Nuclear weapons have become a growing issue in recent years. Not since the end of the Cold War has the Peoples of the world had to face the daily prospects of a nuclear holocaust. Where the rogue pursuit of nuclear weapons by countries like Iran and North Korea had been the top nuclear threat for years, actual nuclear wars between the US and Russia or Pakistan and India represent credible threats of global annihilation. In response to growing fears, a majority of nations have raised the threat of nuclear war at the United Nations and voted to eventually outlaw nuclear weapons.
Not surprisingly, nuclear powers, such as the US, Russia, and China, along with their allies, voted against the UN resolution. Outside of a presumed nuclear deterrent, nuclear weapons have little to no defensive or offensive value in a war against other nations. For non-nuclear nations, nuclear weapons are simply a threat. Unless the Earth faces some sort of extraterrestrial threat, the truth is that nuclear weapons provide no real benefit to the human race, especially when compared to the threat they present. The sole reason nuclear weapons continue to exist is because nuclear powers must balance the nuclear power of their rivals.
The United States and Russia have struggled to ease the burden of their arsenals, because they cannot risk giving the other side the upper hand. Unfortunately, the US and Russia are not the only nuclear rivals. As several countries have been able to achieve nuclear power status since the end of the Cold War, the risk has become even more unmanageable. With multiple threats, nuclear powers must be able to retaliate against attacks from a growing list of potential aggressors, which means every nuclear power is a threat to the world’s population. Where militarily weak countries view nuclear weapons as a blessing, they are actually a curse to those who have them.
In a 2012 Foreign Affairs article, Kenneth N. Waltz made the case for Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. He argued that a nuclear Iran could bring peace to the Middle East, because it would make Iran more secure while balancing Israel’s nuclear arsenal. The fault of the Waltz argument was, of course, that he relied on the short history of the Cold War as proof that a nuclear war would never happen. More countries with nuclear weapons translates into a higher probability that a nuclear conflict will occur, creates greater opportunities for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, and empowers rogue states ruled by tyrannical governments to act as they please.
Iran’s internal stability comes from the brutal oppression of its people. Just as much of the Middle East suffers from instability following the Arab Spring revolutions, Iran will eventually face those same forces. Iran has used its military might to shield itself from the consequences of the instability it promotes throughout the region. A nuclear Iran would have even greater impunity. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology alone likely means that Iran already has nuclear weapons pointed at it. As nuclear and ballistic technology takes time to advance, those pointing nuclear weapons at Iran’s leadership are likely not threatened by Iran’s nuclear technology. Consequently, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology does not serve as a deterrent to those who actually threaten it.
Looking at North Korea, its nuclear program failed to give it any real leverage over the outside world. If anything, the North’s nuclear arsenal has generated greater support for isolating the Communist regime, resulted in greater isolation, created new enemies, derailed any chance at peace, pushed away allies, and wasted huge sums of money the country desperately needs. Just as Russia and Iran are actively using their military might to force the International Community to appease their domineering behavior, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea mirror their behavior, which is particularly problematic for South Korea and China.
Consequently, the blunt truth is that world powers cannot defend the pursuit of nuclear weapons while nuclear powers cannot rationalize the existence of their nuclear arsenals. Nuclear weapons are a threat to everyone. Unfortunately, the will of the International Community is meaningless, unless it is enforced by nuclear powers. For countries like the US, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan, their traditional military are sufficient to maintain a balance of power between these states over time. They will not, however, give up nuclear weapons, because the lack of a nuclear arsenal upsets that balance. For countries like North Korea and Iran, nuclear weapons are a means to neutralize traditional military power.
With that in mind, efforts at the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons are not meaningless. Such resolutions allow non-nuclear powers to register global concerns. Even if nuclear weapons will continue to exist for quite some time, the pursuit of a nuclear-free world is a cause worth fighting. It is also a means to address the brewing nuclear threat. Even if nuclear weapons cannot simply be banned, the world can push for greater control over nuclear arsenals and greater accountability for those who threaten to use nuclear weapons. Regrettably, there are world leaders who do not appear to respect the devastation of nuclear weapons, which is something the International Community must address before someone does something foolish.
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