the United States, but leaves the fate of nuclear weapons in question.This question has resonated in nuclear policies throughout the twenty first century. Rogue states are a state regarded as breaking international law and posing a threat to the security of other nations. There are numerous safeguards and treaties put in place but nuclear knowledge and weapons are spread to groups that pose a threat to the world. These nations, like North Korea, can come into possession of nuclear weapons.
Since the Korean War Armistice in 1953, North Korea has maintained itself as an isolated, aggressive state whose regime wishes nothing more than to see the utter destruction of the United States. To accomplish this goal, North Korea has aggressively pursued the acquisition of a nuclear weapon. On October 6, 2006, they successfully detonate their first nuclear bomb, and it is suspected that they may possess anywhere between one and ten warheads (Rosett). With this detonation, North Korea violates the NPT which bans nuclear weapons testing. By creating and testing these weapons, North Korea not only violates the NPT, but they completely disregard the IAEA’s monitoring regulations and rules.
Not only are the North Koreans breaking international laws with these weapons, they are willing to use them against other countries. In September 2015, North Korean officials issued the threat, “North Korea is ready to use nuclear weapons against the United States and other foes if they pursue ‘their reckless hostile policy’ toward Kim Jong Un,” (Mullen).As the years continue, tensions grow heavier as recently elected President Trump and Un throw backlash at one-another. President Trump and Kim Jong Un have engaged in a war of words each each other that have reignited the tension between the two countries.The rising tensions between the two countries is being stoked by the two leaders’ war of words.The threat of nuclear war is very real for the United States and its allies.
Additionally, The United States is obligated to defend its allies from any North Korean aggressions, which is adding to the great stress that the US is facing. It is the United States’ greater duty to deliver the world from a danger such as the North Korean nuclear threat. In 2013, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami proclaimed, “The only way to subdue the enemies is by refusing to compromise on the goals of the resistance and to remain strong; the future of criminal nations such as the Zionists (Israelis) will be erased from the history books” (Rubenstein). In other words, this is a very clear threat coming from the highest authority in all of Iran; that they will seek to eradicate Israel. By making this threat, Khatami is warning other countries about his ability to use nuclear forces, in order to achieve his goal. It is illogical to dismantle the U.
S nuclear arsenal, while such an enemy is attempting to obtain the technology to produce one of its own. Even with the current Iranian nuclear deal, the Iranian nuclear problem is not stopped, only delayed because the deal states, “Based on its own long-term plan, for 15 years, Iran will carry out its uranium enrichment-related activities, including safeguarded R&D exclusively in the Natanz Enrichment facility, keep its level of uranium enrichment at up to 3.67%” (E3/EU+3).Another dimension to the nuclear issue is terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Taliban possessing nuclear weapons. Both have displayed willingness to posses and detonate nuclear weapons, therefore the United States must retain its ability to deliver a nuclear counter strike and deter these violent groups. By retaining, not only does the US save hundreds, if not thousands of lives, but they also save the countries from unremarkable damage that cannot be repaired. These organizations overseas feel as if it is their duty to acquire the greatest destructive force possible to strike at the United States. In 1998, former FBI most wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden proclaimed, “The nuclear bomb of Islam; it is the duty of Muslims to prepare as much force to terrorize the enemies of God,” (Allison).
With these groups’ determination to acquire weapons, the threat of a nuclear attack by a terror organization is very prevalent. From the beginning of nuclear weapons, overseas has made it their priority to make it clear to the US that if boundaries are crossed, lives will be taken with no remorse. By decreasing the nuclear arsenal, the United States becomes inherently weaker because it makes the country susceptible to aggression from nations with more advanced and powerful nuclear arsenals. Russia is an example of a country who is currently modernizing and advancing its nuclear capabilities, while the United States nuclear capabilities become outdated under the Obama Administration. President Obama wishes to disarm the United States of its nuclear arsenal in a time where it may be needed the most. Aggressions from various terror groups, rogue nations, and the constant Russian nuclear threat make it inconceivable to embrace Obama’s policy of nuclear zero at the given time.
