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In the world today, there are stockpiles of nuclear weapons that if used can easily send the planet to the ice age. Since there first use in 1945, nuclear weapons have not been used elsewhere in the world. Some scholars have concluded that there is an increased sense of development of the “Nuclear taboo” where countries have committed themselves towards the peaceful use of nuclear power while the nuclear haves have committed to reducing their stock piles and not to use the active weapons.
The destruction and suffering that followed after the weapon debut in Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted nations to pursue different policies that ensure that nuclear weapons are used as a last resort.
There is increased understanding that the use of the weapons by any nations on another will have a ripple effect that not even the strongest nation can contain in the short term.
Paul (2009) says that there has been a tradition of non use entrenched in nations cultures (p.9). This tradition carries time honored obligations that every, member country in the United Nations has been able to keep.
The US, Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, UK, France and India have laid down concrete policies that have immensely contributed to the non use of these weapons. The policies that include for instance the START treaty between the US and Russia has given rise and persistence of this tradition.
The behaviors of both nuclear and non nuclear states in not armed and non armed conflicts have enhanced the tradition. For instance countries like Japan that pursue pacifist nuclear policies have provided a whole new perspective in the use and non use of the weapons.
According to Tannenwald (2007), another factor that has contributed to the non use of the weapons is the changing global trends in politics and economics (p. 28). Initially only the United States and Russia had the capability to deploy the weapons. However, many more nations have adopted the technology and countries like Iran and North Korea are fast becoming nuclearized. Additionally there are too man loose nuclear materials in private hand including terrorists.
The above factors present challenges to all nations especially those that posses the weapons. The security challenges presented have forced former nuclear foes to formulate joint strategies to counter the growing threat from loose materials. Similarly, there is emphasis on alternative technologies after it becomes apparent that the growing economies of many nations can easily aid them in acquiring the weapons.
The common approach has increased the level of interaction between the nuclear powers besides greatly boosting the entrenchment of the nuclear non use policies. Instead, the countries have embarked on programs of dismantling their arsenal.
Paul (2005) further says that the countries that have the weapons acknowledge that their use will have a very negative impact on human kind, the standing of the user among the nations of the world and an everlasting impact on the environment (p.15). Tannenwald (2007) says that since 1945, a nuclear non use taboo has gradually developed among nations.
She adds that while the use of the weapons was fashionable a few decades a go, its use today by nations is unthinkable because of morality and self interest. The morality issue according to Tannenwald (2007) developed through the formation of global anti nuclear grassroots movements, anti nuclear politics at the UN and the conscience of the individual leaders in the nuclear nations (p. 69).
Morality in the non use of the weapons closely related with the reputational factors. The indiscriminate killing and the complete annihilation of the targets have somehow convinced the holders of such weapons that their use will do little to achieve their goals than their non use.
These nations and leaders understand that the reputational costs of ordering and carrying out such an attack are too high to bear. Harry Truman was understood to be concerned about his reputation and that of the United States after the use of the weapons in 1945. Their use can easily lead any nation to be banished from the United Nations generating an international isolation that will not be beneficial to its interest. Additionally, the nation and its people will risk stigma from the rest of the world since they will easily attract the tag of outcasts.
It’s highly unlikely that the weapons will be used anytime soon. But, if they are used, it will mark the beginning of the end of the nuclear era.
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Paul, T. V. (2009) The Tradition of Non Use of Nuclear Weapons. London: Stanford University Press.
Tannenwald, N. (2007) The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non Use of Nuclear Weapons since 1945. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.