‘Now I am become death, the destroyer of the world.’Bhagwat Gita Verse No. 32 Ch. 11.
Oppenheimer, who is regarded as the father of nuclear bomb, cited the verse from Gita when witnessed the nuclear explosion.
According to Prof. Ramesh Thakur, when nuclear war starts, there will be no difference between Jihadi and Fasadi. Gorbachev was right when he held that nuclear weapons are not to be used. Nuclear weapons release thermal energy, electromagnetic waves, radiations, nuclear clouds, nuclear winter, nuclear famine and genetic disorders for generations together. So far legally binding instruments exist with respect to the use of chemical and biological weapons but no such agreement exists with respect to the use of nuclear weapons, very recently a treaty prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons has come into existence on 7th July 2017. 124 countries participated, 122 countries accepted. None of the nuclear weapon states participated or accepted, hence the treaty is called as more of a aspirational document.
Why nations acquire nuclear weapons?
To use in war to assert their power status.
As a bargaining tool.
To gain diplomatic edge.
As a method of prestige.
Why nations relinquish Nuclear Weapons?
1] Realist perspective
For realists, security is the prime goal and nations relinquish only when they get extended deterrence. e.g. India did not acquire nuclear weapons till it had the security umbrella of USSR. It shows that to avoid nuclear proliferation, nuclear weapon states should be providing security umbrella. Thus realists rely on deterrence. Realists approach can be seen in the views of Winston Churchill. Churchill in 1955 held that ‘Safety will be the sturdy child of terror and survival the twin brother of annihilation.’
Liberals highlight the role of international institutions, treaties and regimes in preventing nuclear proliferation. NPT is so far the greatest achievement of international community. A treaty which is almost universal. It certainly acted to prevent nuclear proliferation.
3 ] Social Constructivists
In 1946 Albert Einstein remarked that ‘nuclear weapons changed every aspect of our lives. However it has not changed the mode of our thinking. Since we have not changed our mode of thinking, we will continue to drift towards unparalleled catastrophe.’
Einstein’s statement provided a source of inspiration for the disarmament movements and social constructivists. Nina Tannenwald has analyzed the role of norms, taboos, towards nuclear non-proliferation. Taboos can be understood as cultural prohibitions. According to her, since USA used nuclear weapons on Japan, the world public opinion has gone against the use of nuclear weapons. It is the world public opinion, the new cultural norms which have prevented USA to use nuclear weapon again. USA continued 20 year war even at the cost of its own hegemony. This shows that norms and values do have a role in international politics.
Nina Tannenwald has been involved in the formulation of the recent treaty on prohibition of nuclear weapons. In her article in Washington Post, she mentions that even when treaty does not eliminate a single nuclear weapon yet it will play the role in delegitimization of nuclear weapons. According to her, the chief objective of treaty is to develop new norms so that possession of nuclear weapons should be seen as a stigma rather than the matter of pride. Hence she suggests the need to change the way we think about nuclear weapons.
In her recent article in Foreign Affairs, she has shown that it is a myth to believe that nations can coerce other nations to fall in line, just because they posses nuclear weapons. Neither countries, towed to the lines of any of the superpowers just because they possessed nuclear weapons. Even at present, just because China posses nuclear weapons or India posses nuclear weapon, it is not that all countries in the neighborhood will act according to their choice.
However she is also pessimistic about the future of nuclear non-proliferation efforts considering the attempts by major powers to re-emphasize the importance of nuclear weapons in their security doctrines. USA pulling out of ABM treaty in 2002, Russia coming out of CFE treaty, Cooperative threat reduction program and USA’s indication to come out of INF treaty, may result into a new arms race and rolling back of the efforts of peace movements.
Scholars like T.V. Paul have also emphasized on the role of norms, international agreements like NPT towards strengthening nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Ernst Haas has highlighted the role of epistemic communities. Who are epistemic communities? In his article KNOWLEDGE, POWER AND INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY he defines epistemic community as network of professionals with expertise in particular domain. They form community because they share norms. Epistemic communities could create pressure on policy making institutions and helped in the evolution of security policies reducing the role of nuclear weapons. ICAN is an example of epistemic community which has played instrumental role in the treaty on prohibition of nuclear weapons.
Debate between Kenneth Waltz and Scott D Sagan.
Context of the debate. Whether nuclear weapons are desirable or undesirable?
Views of realist thinkers.
Realists like Kenneth Waltz believe that nuclear weapons have ensured that the world does not witness the third world war. According to him gradual proliferation of nuclear weapons is not a threat to international peace, rather conducive to international peace. The likelihood of the war decreases when countries have deterrence.
He also believes that nuclear weapons induced a sense of responsibility on those who posses nuclear weapons.
Mearsheimer also support nuclear proliferation however he supports selective proliferation. There is no harm if mature democracies posses nuclear weapons but there can be a threat if the countries of third world posses nuclear weapons.
John Mueller in his recent article in Foreign Affairs, has supported the policy of deterrence. He held that there is a lot of hype created with respect to the nuclear threat. Expressions like ‘bolts from blue’, ‘accidental wars’, ‘nuclear terrorism’ never happened. Either we are luckiest or the threat is overstated. We should not ignore that USSR had to rely on subversions rather than on nuclear weapons. There is no relevance of ‘extra insurance’ against unlikely calamity. He also suggest that in present times the threat of nuclear terrorism is overstated. In reality there is hardly a possibility that terrorists will be able to posses the nuclear weapon.
1] Nuclear weapons require procuring the nuclear material, which remains highly guarded.
2] It needs lot of funds and expertise.
3] It also requires testing.
4] State collaborating with non-state actors is also a remote possibility because no state will take such a huge risk.
Nina Tannenwald warns against complacency. The worst case scenario did not materialize does not mean that it will not materialize. We can easily slip into the nuclear war because of our carelessness.
Views of Scott D Sagan.
It may be hard to start the nuclear war but it is not impossible to start.
Actual challenge is much near and narrow. Sagan suggests that military organizations display such behaviour where there is a huge temptation to use nuclear weapons to win the war.
The 2nd generations nuclear weapon states have weak civilian governments, the command and control of nuclear weapons is in the hands of armed forces, armed forces do not think from long term perspectives.
Hence deterrence hardly a guarantee, there is a huge probability of the failure of nuclear deterrence and the use of nuclear war.
To support Sagan’s argument we can suggest that in the past, countries did reach to the situation of nuclear war. e.g. In Cuban Missile Crisis. In Cuban missile crisis, USSR was actually trying to get deterrence. However it led international community to a situation of nuclear war.