In addressing security problems, leaders have to focus on imminent issues with serious ramifications. A problem for states is evaluating which poses the greatest threat to global security, nuclear weapons or small arms…
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The answer would influence policymaking on national security. The problem involves a comparative assessment of nuclear weapons and small arms in terms of the threat these pose to global security. An interesting point in addressing the question is that various perspectives lead to different answers. The liberal perspective focuses primarily on individual security to achieve international security whereas the realist perspective considers state security as the means of achieving international security. The essay adopts the realist perspective because the greatest global security threat affects the state as a whole, with ripple effects on other states. Although nuclear weapons pose a danger to the world, actual use is unlikely. Concurrently, small arms have been used to destabilise states, to make these weapons the greatest threat to global security. Analysis Nuclear weapons hold immense destructive potential but possibility of actual use is low whereas small arms have a huge destructive potential that has already been actualised. Howlett (2011) explained that the destructive force of nuclear weapons comes from generating massive energy in the form of blast, heat and radiation that can spread for miles through the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effect. Everyone and everything within the radius of the EMP dies or gets destroyed. Actual use of a nuclear weapon can destroy entire countries. However, actual use of nuclear weapons is nil. Nuclear weapons have not been used in any conflicts after the Second World War (Spear and Robertson-Snape, 2001; Howlett, 2011). Most of the nuclear weapons (97% or 27,000) are controlled by the U.S. and Russia, which are not likely to detonate these weapons. Nuclear weapons are not the greatest threat to global security. Several reasons justify the development of nuclear weapons but with a low likelihood of actual use. Gusterson (1999) explained that states develop and secure nuclear weapons to achieve peace by equalising power to maintain the status quo, threaten other states, or make a political statement to the international community. Nuclear peace was achieved between U.S. and Russia after developing their nuclear capabilities. India and Pakistan also achieved periods of peace by both building their nuclear capability. The U.S. used nuclear weapons to make China back down during the Korean War. Pakistan and Iraq refused to cease their nuclear programmes and even conducted tests to show power and national pride. (Gusterson, 1999; Spear and Robertson-Snape, 2001) Sighu (2008) further explained that detonating nuclear weapons is taboo because of expectations of the immense destruction this will cause, to make actual use unlikely. The likelihood of terrorist groups in using nuclear weapons is also low because of limited access due to the cost of purchasing and developing nuclear weapons. Terrorist groups are not predisposed towards nuclear weapons. There has been no documented use of nuclear weapons by terrorist groups. (Sighu, 2008) Use of small firearms is massive and widespread. The number of small firearms, not including light weapons, in circulation has increased from 550 million (Muggah and Berman, 2001) to 639 million, with 8 billion more being made every year (Hartung, 2008). Of the more current total, 378 million (60%) are owned by civilians, 241 million (38%) are part of the arsenal of traditional military forces, and the remaining 20 million (2%) are in the hands of non-government groups including terrorists (Hartung, 2008). Production and sale of small firearms in the future will provide more guns to civilians, military personnel, and militia groups (Muggah and Berma
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