Nuclear Weapon

Detonation basically refers to the sudden and violent explosion, normally by the nuclear weapon. Since the Second World War in the 1940s, there has never been any detonation of a nuclear weapon around the globe. Though this might sound positive, it is a major issue currently facing the United States National Security due to the fear that such weapons might be used to hit America as an instrument of terror. This is not necessary to be mentioned that terrorism is one of the major threats posed to the United States from terrorists. The country is ever on the fore front to fight against all terroristic acts. In order to prevent such a disaster, and its innumerable social, economic and environmental effects, this issue should be addressed as urgently as possible and with all vigour (Kaufman, SJ 2006).

Facing such a threat will undoubtedly go beyond simply tracking down the assailants or issuing mild warnings to the rogue states that they will be condemned for their actions. It will require banning all the nuclear weapons as the viable instruments of warfare. This is one of the instances where things get easier said than done because a change of this policy can be very difficult to implement. This is because the general public as well as the national leaders have less experience on the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, and actually they ignore the moral taboos that explain their use. This document mainly focuses on this prickly issue by assessing the nuclear taboo and nuclear deterrence (Mueller, J 2000). Later on, the paper will outline the importance of using the two methods in explaining the nuclear detonation.

Brief Overview of the Nuclear Taboo

According to Tannenwald, the nuclear taboo is the final report of over a decade investigations, analysis and writing on the failure of the nuclear weapon use (Tannenwald, N 2007). Nina Tannenwald is an associate research professor at Watson Institute of International Studies. In this book, she argues that it is not the realist stress on the self-interest and the cost-benefit evaluations of rationalists that contribute to the non-use of nuclear weapons since 1945 (Tannenwald, N 2007). To drive her point home, she successfully integrates the constructivist theory supported with more conventional explanations, like the deterrence, to explain how various ideas related to the national identity, a reasonable use of weapons, the morality in warfare and norms have played the important roles. She stresses on how the bottom line of the taboo firstly emerged from mere beliefs within the entire public that exerted a lot of pressure on the political leaders (Elworthy 2005; Scilla 2005; Gabrielle 2005). Ridiculously, these beliefs were later legally institutionalised in arms control agreements.

Tannenwald’s detailed accounts of how the nuclear decisions had been made in the US White House were of the massive interest to a wide range of audience. They followed the notion that the book has been arranged in three integrated themes: a historical account of nuclear weapons of the non-use by the US since 1945, the factors and processes linking the rational and self-interest which contributed to the emergence of the nuclear taboo, and the effects of the evolving nuclear taboo on the foreign policy of the United States.

In her argument, these are the norms that influenced on making the US warfare decisions in three main ways. Firstly, the norms control by defining the constraints of acceptable actions that limit the policy options and strategy. Secondly, these norms are constitutive. This has the implication that they shape identities; for example, the identity of a sovereign nation that outline the rule and strategy preferences (Elworthy 2005; Scilla 2005; Gabrielle 2005). Thirdly, the norms can play the role of shielding complementary practices like the use of conservative weapons from scrutiny.

Other that her constructivist explanation, Tannenwald makes a detailed evaluation of five alternatives: the deterrence; the short of military utility; the fear of establishing future standards limitation of materials, including the lack of organisations, systems and capabilities for utilisation; and the growing obsolescence of main conflicts. Rather than blaming the taboo as the sole source for the non-use, Tannenwald only labels it as one of the reasons (Tannenwald, N 2007). She further points out that the deterrence mainly depends upon the nuclear taboo (Bundy 1988; Survival 1988). To heighten the credibility of her research, she uses the case studies to trace back the origin and evolution of the taboo as well as to show how just and ethical discourse affected the decision making policy of the US administrators.

As a matter of fact, the nuclear taboo becomes a superb example of how a constructivist theoretical approach can supplement the one’s basic understanding of issues facing the national security sector. This is sometimes viewed as the realm of the rationalist explanations (Bundy 1988; Survival 1988). Tannenwald’s case studies as well as the theoretical arguments tactically merge the material factors, which mean the bomb; and the ideational factors, which include the norms, values, identities and beliefs of the material upshot together with launching or dropping of the nuclear weapons.

