The twentieth century proved to be a great time of advancements in technology. A person may ask their friend, “What was the greatest invention of the 1900s?” and the friend would respond, “Oh, I don’t know, the internet.” The question is though, what has humanity defaced in this century? Surely it is the safety of the world and it’s creatures. With the development of nuclear weapons in the mid-1900s, the human species successfully brought about the most dangerous threat the world has ever seen. Such a poor choice this was, to split the nuclei of atoms.
When the U.S. developed the first atomic bomb in the 1940s, other countries soon followed. Relations with Russia had been strained since the 1890s, even as allies in the second world war, and as the United States and then Soviet Union began building stockpiles of nuclear weapons, tension broke out again. “"Cold war" is the term given to the competition, conducted through means short of direct military conflict, between the United States and the Soviet Union since World War II.”(Foner, p. 1). The threat of “mutually assured destruction” kept everyone on edge during this time, and has since lessened since the fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. Today, the U.S. and Russia “control about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons“(Kissinger, p. 12).
This fear was not pointless; within months of the Hiroshima bombing, 140,000 people died. Also, radiation from tests with nuclear weapons killed many people and left lasting effects on uranium miners. Another negative effect of nuclear weapons: “The arms race has cost $5.5 trillion in the United States alone”(Verrengia, p.54).
Not only are the aforementioned reasons to disarm nuclear weapons, but traces of moral values seem to be lost here. It’s proven that nuclear weapons destroy lives, communities, countries. For centuries upon centuries society has strived to be peaceful and moral. So how can humanity now forget those morals and say that they’re keeping peace and national security by striking fear in other countries? How can they so nonchalantly agree that they’d deter a nuclear attack, killing millions of people? “For decades, we believed that the terrible effects of nuclear weapons would be sufficient to prevent their use. The superpowers were likened to a pair of scorpions in a bottle, each knowing a first strike would be suicidal. But today's expanding nest of scorpions means that no one is safe.”(Ki-Moon, p.4).
While many choose the path of universal safety and peace, some go the other route with supporting nuclear weapons. Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger explained that the purpose of nuclear weapons is “to deter our potential foes and provide reassurance to the allies to whom we offer protection."(Kirkpatrick, p. 2). By allies, he means the countries in Europe and Asia that the United States offers protection to with a nuclear deterrence “umbrella”. He also goes on to say that if society were to do away with nuclear weapons all together, it wouldn’t last because “what we would have is a number of countries sitting around with breakout capabilities or rumors of breakout capabilities--for intimidation purposes....and finally, probably, a number of small clandestine stockpiles." (Kirkpatrick, p.6).
If this happened, the United States would be without nuclear weapons to deter a possible attack and would thus be defenseless. Also, a major threat to society are terrorist attacks. Terrorists are now attempting to get a hold of uranium, plutonium, and the like to create a bomb. With the connections people have today, it won’t be long until they get their hands on nuclear weapons. Who knows? Perhaps they’ve got them now, waiting for the perfect moment to use them when everyone will be watching. “My colleaguehas described the effort as akin to climbing a mountain shrouded in clouds. We cannot describe its top nor be certain that there may not be unforeseen and perhaps insurmountable obstacles on the way. But we are prepared to undertake the journey in the belief that the summit will never come into view unless we begin the ascent and deal with the proliferation issues immediately before us.” (Kissinger, p.15)
Being so dependent upon nuclear weapons for national security is unhealthy for all nuclear superpower nations. It’s the whispered about notch on the shoulder of the world, the one thing that could ultimately cause the most man-made destruction the Earth has ever seen. Although disarming all nuclear weapons would be difficult, it is possible, just as splitting an atom was once impossible to the minds of the human population.
I wrote this persuasive essay in April, having been assigned to write about a topic I feel strongly about. Here's my Works Cited:
Foner, Eric, and John A. Garraty. "Cold War." The Reader's Companion to American History Dec. 1 1991: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 15 April 2010.
Ki-Moon, Ban. "Disarm Nuclear Weapons for Peace." Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, GA) 07 Aug 2009: A. 19. SIRS Researcher. Web. 15 April 2010.
Kirkpatrick, Melanie. "Why We Don't Want a Nuclear-Free World." Wall Street Journal 11 Jul 2009: A.9. SIRS Researcher. Web. 16 April 2010.
Kissinger, Henry. "Our Nuclear Nightmare." Newsweek Vol.153, No.7 Feb. 16 2009: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 21 April 2010.
ProQuest Staff. "Nuclear Weapons Timeline." Leading Issues Timelines 29 Mar 2010: n.pag. SIRS Researcher. Web. 15 April 2010.
Verrengia, Joseph B. "The Atom: From Theory to Awesome Reality--And Explosive Questions." Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM) Feb. 16 1999: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Web. 15 April 2010.