Nuclear Weapons

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  • Nuclear weapons: weapons of first use, last resort or merely an extension of a conventional arsenal?
    • Last Resort: WW2
      • USA in WW2
        • Bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
          • Hiroshima - Little Boy - 15K tonnes of TNT dropped, devastating 5 sq miles. Killed roughly 140K.
          • Nagasaki - Fat Man - 2.6 square miles. 74K were killed.
          • A first choice weapon to gain the instant surrender of Japan.
        • Argument it was a weapon of first use because there was other options (The soviets could have advanced into Japan) and it was not to dissimilar to the fire bombings (Which were not a last resort)
          • Similar level of destruction of the fire bombing in Tokyo. March 1945.
            • 2,000 tons of incendiary bombs on Tokyo over 48 hours. Almost 16 square miles in and around the Japanese capital were incinerated, and between 80,000 and 130,000 Japanese civilians were killed.
          • The Japanese surrendered not because of the bomb but because of the Soviet entry into the Pacific war.
          • USA chose to use nukes whilst accepting that there might be a retaliation.
      • President Truman went on to warn the Japanese the Allies would completely destroy their capacity to make war.
      • The Potsdam declaration issued 10 days ago, which called for the unconditional surrender of Japan, was a last chance for the country to avoid utter destruction.
      • In terms of self destruction, the bombs were not dangerous enough at this point to ensue MAD, and Japan did not have nuclear weapons to retaliate with - an argument for it being first use.
    • Last Resort: Cold War
      • Cuban Missiles Crisis
        • Flexible Response- This policy included the use of conventional forces in war and offered alternatives to total nuclear war.
        • Kennedy made sure there were alternatives  -  1. Do Nothing - Leave the missiles as they were. This would be unpopular amongst Americans.4. Attack Cuba and Russia with nuclear weapons.
          • 2. An air strike - this would lead to war with Cuba and possibly with Russia with no assurance that the missiles would be destroyed.
          • 3. Invade Cuba - This could lead to Russia invading West Berlin.
          • 4. Attack Cuba and Russia with nuclear weapons.
          • 5. Blockade Cuba - No Russian ships would be allowed access to Cuba. This was Kennedy's decision.
      • MAD theory - Hydrogen Bomb
        • By the mid-1960s - creation of hydrogen bombs - 58 megatons of TNT - unilateral deterrence gave way to "mutual deterrence," a situation of strategic stalemate.
          • The superpowers would refrain from attacking each other because of the certainty of mutual assured destruction, better known as MAD.
        • Can be argued in this instance that its a weapon of first use because it would annihilate the enemy, however, second strike ability means it becomes a last resort due to the threat of total suicide.
          • This led to the foundation of the nuclear triad, (bombers, missiles, and submarines) to assure that a second-strike capability existed able to cause massive destruction to the attacking nation.
          • Self Destruction was guaranteed meaning a nuclear war would only resulted in the destruction of both countries - if they are both to survive, nuclear weapons could not be used, thus, there is no such thing as first use.
      • Weapons in preparation.
        • Countries are always in anticipation of a nuclear attack to ensure that it remains a last resort, e.g planes constantly carrying nukes and submarines circling Britain. It cannot be a weapon of first use if the retaliation if total destruction.
    • Proponents of a nuclear first-use policy admit that neither the United States nor NATO will ever employ nuclear weapons except in retaliation against a nuclear attack.
      • We have worked hard to fashion non-nuclear responses to the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction in order to give military commanders and the president a range of options from which to choose.
    • After so long, once one country has nuclear weapons, they all require them. This enables them to have a sort of deterrence/defence and to prevent any one country being able to exert its power via threat of nuclear war - argument for conventional arsenal.


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