Some Shortcomings of the Book

From a constructivist point of view, it can be said that the book only gives half of the story because if the factors can be understood as both material and ideational, so can be the outcomes. If one can think along the ideational outcome inclination, then the usage of the nuclear weapons is on a near-continual basis. This has the implication that the ownership of nuclear weapons comprises of the collective identity among the possessors of these weapons and those who do not possess. This joint identity constitutes the mutually understood responsibilities that influence on the way non-possessors of those weapons behave in-sight of the weapon armed nations, and vice versa.


Deterrence is another term used to refer to the use of ruthless punishments as an intimidation tool to stop, or rather deter people from being offensive. In this document, this term is used to refer to a theory of war, especially the one that has the connection with nuclear weapons. Deterrence has received criticism from many people arguing that it does not achieve its ultimate goal as the assailants do not halt to take into account the present punishment for committing a particular crime, especially when drugs are involved (Bundy1988; Survival 1988). As a matter of fact, offenders are likely to be intimidated by the threat of being caught as opposed to the threat of punishment no matter how monstrous it might sound.

Weapons of the mass annihilation can never be made to offer the service for the rational ends. On the contrary, they negate the basic principle of life itself and fail to function as the instruments of ruling anymore. In order for the nuclear weapons to be successful, the threatening nation must have the capacity to use its nuclear weapons and must also communicate this to the nation that it is willing to deter. A deterrent force should have the capacities to exact payments, at the price suitable to itself, either by disallowing the opponent to achieve its objectives, by charging the adversary with an excessive amount for attaining it, or by the combination of these two (Bundy 1988; Survival 1988).

Background on Nuclear Weapons

The first nuclear bomb was detonated as an experiment at Alamogordo, New Mexico. This happened in July 16, 1945. The USA government wanted to test the impact of destruction of the newly found weapon of destruction. Franklin Roosevelt was the President at the time of the development of this weapon. After he had left the office, he was succeeded by Truman. The new president found the developed weapon that had been newly created. H. Truman was less in control of the international affairs like Franklin had been. This difference in the office change and the experience in diplomatic affairs to other nations led to the detonation of this first bomb. Truman wanted to see the impact of the bomb, which had been created, but he did not have enough knowledge of the consequences apart from his curiosity.

During the Second World War, Japan had advanced so much in technology, such that the USA and Russia being the main superpowers were starting to get concerned. The USA was not originally interested in joining the war. However, it was evident that there would be the emergence of the third superpower (“American Political Science”, 1993). The USA was concerned that if Russia would be the first to hit Japan, it would get the control of it. Under the influence of foreign advisors, Truman released the first atomic bomb on Japan that hit Hiroshima in August 6, 1945. Three days later, another bomb hit Nagasaki. This opportunity of the USA to end the war led to the use of the first atomic bomb on the mankind.

The bomb was intended to the long period of the Second World War and to limit the Russian expansion in Japan. However, the bomb created adverse effects of destruction, politically, socially and economically. It altered the state of the national state of security and the diplomatic relations in the world (“American Political Science”, 1993). More countries started the development of atomic bombing all over the world.

Period of 1945, The Aftermath of the First Atomic Bomb and shortly after

The USA had successfully ended the Second World War after Truman unleashed the first bomb on Japan. There were the fears from Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard that if Hitler developed the bomb, he would destroy all his enemies in order to rule the world. The USA government found all the justification they needed to finish the war (Bundy 1988; Survival 1988). This was after Franklin was advised by the two scientists of the possible damage of the nuclear fission from bombing. The two scientists had just escaped from Germany after Hitler established the Nazi to eliminate all the Jews. After the first atomic test on the desert, Germany had surrendered, which eliminated the possibility of Hitler accessing the atomic bomb.