Alexei G. Arbatov, a respected nuclear arms expert and former Russian legislator states, “Although arms control has faced difficulties in the past, never before have virtually all negotiating tracks been stalled, existing treaties been eroded by political and technological developments, and the planning for next steps been so in doubt,” (Hennigan). With the future of arms control cast in doubt, it would not be strategically advisable to further decrease the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Despite President Obama’s best intentions, increased nuclear spending and aggressions have continued throughout the world. Russia is committing itself to completely modernizing its army by 2020 and President Vladimir Putin vowed, “That Russia would add 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its stockpile this year and modernize 70% of all weapons by 2020,” (Macfarquhar). With Russia building up its arsenal, the United States cannot risk diminishing its own even further.
If other nations, especially Russia, are not willing to embrace a complete nuclear zero with the U.S, than the United States should not bother creating national security risks for itself by dismantling the arsenal while others are bent on increasing theirs. Steven Pifer, the director of the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Initiative, states, “The size and structure of Russian strategic nuclear forces will affect decisions regarding the size and structure of U.S. strategic nuclear forces” (Pifer). Based upon this statement, the United States nuclear arsenal is directly related to Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Since Russia is currently expanding theirs, the United States’ arsenal is becoming weaker in comparison.
The major concern with being outgunned in nuclear weapons is that it leaves the country susceptible to a surprise attack and would lack a second strike capability (the ability to strike back). Lacking the ability to deliver a sufficient counter-strike gives a tremendous advantage to the aggressor and it gives them great power over the other nation. Just because the Obama Administration is ready to rid the world of nuclear weapons, that does not mean countries like Russia, North Korea, and Pakistan are ready to give up their arsenals. It is a national security blunder to keep dismantling the nuclear arsenal in the face of Russian aggression, especially since it would leave the United States vulnerable. Nuclear weapons are what kept the Cold War strictly a war of ideologies and not a physical conflict. Deterrence is as applicable in today’s world as it as it was during the Cold War. Most importantly, nuclear weapons are able to deter even the most aggressive leaders, and have created peace and cooperation through deterrence.
Mutually assured, destruction is what kept the U.S and Soviet Union from launching nuclear attacks during the Cold War, and it kept the two superpowers from resorting to conventional war as well. An example of this is the Cuban Missile Crisis. This occurred when two countries were on the brink of a nuclear war but neither launched their weapons.This was due to each leader knowing that if there was to be a nuclear war, both countries would be utterly destroyed.
With various nuclear aggressions from Russia, North Korea, Iran, and terror organizations, the United States must maintain a strong nuclear arsenal to deter these threats from attacking the U.S and other other nations.”President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2016 seeks $8.
8 billion for the nuclear weapons programs… That figure is up almost 10.5% from this year’s congressionally approved figure and it’s projected to grow,” (Pincus). In order to match the aggressions and face an aging nuclear arsenal, President Obama has to allocate more money to the nuclear weapons budget. In doing so, he will ensure that the United States’ arsenal stays up to date and ready to counter any threat. Since the dawn of nuclear weapons, twelve presidents (six republicans and six democrats) have specifically stated nuclear superiority as U.S policy (Monroe).
This approach of nuclear superiority is what led the United States to victory in the Cold War and it is what can lead the U.S through today’s nuclear aggressions,”Deterrence is based on fear. You threaten your adversary with intolerable consequences if he does not comply with your demands,” (Monroe). This approach to deterrence has been proven to be effective historically, and it has the ability to subdue aggressive leaders such as Kim Jong-Un in North Korea. It will reign in the ambitious nuclear agendas of Russia and Iran.
If it is clear that getting into an arms race with the United States is unprofitable and it will have political and economic consequences, then countries will be much less likely to pursue the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Also, by having a strong nuclear arsenal, countries will be much more likely to cooperate through peaceful means as with the Iran nuclear deal. By having a strong nuclear arsenal the United States will be able to effectively deter any threat that may arise.
In conclusion, there are many sides to the nuclear debate. Between rogue states such as Iran and North Korea, terror groups like al-Qaeda, and established nuclear states like the US and Russia, there are many factions vying for nuclear supremacy. With rising tensions in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula, the threat of nuclear war is an extreme realization to the US. In times like these, nuclear weapons can be used as deterrents. If one country were to use a nuclear weapon, other countries would retaliate, which would be the worst disaster in modern history.
Nuclear weapons originated to destroy enemy lines, to stop destroying countries as a whole. Yet today in the mid 2000’s, we see nuclear powers being used as a threat to destroy entire countries in a matter of minutes.