To nuke or not to nuke?
Should this rhetorical question even be a question period? Shouldn’t the thought of such existential consequences alone be enough to steer us away from these kinds of hypothetical discussions of mutually assured destruction? Maybe it should, but this doesn’t keep us from the inevitability of human nature.
Robert Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita beautifully in the perfect situation: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” This he uttered after the successful test of the atomic bomb.
We entered a new age of destruction after the deathly innovation of these kinds of weapons. However only one nation has pulled the trigger on this fat man, and that nation is ours. Subsequently as history has shown, more and more nations have acquired nuclear capabilities, yet the hesitancy to “flex” their muscle has grown with it.
Nuclear weapons have become the world’s insurance policy that no one wants to cash.
Though in a twisted paradox the United States condemns the proliferation of nuclear weapons and continues to keep its stockpiles saturated with everything from hydrogen bombs to neutron bombs.
However, the problem is more than the U.S.’s reluctance to give up its Cold War habits. It becomes a symbol of authority for those nations seeking it. A nation’s power in the 21st century isn’t defined solely by its economic and political status. Look at the following nations: United States, China, India, Israel, the Russian Federation, The United Kingdom, France and Japan. What do they all have in common? Nuclear capabilities.
Nuclear proliferation has become the key to superpower status as it allows a nation’s influence on foreign policy not only regionally, but globally. When a nation wishes to “flex” its nuclear muscle as a form of conflict resolution to a neighbor that doesn’t have it, the natural reaction will be for them to back away and let the superpower resume influence.
In regions of the world like India and Pakistan for example, recently in July there were concerns of a “nuclear arms race” between the two nations as was reported by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “The escalation in nuclear capabilities has caused alarm because, despite recent improvements in relations between the two countries, the threat of a nuclear conflict remains.”
Even more recently in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the hunt for nuclear capabilities and this has caused some concern for stability in the region. In a recent article released by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a diagram was leaked that showed of Iran’s intention to strengthen its nuclear weapon. “The International Atomic Energy Agency – the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog – reported last year that it had obtained diagrams indicating that Iran was calculating the ‘nuclear explosive yield’ of potential weapons.”
So what then does all of this mean? Are nations justified in having nuclear capabilities as a means of protection or as a kind of insurance so that countries can make sure that their influence is static? Or does it mean that we are preparing for existential consequences?
It seems foreboding that this possibility even has to exist, because if we lay out the acronym mutually assured destruction – it spells out one thing: M.A.D. – and it does seem very MAD. If nuclear nations continue to participate in this contest, a dangerous future is assured for all participants.
Maxwell Gold is a senior studying philosophy.