There was a horrific aftermath of the use of atomic bomb, where an estimate of about 70,000 of the inhabitants in Nagasaki perished. After the few years down the line, over three hundred thousand people died due to the aftermath effects (Bundy 1988; Survival 1988). The period was very influential to other nations in the world. It led to the creation of atomic bombs, and this was the beginning of the arms race. Each country funded its operations on building atomic bombs which created an impending risk of the future detonation.

The world witnessed adverse effects on the use of the first atomic bomb. The outcome was so devastating that every nation was terrified, including the USA, which had lynched the product. The number that died remains unknown due to the heat that cremated many people (Cooper, 2006). The survivors of the brief but devastating blast died shortly after due to their severe skin burns. This affected the genetic makeup of the Japanese that are still traced in parts of the population even today. The radiant heat, which scientifically travels with the speed of light, burned everything that was within its exposure (Tierney, 2005).

Nuclear Dilemma and National Security

The states in the world exist as a system of international relations. The states are sovereign, to the extent that there is no powerful international body strong enough to control all the states. Each state is responsible for its own security, protection and survival. Machiavelli, the father of the real politics, argues that all states exist to acquire, maintain and expand power (Kaufman, 2006). Realism, according to him, is the best approach to reach the solutions to the world peace. The states in the world exist in a state of anarchy. This creates the foundation of deterrence and retaliation.

Idealists, on the other hand, like Woodrow Wilson, argue that the states are potentially peaceful. The States should come together to form the collective security to punish any errant state on the matters of security. He was a main founder of the League of Nations that eventually had failed to protect the Second World War. The prime minister of Britain advocated for the principles of good neighbourliness as the solution to the world peace (Mueller, 2000). The problem with idealism was that it had failed to contain the states to the point control. The state of anarchy and nuclear problem was bigger than diplomacy and talks.

After the Second World War, it was evident that realism was the only solution to maintain peace. Thomas Hobbes argues that a strong body that will be strong enough to control all the states (Leviathan) is the only solution. The United Nations had been created which was made up of the major super powers to work towards against possibility of the Third World War.

Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear Deterrence is the use of the military threat to compel the enemies of the state. The strength of the nuclear power and energy has more power to coerce, when it is issued as a threat, rather than its actual use. This was the main strategy that had been used by the two major super powers (Elworthy 2005; Scilla 2005; Gabrielle 2005). The nations were the USA and the USSR. During the Cuban Link crisis, where Russia had threatened to bomb the USA, John F. Kennedy was advised by the foreign policy advisors to negotiate for peace. In a nuclear war, there is usually no winner. All the states are ruined. This is the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The states want to be in the condition where they have the nuclear power, not for use, but always to be ready.

Thomas Schelling explains the foundation of deterrence as a theory based on diplomacy. Diplomacy is the bargaining between nations that seeks for the outcomes for each state being the best of their national interests. Diplomacy works the best and succeeds when there is a common interest. It also applies to avoid the mutual damage. War, in an ideal diplomatic scenario, can only be accidental, rather than the military strategy or purpose. Schelling argues that the latent use of nuclear weapons will influence on other nations into the stronger nation’s national interests (Kull 2003; Steven 2003; Ramsay 2003; Lewis 2003). Each nation aims at protecting its national interests and more often does it through the coercion and threats from the nuclear arms. To coerce or deter another state, the states anticipate the violence avoided by the accommodation. However, the success of deterrence lies in issuing threats rather than the actual destructive use of weapons.

The United States and the Soviet Union have built the nuclear weapon stations during the Cold War. The USSR was convicted of the belief that the Cold War could be fought and controlled. The USA, on the other hand, was convinced of deterrence as a credible threat of retaliation. This was the perfect fortress against the potential enemy attack to forestall the enemy attack. There was the use of ballistic missile submarine bases as a means of demonstrating the military power possessed.

