And the Nobel Prize goes to foolishness
9 December 2018
If the world didn’t have nuclear weapons, humans would be killing each other with bullets and bombs—we still are. If the world didn’t have bullets and bombs, we’d be killing each other with swords and sticks. The extremes of either unfettered nuclear proliferation or complete abolition are both insane; the only difference is that the latter’s insanity is treated with a Nobel Peace Prize.
ICAN, the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, is an organisation dedicated to promoting a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, with specific attention drawn to the humanitarian impact of them. This is despite the last nuclear weapon fired in anger being ‘Fat Man’ in 1945, the same bomb that resulted in Japan’s unconditional surrender and the end of World War II.
Nuclear weapons have only ever been used twice in combat, and both times they were used for a reason. It’s common knowledge that if the United States had not dropped those bombs, an invasion of Japan would’ve instead taken place. The estimated death toll of such an operation ranges from 400,000 to 800,000 Americans and 5 to 10 million Japanese, not to mention the complete destruction of the Japanese homeland.
The reason why I’m asking you to take this trip down not just history but alternate history is because of its relevance to the current situation we are faced with. It’s important to understand the impact of not using a nuclear weapon as much as it is important to study the effect of radiation and fallout.
More than 200,000 died from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, either immediately or from continued suffering. It was a tremendous tragedy, but one that continues to be far less harrowing than the alternative.
Indeed, the decades that followed World War II may have been tense, but peace was ultimately assured by the devastation nuclear weapons could bring. It may sound funny, but we all owe our lives to these giant, metal bombs.
There are 15,000 nuclear weapons currently in the world, with the bulk of them belonging to Russia and the United States. However, I’m not worried about a war between superpowers. Mutually Assured Destruction dictates that no sane leader or nation would risk the possibility of war, as it would certainly mean the end of their existence.
What does worry me, though, is rogue nations like North Korea not only possessing a nuclear arsenal but having the reasons to use it (in their minds at least).
This is where the argument for modern-day abolition loses me, as agreements such as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons won’t work with nations that have unstable and unpredictable leadership. With that, what else are we left with? Should we disarm and leave the nukes to Putin or Kim Jong-un?
Disarmament only works when everyone agrees and even after that, the idea of eliminating all nuclear weapons is naive in a world where everyone already knows about them and what they can do. As the saying goes, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and it’s next to impossible to wipe away knowledge that has existed for decades.
So far, no study can prove that a world without nuclear weapons is a safer one. The deadliest conflicts in history have all been fought with conventional weaponry. If it’s the humanitarian impact that concerns people, then they should take a greater look at war itself rather than a single tool that may be used in it. Removing weapons of mass destruction won’t also rid us of guns, bombs, swords, arrows, or any of other the things humans have invented to protect and kill each other.
What nuclear weapons do provide us is deterrence. It’s not perfect, but I see no reason to throw out a policy that has kept us safe for the last 70 years, a policy that is dependent on the upkeep of a nuclear stockpile.
The abolition of nuclear weapons is a foolish goal. Preoccupied with the objective of overt peace, groups such as ICAN fail to see the underlying benefit of nuclear weapons in the security they have provided us during our lives.
Maybe in an ideal world, nuclear disarmament can be achieved through a global consensus of leaders. But when things go bad, like they always do, every nation on earth will be racing to dig up what they buried.