As any baby boomer can attest, nuclear weapons are terrifying. Having lived through the advent, armament, testing, and use of nuclear weapons, this generation is particularly apt on regarding the pros and cons associated with the use of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons came into existence towards the end of World War II. Since then, a number of countries have developed the means to create and launch nuclear weapons. Given the complexity behind such a task, this should be considered no easy feat. Despite the initial benefits of such weapons, there has been a worldwide movement to reduce the number of nuclear weapons available. Coming from all sides, this push was made out of a very real fear regarding their use.
Lets review the pros and cons of nuclear weapons. Along with examining the political and philosophical ramifications of such weapons, we will get into both covered and rarely covered reasons why nuclear weapons may and may not be a good idea.
The Pros of Nuclear Weapons
A dwindling camp, there are fewer and fewer individuals who are pro nuclear weapons. Given the findings regarding health generated over decades worth of research, the number of reasons why nuclear weapons should be used have dwindled. Regardless, below are some of the leading reasons why there should be nuclear weapons.
1. A Complex and Innovative Way to Ensure Domination
Nuclear weapons require a great deal of infrastructure and technical expertise in order to process, constructs, and launch effectively. From finding and mining the right materials in the earth to having the technology necessary to process this material to having the infrastructure necessary to produce all of these fine parts, making a nuclear weapon is no easy feat. In fact, this is the leading reason why other countries have not developed their own nuclear weapons. Because of the threat that these weapons pose, as well as their complexity in design, nuclear weapons provide superiority to those countries that have them. This benefit can help stop conflicts from occurring, saving lives as a result.
2. The Ultimate Deterrent
As we ended with above, nuclear weapons are seen as the ultimate deterrent. This is because of the theory of mutually assured destruction. In any engagement, it is assumed that one side wants to cause as much damage as possible while minimizing their own damages. At first glance, this seems the perfect use for nuclear weapons. You can cause others incredible damage with very few if any losses on your own. However, if the person you are attacking also has nuclear weapons, then you firing your weapons will result in them firing their own as well. Now, instead of taking a few casualties, you will lose as many people as the person attacking. This mutually assured destruction is seen as a way to stop people from starting nuclear conflicts or any kind of conflict for that matter. As a result it is seen as the ultimate deterrent.
3. Advances Technology, Provides Jobs
When working on nuclear weapons, a number of new applications and technologies can emerge. Nuclear power for example is how a many people get their power, and its creation is a result of individuals working with nuclear material. By continuing to advance nuclear weapons, it is argued that additional forms of technology will be created with uses that are completely outside of its use as a weapon. In addition, the mining of materials, manufacturing of weapon parts, and manufacturing of all parts that go into handling nuclear material means jobs for people in the industry. The exact number and type of jobs is unknown.
The Cons of Nuclear Weapons
From hippy protest groups to large international organizations, there is an incredible push to rid the world of nuclear weapons. From first hand experience of the horrors that nuclear weapons cause to fears as to the ending of the world, nuclear weapons are widely considered more trouble then they are worth. Below are a few of the major reasons why.
1. Fallout on Populations Outside Of Target Zone
Nuclear weapons are a challenge to use if you are targeting only military targets. For example, it is impossible to target a bunker in the center of a city while sparing anything less then an incredible number of collateral casualties. As a result, nuclear weapons are limited to very specific uses, decreasing their utility.
If used, then there is considerable fallout outside the target zone. Winds and the prevailing climate of the area will spread radioactive debris across a very wide area. This means that otherwise inhabited areas are no longer capable of being lived in. Famine may result. If nothing else, large populations will have to relocate, adding incredible stress to the local economy.
2. The Long Term Health Effects of Radiation
One of the most troubling concerns created by nuclear weapons are the potential health risks created by the use of nuclear weapons. While there may be a notable amount of deaths caused by the initial explosion, far more people will die long and painful deaths as a result of the radiation created by the blast. Cancers, painful tumors, and more will create a generation of individuals who will suffer. In addition, there are the effects radiation has on pregnancy, dramatically increasing the risk of health defects in babies and children.
While the area hit with a nuclear weapon will be uninhabitable for an extended period of time, the surrounding area where radiation goes to will also be unsafe. Food grown in radioactive areas cannot be eaten. Local wildlife will die and any local eco-system will completely collapse. Entire parts of the area will be uninhabitable for decades, if not centuries after.
3. Nuclear Winter
Taking the above into consideration, nuclear weapons are capable of inflicting tragedy and disaster on a global scale. Known as a nuclear winter, nuclear weapons can be used to end society as we know it. A nuclear winter will occur if enough nukes are launched on the ground or if a nuclear weapon is exploded in the upper atmosphere. In either case, the sun will be blocked out by air born debris, effectively killing most of the plants and animals humanity survives on. Along with widespread radiation poisoning and starvation, entire governments will fall apart, leading to a state of global anarchy never before seen. It will take decades to centuries for the earth to recover after such an event.
4. Accidental Use
Mistakes happen all the time. An alarming, and deeply unsettling truth is that accidents occur with nuclear weapons. There have been several reported cases where nuclear weapons were almost launched due to human error. Regardless of what else may have happened, simple human error, along with these weapons, could spell the end of our times as we know it. In addition, computer programs can theoretically malfunction as well, accidently starting a nuclear winter due to a software glitch. In both cases, the threat of accidental use, as well as the threat of a nuclear winter, are two of the leading reasons why people do not want nuclear weapons to be used at all. As to what you believe, that is ultimately up for you to decide.