During the war in Vietnam which had lasted for 30 years, both the USA and the USSR keenly monitored each other’s moves in the military display. For example, when France tried to restore the colonial rule after the World War II, the fear of losing Southeast Asia to the communism led the U.S. into supporting the French efforts (“World Public Opinion”, 2007). The United States supported the weak but pro-Western government of South Vietnam.

The nation spent $97 billion for the missiles and $46 billion for the submarines’ share of the naval nuclear propulsion research. Submarines are more expensive than surface ships but they are cheaper to operate on. They have smaller crews, and the purchase covers up for fuel costs.

Nuclear Taboo

More than 60 years have passed after Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. The school of thought of deterrence is opposed by the theory of the nuclear taboo. This is the widespread inhibition on using nuclear weapons in other countries. This is the global scenario of the World politics. He sees them as the force behind the theory. Its production and its influence are primarily based on the US leaders. There have been some instances where the US leaders considered using nuclear weapons (Japan – in 1945, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War – in 1991). The US has prohibited the other world leaders from resorting to the use of weapons. The conventional conceptions of deterrence are used as a threat and balance to the collective security, nuclear restraint, and are as well an important insight into how the nuclear war can be avoided in the future.

Franklin Roosevelt, as the USA president, threatened the Supreme Court in order to get his way. J. Edgar Hoover wire tapped Martin Luther King in order to intimidate him. The people in the government compelled people in other governments in the world to prohibit them from doing something. Stalin and Mao Tse-Dung murdered millions of people in their respective nations. Due to the nuclear taboo, they did not use nuclear weapons. They were afraid that if they used them, the governments which were affected would retaliate. The governments with nuclear weapons have decided not to use them even on the countries that have no nuclear weapons. This happened because a taboo against the nuclear weapon has grown gradually.

The President Eisenhower’s secretary of the state, John Foster Dulles, was advocating for the removal of the taboo. He argued that the United States used the nuclear weapons in its defence. The nation can alter the original agreements as internationally acceptable in the cases of defence. This taboo is very strong. There are the times when governments with nuclear weapons must have been tempted to use them; for instance, Truman against the Chinese troops in Korea. Nixon wanted to unleash the same for the Vietnam War. The Israeli government was in the process of doing the same in the 1973 war with Egypt (Lyndon, 1971). The Soviet Union wanted to use them in Afghanistan during the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of Britain, wanted to use them in the Falklands. In all cases, the weapons, they had been using, would have been used against a non-possessor of such weapons.

There is a fear of the superpowers of nuclear weapons getting into the hands of terrorists. Iran’s government or terrorist groups was feared to have acquired the received nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are precious to be given away, while to use them would be too precious to waste killing people when they could. While held in the reserve, the United States is hesitant to consider the military action. Nuclear weapons have been used for over sixty years not on the battlefield or on the population targets; they have been used for the influence.

Threatening to use it against military targets has been a successful strategy. It appeals to them more than expending it in a purely destructive action. Terrorists derive more benefits not from destroying large numbers of people. It is less satisfying than keeping a major nation under coercion of threat. The most critical question about nuclear weapons for the United States whether the widespread taboo against nuclear weapons and its inhibition on their use is in our favour or against us. If it is in the American interest, the readiness to use them and the need for new nuclear capabilities lies solely on the extent of the impending threat. The taboo has worked for 60 years and it still has an impact even today.

Increased Awareness of Detonation Effects

All nations are aware of the effects of the nuclear damage. The devastating effects observed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki has left the visible graphic images of destruction to the countries wanting to use weapons. However, the survivors would soon suffer from the consequences of radioactive fallout. The heat from the cloud formed would kill even those who are in the rescue missions due to the high levels of the temperature released.

The Role of International Regimes

There are several treaties working with the world governments to limit the use of nuclear weapons. They have been successful in restricting the use of weapons and in the punishment of the countries daring to use them (McNamara 1995; Robert 1995). All the treaties and regimes restrict the arms race and concern the nuclear disarmament. Some of the treaties include the INF Treaty, the START-%u2160Treaty, the START-%u2161 Treaty, and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. These are the treaties concerning nuclear weapons deploying and free nuclear weapons zone (McNamara 1995; Robert 1995). They are the Antarctic Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty, the Sea-bed Treaty, the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, Southeast Asia Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, Africa Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, etc.

There are the treaties to restrict the development of nuclear weapons; e.g., the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Treaty between the US and the USSR on the Underground Nuclear Explosions for Peaceful Purposes, the Treaty between the US and the USSR on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, the Treaty between the USA and the USSR on the Limitation of the ABM’s (Antiballistic Missiles).

Resolutions and government statements concerning the security assurances to the NNWS (Nonnuclear Weapon States) are such as the resolution 255 of the UN Security Council adopted in June 1968, and the statements security assurances to the NNWS by the US, Russia, Britain, France and China respectively. There are the agreements on the international security, such as the Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of the Nuclear War between the US and the USSR, etc. The organisations of nuclear disarmament and arms control, including the General Assembly of the UN, the First Committee of General Assembly of the UN, the UN Disarmament Commission, the Conference on Disarmament (CD), and the Department for Disarmament Affairs (DDA), etc. (Sagan 1997; Scott 1997). The institutes for the nuclear export control include the Nuclear Exports Committee, the Nuclear Supplier Group, the Australian Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Control, Wassenaar Arrangement, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, etc. All seven parts above constitute the international regime of the nuclear arms’ control and disarmament. The aspects of the regime are related, influenced and dependent on each other. In other words, they are all and the one. The regime is one for the nuclear disarmament; it is also one for the nuclear arms control. Any part of it, which does not work, will endanger the whole system.

The nuclear non-proliferation regime has been effect for more than 30 years. By the regime, there is a prevalent pressure of keeping within the limits on proliferation of nuclear weapons. The promotion and development of the nuclear arms control and disarmament becomes a great job with high demands of efforts (Terriff, 1995).The US and the USSR have signed several treaties on the arms control and disarmament. Some states are likely to develop weapons, as in South Africa, Argentina and Brazil.

Some states include Ukraine as well which had nuke actually after the breakup of the USSR. In 1970, some specialists predicted that there would be 20-30 states which would be developing nuclear weapons but due to the pressure of international institutions they should reconsider the deal and cancel the original aims.

To continue to deter in the era of the strategic nuclear equivalence, it is necessary to have such nuclear forces that in considering the aggression against our interests any adversary would recognize that no plausible outcome would represent a victory or any plausible definition of victory. To this end and so as to preserve the possibility of bargaining effectively to terminate the war on the acceptable terms that are as favourable as practical, if the deterrence fails initially, we must be capable of fighting successfully so that the adversary would not achieve these war aims and would suffer the costs that are unacceptable, or in any event greater than the gains, from having initiated an attack (Terriff, 1995).

The today’s international environment is characterised by thick interdependency. It grows by day through the inexorable processes of globalization. Even assuming the capability and the obligation of the state to protect its citizens against any excessive negative consequences of the unfettered globalisation, such regulatory activities necessitate a broad-based international cooperation including not just the states but as well the non-state actors (“US Department of State”, 1968). Such cooperation leads away from the traditional ways of the Westphalia system, in which the states and societies are usually cared for and fenced in them.

Self-help as the general norm in security and economics is no longer viable in the world, in which almost everyone depends on everybody. Some may greet that the development as a dawn of the age of cosmopolitanism; others may loathe it as the beginning of the age of uniformity; but it cannot be helped as the globalization is progressing anyway. The future of nuclear weapons in the interdependent world is recognised that the security and the economic well-being have been inexorably intertwined and acted accordingly, breaching with the centuries of political tradition. Today, this basic condition has extended to most parts of the globe. For tomorrow, the world needs a security order in which the distrust among participants has been reduced to such a degree that the far-reaching cooperation becomes possible. The cooperation yields gains and gains that are distributed among participants.